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Reactions: Princeton bans electric scooters

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Jean Shin / The Daily Princetonian

The University has issued an outright ban on the use, storage, and parking of personal electric vehicles (PEVs) on most of campus. This is an update to the less aggressive time-based PEV restrictions announced in August and is the result of low compliance with that policy, according to an email shared with the community on Monday, Dec. 4. 

We asked our columnists for their thoughts on the PEV ban: what are the benefits and drawbacks to the community? What purpose does this ban serve? Who does it support and who does it harm? Is this within the purview of the University?

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Without fixing TigerTransit, expect scooter reform to fail

By Thomas Buckley, Columnist

On the one hand, scooter users had it coming. After years of terrorizing pedestrians, gumming up sidewalks, and persistently violating University rules, Princeton finally decided it had had enough and restricted PEV use during the weekday this fall. However, within weeks, it quickly became clear that many users were openly and aggressively flouting the rules, and it seemed like the University was powerless to enforce its own regulations. Slowly, but surely, scooters were returning to their old status. At least until this week, when the University finally brought down the hammer, arguing that the widespread disregard of the new rules necessitated a total ban. 

Unfortunately for the administration, banning scooters does nothing to address what caused the surge in PEV use in the first place: namely, a campus rendered nearly unnavigable by construction and public transportation services that are woefully ill-equipped to address the needs of undergraduate students. In particular, the lack of any service along Elm Drive demonstrates the lack of interest Princeton has in providing a Tiger Transit that is useful for undergraduates. Even for someone who happens to be near a bus stop, service typically runs every 15 minutes, giving them only one chance to catch the bus within the 10 minute transition between classes. Rearranging route schedules to increase service during the busiest passing periods could reduce our reliance on scooters without necessitating a massive expansion of the bus fleet.

Without addressing the legitimate concerns of students traveling long distances on campus, the University may find the ban more difficult to enforce than anticipated. If the administration offers students a choice between testing the willingness of the University to enforce the new policy or being persistently tardy, they should not be surprised if some people choose to take the gamble.

Thomas Buckley is a sophomore from Colchester, Vermont intending to major in Public Policy. He can be reached at thomas.buckley@princeton.edu 

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The University needs to communicate, not issue edicts

By Leo Yu, Contributing Columnist

As a not-very-attentive walker, I am wary of scooters on campus. Every pedestrian dreads the possibility of a painful and potentially dangerous collision — there are many who agree with the idea that some restrictions should exist regarding the use of PEVs. Yet as someone who wants to see such regulations put in place, I still realize the shortcomings in the University’s actions. Instead of justifying their actions in response to students’ concerns, they simply doubled down. This creates the perception that their actions are unjustified or draconian, sparking further backlash and making it less likely that people will adhere to the new prohibition.

The Dec. 4 communication framed the new policy as an immediate response to non-compliance with the old policy. This created a perceived lack of engagement with the real concerns of students — including walking paths disrupted by construction sites and limited passing time. As a non-scootering Butler resident, I do not bear the worst of the impact of construction, yet I still feel its effects every day when I have to walk far out of my way to get to class. Most importantly, the sudden response prevents students from feeling that these regulations are legitimate, when indeed scooter regulations are necessary.  

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This failing in University communications strategy is not surprising, but for college students who are used to being treated as independent adults — rather than disobedient toddlers — it may result in more backlash than compliance. Instead, the University should prioritize drumming up engagement by using its existing programming to solicit student feedback and craft solutions incorporating these responses. Ultimately, the danger of scooters can be mitigated — but not without student input.

Leo Yu is a first-year student from New York intending to concentrate in SPIA. He can be reached at ly3722@princeton.edu.  

The timing for instituting a PEV ban could not be worse

By Ndeye Thioubou, Senior Columnist

I, like the majority of Princeton students, was blindsided this week with the complete ban of PEVs on campus starting next semester. Although the ban is justified — seeing as the majority of PEV users did not comply with the restrictions set in place this semester — the poor timing and logic of this ban will create many negative consequences.

The University announced the complete ban on PEVs right after students completed initial course registration for the spring semester. This means that for students who have classes back to back that they can only make on time by riding their scooter, they either have to buy a bike, find a new schedule during Add/Drop period, or accept being late to class every week. The timing of the ban between semesters will unfortunately impact lower-income students more, who might not have the disposable income to suddenly buy a bike after having already bought a scooter. 

As vocalized in an opinion piece earlier this semester, several students with disabilities rely on scooters to get around campus. Completely banning scooters ahead of the spring semester means that these students now have to look to TigerAccess, which is not available on short notice, or buy a wheelchair. Again, these options can pose financial challenges for some students.

For a complete ban of scooters, the University should have, at the very least, announced it towards the end of next semester, so students have time to tweak their class schedules, save for buying bikes during the summer, and give sufficient time for students with accommodations to find alternatives. 

Senior Columnist Ndeye Thioubou is a junior from The Bronx, N.Y., concentrating in the School of Public and International Affairs. She can be reached at nthioubou@princeton.edu.

With the total PEV ban, lengthen passing time between classes

By Sophia Zuo, Contributing Columnist

For the majority of students who have been using scooters and other electric vehicles to cross campus, the promise of being able to get to classes on time — regardless of their circumstances — was guaranteed. In light of the total PEV ban, what little time students had to use their vehicles on campus has now been completely taken away, leaving many scrambling for other options to make it to class on time. The easiest way to accommodate students, however, should not be through providing more options such as rental bikes and bus times (although this would be useful too), but instead by lengthening the time allocated between classes for all.  

Currently, the minimum amount of time between classes is 10 minutes, a period many believe is far too short for students with considerable ground to cover. And while the total scooter ban has made longer passing times even more relevant, calls for reform have been around for months. Notably, the USG broached the subject back in October, arguing for raising the duration from 10 to 20 minutes. There are other salient reasons behind needing more time between classes: construction has hindered students ability to take direct paths, time is needed to ask questions to professors after lecture, and in general, the 10 minute passing time has made for an inflexible back-to-back schedule that leaves students with little time to breathe. 

The school administration seems to be aware of the growing push for longer passing times. On the page of FAQs regarding the ban, they state: “The Committee on Classrooms and Schedule is exploring the expansion of passing time to 15 or 20 minutes. Any anticipated change is not expected during the 2023–24 academic year.” This is a good sign, but it is not enough. If this ban is to stay in effect, it is imperative that the University takes necessary strides to accommodate our daily steps.

Sophia Zuo is a first-year contributing columnist from Hsinchu, Taiwan, and can be reached at sz5856@princeton.edu.

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