Enveloped in the embrace of a cozy comforter and favorite fuzzy blanket, you awake to make the grave mistake of checking what time it is. Turns out your alarm has been muted multiple times in your sleep, a bad habit developed out of a preference to doze off a little longer in the morning. Oh no. It’s 9:25. Your class, all the way in the Public Affairs Building, is about a 25-minute walk from the bunk bed you’re currently lying in on the Hill, and starts in five minutes. Panic rushes through you. You’re reminded of the grade distribution and the possibility of a pop quiz in this pivotal class as you throw your shoes on and run out the door. Barging out of the doors on the first floor, you’re met with your saving grace, your golden chariot, the reason you’re maybe not going to flunk this class: an electric scooter lying on its side in a dirt patch. One peddle and you’re off on the streets of Westwood to class.
Clearly, I may have a little too much experience with scooters. With a 419-acre campus, fast-walking to class simply doesn’t cut it, and these pay-to-ride options are there to guide you anytime you’re in a time crunch (or simply not in the mood to walk…which I may or may not also be guilty of). Despite their abundance in Westwood, these robotic specimens are slightly mysterious. In my panicked rushes, I’ve never stopped to consider all of the differences between the various scooter companies that line the sidewalks all over town. What are the pricing differences, what makes each special and what is going on with all of the companies? It’s time to demystify the scooters:
Birds are by far the most common pay-to-ride scooters at UCLA. The school even has an agreement with the company that allows riders to go through campus roads. Not surprisingly, Bird is pretty secretive regarding its pricing, as it varies depending on where you are. In Westwood, Bird scooters cost $1 to start and charge about $0.52/min! This price was discovered not on their website, but on my last Bird receipt. In fact, the only pricing information I could find on websites showed that Bird scooters cost $0.15/minute to ride, which is clearly incorrect. There are ways to reduce this cost, such as taking a selfie with a helmet at the end of the ride or parking in UCLA-approved spots. This option goes at a max speed of about 20 mph and has no apparent automatic braking methods.
I’ve noticed an uptick in Birds and a complete disappearance of Lyft scooters in the area lately, and it turns out that Lyft has actually completely stopped its scootering program in Los Angeles. This is a sad discovery, as Lyft scooters were easy to start riding due to the feature being smoothly accessible in the Lyft app. With an unlocking fee of $1 and a charge of $0.49/minute, Lyft was pretty on par with Bird. However, where Lyft won me over was its 15 mph speed cap. Going down hills didn’t feel as scary since the scooter would automatically slow down. While possibly annoying at the moment, it’s easy to overlook how fast these devices actually go and having that safety mechanism was retrospectively appreciated. So long, Westwood Lyft scooters, you will be missed!
This branch of E-scooters is probably the least popular option around campus, as Bird seems to have dominated Westwood in its recent defeat over Lyft. However, I have seen them pop up in areas like Westwood Village and all across Hilgard. Due to Bird’s agreement with UCLA, it seems like Limes are only available around the perimeter of campus and are completely blocked from riding on any UCLA roads. Pricing for this option is quoted on the app as being $3.50 for the first five minutes and then $0.53/minute afterward, which is an elaborate way of saying it’s about the same price as Bird with fewer riding options in Westwood. This one isn’t very remarkable, other than it was purchased by Uber in 2020, but if you’re looking to ride around Westwood Village this is an option!
So, it looks like Bird has monopolized the e-scooter industry in Westwood. With its established contract with UCLA, this seems like the best scooter to ride around campus! While it may be the best riding option, it’s also important to recognize e-scooters’ consequences in our lovely college town. A 2019 UCLA study looked into scooter-related accidents and found that one-third of them had injuries bad enough that they had to be brought to the hospital in an ambulance. Even worse, despite all of these companies preaching helmet use, only 4% of the injured riders were found wearing helmets.
Not only are they insanely dangerous, but they also tend to clump up on sidewalks, blocking driveways and even street traffic. Fellow Her Campus at UCLA writer Leila Brenner suffered a Bird accident a few months ago and recognizes the downfalls of the pay-to-ride service: “People often leave them astray on sidewalks, which is slightly infuriating and could be a design error on the scooter company’s fault. I wouldn’t be upset if I no longer had access to one.” Alongside all of this, it’s costing you money to ride them that could easily be saved by simply walking to class instead.
While easy to use and wildly accessible, scooters in Westwood have brought forth a lot of complicated issues. Its convenience may help when you’re in a time crunch, but if you have the time, I suggest you take in the stunning views on campus and walk to class. At the end of the day, those extra few minutes of sleep aren’t worth missing important classes.