Image Credit: Author
Firing them up
The scooters are well placed around campus. Fellow York student Alastair Lavery and I used the bay opposite the student finance office on Campus West to start our journey. It wasn’t immediately obvious how to start the scooters; you need the Tier app on your phone which then locates you on the map. After this, you must then scan a QR code on your chosen scooter at the nearest bay and that should unlock your scooter, theoretically. They cost £1 to unlock and 15p per minute to ride.
After scanning the QR code, my scooter still would not unlock. I was pushing it around the car park like a numpty trying to launch it into action, before realising I had not validated my driving license. This is therefore a vital step if you want to gain access to the full Tier experience (or any of it at all).
After eventually fathoming the initial technical difficulties of the app, I successfully scanned the QR code and unlocked my favourite feature of the scooters – the helmets. These luminous light blue shells pop out of the scooter shaft and are neatly folded for your use. They attract a few looks from dog walkers and drivers alike but are well worth it; they are a vital safety feature after all.
Once unfolding and clicking your helmets into place, you are ready to go.
The instructions whilst riding are fairly intuitive. The right lever accelerates and there are bike-like brakes on the left and right handlebars to stop. We maxed the scooters out at 13mph going down Heslington Road which felt almost as quick as a bike.
There is a phone holder just below the handlebars so you can view the map and, more importantly, the time you’ve spent on the scooters, whilst riding. A design flaw is that this only holds the phone landscape whilst the map is on portrait on your screen, so it is difficult to orientate yourself whilst riding. Though at 15p per minute it helps to see the timer.
A word of warning – the app has slow and red zones (where the scooters switch off) so anyone hoping to travel to the city centre via Fulford, scoot no further. Zooming down the cycle path between Vanburgh and Walmgate stray the scooters suddenly switched themselves off. It turned out that we had reached a red zone, an area in York that the scooters are not programmed to ride in. As we wheeled the scooters back up the hill, we were rightly told by a middle-aged man, “you’ve had a shocker there, lads.” Near Heslington road traffic lights is also a slow zone which decreases the speed from 12.5 mph to 6mph, a cool safety feature that feels slightly unnecessary on the outskirts of town.
We rode the scooters along York’s many cycle paths and felt safe on the roads. Cars are as respectful to you as if you were on a bike, despite the luminous objects on your heads. By the river, the peaceful silence of the scooters was apparent; Alastair even claimed it was “quieter than walking.” Despite the foot traffic along the riverside, the scooters weaved nimbly and were non-intrusive between walkers.
An older couple we met in Rowntree Park took an active interest in the scooters, though after we asked if they would ever use them they announced “we are very attached to our bikes.”
We encountered a few more technical difficulties when trying to drop the scooters off at Clifford’s Tower parking bay. It is relatively easy to find the different parking bays on the map, though if on a tight budget it is probably better to plan ahead where the nearest parking bay is to your final destination.
The issue was that the map did not recognise where in York we physically were. Despite being within the white markings for parking the scooters, we were unable to stop the clock and finish the ride. It was slightly stressful seeing the pence per minute increase as we struggled with the app.
Alastair also had the issue of not being able to click his helmet back into the scooter shaft.
However, a friendly (English speaking) French man solved our problems when we rang the Tier call support centre with ease and in less than 3 minutes. I renavigated on the map pressing the triangle in the bottom right-hand corner and the timer stopped. His response to being asked why people should use Tier scooters was “They are an eco-friendly solution to traffic.” So are bikes though.
For a 37-minute ride I was expecting a £5.55 bill for my commute into town (albeit the scenic route) and was pleasantly surprised to only be charged £2.05.
Better than a bike?
If you are a student with a bike, I would be hard pushed to argue scooters are a better mode of transport for travelling between university and York. Bikes are easily as eco-friendly and offer greater flexibility and speed.
However, Tier offers an eco-friendly opportunity for students to whiz around York and enjoy the historic city in an innovative fashion. If you plan your route to town better than Alastair and I did, a journey of 12 minutes or less is cheaper than a single on the bus. Tier may even be a solution to avoiding the inevitable bus queues once nights out resume. Who wants to queue opposite Morrell when you could beat the rabble to VKs?
Image Credit: Author