Electric bicycles have been a popular choice for college students for getting around on campuses and in college towns, but many universities are now starting to prohibit this mode of transportation, either by banning them from dormitories or prohibiting their use anywhere on campus. This is primarily due to two reasons: fire hazards and collisions.
The central issues in the debate over electric bicycles and electric scooters on college campuses revolve around fire safety and collisions.
Last year, electric bicycle fires made headlines across major media outlets, with several deadly apartment fires in New York City traced back to fires caused by electric bicycle batteries charging overnight. While electric bicycle fires may seem like a low-probability event given the large number of electric bicycles being charged daily, cases involving budget electric bicycles are increasing in number, and fires continue to be a potential threat.
Reckless riding by electric bicycle riders, such as violating traffic rules or riding aggressively on sidewalks with pedestrians, has also led to an increasing number of collision accidents, often resulting in injuries to pedestrians. This issue may be even more severe on college campuses with a high student population, as it means people tend to engage in riskier riding in areas where there are more pedestrians distracted by phone calls and not paying attention to their surroundings.
More and more universities are citing concerns about fire safety and pedestrian injuries, and they are urging students not to bring electric bicycles and electric scooters onto campus. Earlier this year, administrators at Boston College sent a letter to students, citing two examples from the ban on electric scooters on campus:
“In recent weeks, Boston College administrators have become increasingly concerned about the use of electric scooters and other electric transportation devices on campus, particularly with regard to the health and personal safety of riders, pedestrians, and building residents. Many faculty and students have reported near misses involving scooters that have nearly resulted in collisions and the restricted use of facilities. Charging lithium batteries for such devices in various locations on and off campus has led to multiple fires across the country. Moreover, BC students have been injured in electric scooter accidents, causing serious harm on campuses across the nation.”
Fordham University in New York City prohibits all battery-powered transport devices. San Diego State University had a similar ban on battery-powered personal transportation devices but withdrew the decision after strong opposition. Some campuses do not completely ban electric bicycles but do not allow students to store them on campus. Recently, Yale University sent an email to all students announcing a ban on the use of electric bicycles in campus dorms and building courtyards.
However, some students argue that while there is a risk of accidents, a complete ban is unreasonable. “I’ve almost been hit by bicycles multiple times when I’m on campus, so I understand the issue. A few cyclists ruin it for everyone else. Campuses need to focus on providing safe bike lanes and enforcing safe use. A complete ban isn’t the solution. No types of bikes should be allowed in densely pedestrian areas because bikes and pedestrians don’t mix well. Providing safe storage on the outskirts of these areas would be a good compromise.