Every college has a culture. In a community like St. Olaf, the intricacies of that culture are often quirky, specific and quickly evolving. Many current students remember the St. Olaf Confessions fad, the brief campus-wide Like-A-Little obsession and the famous St. Olaf Memes.
This year, a brand-new trend is taking campus by storm: scooters. Students have been observed riding kick scooters to their dorms or houses, from class, to class and even through Buntrock Commons.
As is the case with any fad, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly where it began, but many students attribute this trend’s genesis to David Hastings ’14 and Greta Johnson ’14.
“It all started when Greta and I went scootering around Lake Harriet this summer,” Hastings said. “We were talking about how they are quick and portable and fashionable and fun, and we just decided to bring them to the Hill.”
Hastings lives in an off-campus house and his kick scooter makes the hike up to campus each morning a little faster and more convenient.
Johnson said that what began as a spur-of-the-moment idea has actually become an integral part of her day-to-day life on campus. Her scooter is not only fun, but also useful.
“It’s a good way to get around campus,” she said.
“And it’s a good way to relive childhood memories,” said Norma Romero ’14, who regularly transports herself around campus on Johnson’s old blue scooter.
“I got it when I was in, like, middle school,” Johnson said. “It’s really old.”
“Mine is a white kick board with really large wheels,” Hastings said. “I’ve gone up to 22 miles an hour on that scooter.”
Some onlookers cringe at the sight of scooters speeding by, feeling the same safety concerns that many parents had for their middle school children playing with kick scooters ten years ago.
“It’s just another way for somebody who’s walking to get injured,” said an anonymous junior, who is a critic of the scooter trend. Gabby Coll ’14 actually sustained a knee injury after falling off her scooter as she coasted down St. Olaf Avenue.
“I had a little tumble,” Coll said with a laugh. “The moral of the story is wear protective gear and don’t go down the bighill.”
Injury is not the only problem that has arisen from the use of scooters on campus. Adam Levonian ’14 reported two kick scooters missing from his pod in Ytterboe Hall.
“Our scooters were stolen,” Levonian said. He and his podmates ask that they be returned promptly.
In addition to injury and theft, the growing popularity of scooters has prompted some eye rolls from fellow students, but Hastings, Johnson, Romero and Coll say they are not bothered.
“I don’t feel embarrassed, but we definitely get weird looks,” Johnson said.
“Some judgmental looks are received, but we don’t care,” Hastings said. “For the number of judgmental looks we get, we get double the compliments. Freshmen have come up to all of us individually and said they think the scooters are cool. I see more and more people scootering every day.”
Oliver West ’17 is one of the new Oles captivated by the scooter trend. After he saw students riding scooters to and from class, or down the hill to their houses at the end of the day, West decided to bring his four scooters to campus. He and his friends regularly use them for transportation to class and on the weekends.
“To me, [campus is] too small for a bike, and scooters are practical as well as super fun to ride,” West said. “Scootering, especially when riding in groups, is absolutely hilarious. Plus, we look super cool riding them.”
The kick scooter trend may seem silly, but many students see its value as another little piece of life at St. Olaf that makes the community special and unique. Many seniors see it as an opportunity to inspire younger students to feel confident enough to join in.
“Scooters used to be taboo because they weren’t part of our popular campus culture,” Johnson said.
“Now, nobody needs to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable to use a scooter,” Hastings added. “It’s fun. It’s a community.”
While some students remain skeptical, the “scooters” stand by their wheels.
“Don’t knock it until you try it,” West said.
Photo Credit: HANNAH RECTOR/MANITOU MESSENGER