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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

As technology changes, so does transportation on UA’s campus

Correction:

Originally, the article called Niema Benglari “she,” which is incorrect. The story now reflects the change.


Walking to class at noon can feel like rush hour in the big city for UA students. Bikers weave their way through chatty pedestrians on the streets while skateboarders propel themselves along crowded sidewalks.

Then there’s the new gadget on the scene. A small Segway-like contraption that is hands free, owned by only a small minority of the student population. A sighting of one such “hover board” leaves people conjecturing as to its true name, price and origin.

“I call it a scooter,” said pre-business freshman Niema Benglari. Benglari said he purchased the device as part of a bundle with a group of friends in July.

Benglari does not ride the board to class, though.

“I feel like I might be judged, I guess,” he said.

Riders of these boards do stand out, especially in a crowd, where by all appearances, the riders are floating. Controlled by simple ankle motions, the device can go straight, in reverse or even in a circle. The self-balancing scooter can reach speeds of up to 10 mph, depending on the model.

Online, the boards can range anywhere from $220 to $1900. While many owners choose not to ride their mini-Segways to class, the people who do will have the same storage options as those who skateboard to school.

There are not currently skateboard storage racks outside any school buildings aside from UA’s latest addition, the Environment & Natural Resources 2 building.

Marketing and Public Information manager for the Public Transportation Services, Florence Dei Ochoa, revealed that PTS is using the skateboard racks at ENR2 as a trial, and based on their usage, PTS will decide whether or not to install more racks throughout campus.

Until then, skateboards and scooters of all kinds are allowed in classrooms, as long as they are carried by students. Even restaurants on University Boulevard, like Pei Wei, or locally run restaurant The Fix, welcome diners to bring their boards and scooters in with them.

But what about the unicycle? Some students, like Marcus Braatz, mechanical engineering junior, choose to ride their unicycles to class each day.

Braatz picked up unicycling on a whim last Christmas and has been riding to class ever since. “Usually, I take [the unicycle] into the classroom and set it off to the side, but if I go somewhere like the rec where I can’t bring it in, I will lock it up on a bike rack.”

According to the University of Arizona Police Department, students riding any mode of transportation besides a traditional bicycle are considered pedestrians.

Students should be careful about where they ride, as fines can be incurred for riding in the road. But as Braatz, who usually unicycles on the sidewalk, points out, “… The roads are so bad it is kind of hard to unicycle on them.”

The infamous potholes of Tucson are keeping the boarders and unicyclists off the roads and inadvertently protecting their pocketbooks. Students can keep themselves even safer, though, by refraining from riding their boards and bikes while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

However, there is no law against boarding or bicycling while under the influence, even if a bicyclist is riding in the road while clearly swerving. “If they commit a traffic violation on a bicycle, they could get a ticket. As far as a DUI, no,” said UAPD Sgt. Fil Barrera.

The school year is off to a good start in terms of traffic incidents. When asked about biking accidents, marketing and public information manager Florence Dei Ochoa said that PTS had not been alerted of any thus far.

Wildcats are successfully keeping it fun and safe as they experiment with new modes of transport.


Follow Michelle Jaquette on Twitter.


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