Some of the things you might readily associate with the city of Gainesville, Fla., include Gators, Gatorade and heat. That pretty much covers all of the bases, right?
What you might not know about Gainesville is that students at the University of Florida helped create a subculture that has drastically altered the transportation scene. Contrary to popular belief, students at UF do not commute to and from class on the backs of alligators. As it turns out, they prefer mopeds.
Lucky for us, Gainesville-grown moped company Bintelli Scooters has moved to Charleston. A manufacturer and distributor of both Bintelli and Adly brand mopeds, the company has high hopes for stocking its two local retailers (Scooter Stop of James Island and Lowcountry Golf Carts of Mt. Pleasant) in addition to their other retailers across the nation. Bintelli has produced fleets of scooters and electric vehicles for Google, Halliburton and the U.S. Navy but is happy to have settled in the Holy City. Bintelli CEO Justin Jackrel notices a real movement toward alternate transportation linked to college-age individuals and hopes to build a presence similar to that of UF here on the College of Charleston campus. “Cost and environmental concerns are what drive moped sales these days,” Jackrel said. “It’s because we are more conscious of those aspects.”
There is something to be said about today’s college students and the assimilation of alternate transportation modes into everyday life. In 2008, President Barack Obama signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which required schools across the nation to undertake systematic reductions in campus greenhouse emissions. Schools like UF have since embraced the changes for reasons including parking lot deficits, the ever-climbing costs of car ownership and proximity to campus. For students on the UF campus, a car-sized parking spot is extremely hard to come by despite the vast amount of space available on campus.
In Charleston we face a similar, though less immediate, problem. Multi-level parking garages line the streets of our busy little peninsula and metered spots – however obnoxious – see a constant rotation of vehicles. Though inevitably a pain to deal with, the College of Charleston campus offers ample space for parking cars. However, if greenhouse emissions and car ownership expenses are on the rise, this is a grave problem for both the city and its inhabitants. According to the CofC Office of Sustainability’s 2011 Campus Transportation Study, 44 percent of students drive to and/or from campus regularly. Overall, 64 percent of students take some motorized mode of transportation to class, 29 percent use strictly non-motorized modes, and seven percent use a combination of the two. The College subsidizes CARTA bus fares for students, faculty, and staff – which does help incentivize alternate transportation – but even in a compact city with narrow streets and a fairly liberal outlook, students seem to prefer automobiles over mopeds and motorcycles. With a steadily increasing student body, however, we may need to follow in the steps of the Gators.
College students are the primary consumers of mopeds. If you ask that one moped-loving friend of yours why he choose that mode of transportation, he is likely to tell you about the $1,000-$5,000 price range, the great gas mileage and how much better his baby is for the earth than a car. He might even tell you that a car is too bulky for light city usage. Similar to its 100 percent eco-friendly, 100 percent portable bicycle cousin, the moped seems much easier to park in a city. “I think the parking thing is definitely getting better,” Jackrel said. “The more a city embraces moped use, the easier parking will become. You can park 6 mopeds in one standard car parking space…a city just needs to see that the need is there. They’ll add more parking if needed.” Jackrel went on to recommend his favorite bestselling model, the Bintelli Scorch. “The college kids really love this model because of its affordability and capacity; it carries two passengers and has storage under the seat.”
Charleston thankfully maintains a thriving bicycle culture fueled by the Pedicab industry as well as local bike shops like Affordabike. As we have seen the city do in the past for bike users, we can hold out hope for a more sophisticated and developed moped infrastructure.