The battle of the e-scooters is official.
On Friday, California-based company Lime released 200 electric scooters throughout downtown, the Pearl and Southtown, joining another e-scooter company, Bird, which unloaded about 150 of its own dockless rides in late June. Around lunchtime, men and women in business attire and families on vacation zipped around on Lime and Bird e-scooters, some taking the rides to their max of 15 mph.
Like Bird, Lime riders can download the company’s app and ride for $1 to start and 15 cents for every minute after, said Joe Deshotel, Lime’s government relations and community affairs rep.
Unlike Bird, which dropped its scooters unannounced, and overnight, Lime has been in constant contact with city officials about their launch, said John Jacks, director of Center City Development and Operations department.
Since Bird released its flock on June 22, city officials have been crafting regulations in response to concerns about e-scooters impeding pedestrians rights-of-way.
Safety is the primary concern for the city. Riders who leave scooters in the middle of walkways or in traffic lanes create a potential hazards for pedestrians or those with disabilities, Jacks said.
One technology the city is currently reviewing is geo-fencing. It would create markers around large, heavy-pedestrian areas. In such places, the clock would continue on the ride until the scooter is parked in an appropriate area, Jacks said. And riders would have to pay for the time that the scooter is not appropriately parked.
“That might be one of the regulations where they would have to have that technology to come here,” Jacks said.
The city has been in talks with other dockless companies on input and is looking at other cities with regulations that are already in place. Blue Duck, an e-scooter startup in San Antonio, said in late June that it was "incredibly close" to deploying its own flock in downtown and on college campuses, but so far, no sign.
Another potential regulation is capping the number of scooters allowed on the streets, a concern of Lime’s. The company hopes to expand to other neighborhoods, and creating a cap would prevent the company from understanding the needs of the city, Deshotel said.
"About 30 percent of our trips begin or end at a transit stop, so we’re seeing this being used by commuters as an important tool," Deshotel said. "We want to make sure we’re able to serve everyone and that we can determine what the demand is for them and ensure that we are able to meet that demand."
The city will host a public meeting on dockless vehicles 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, at the Central Library auditorium, 600 Soledad St.. The public and dockless companies are invited to give feedback on possible regulations.
The first draft of regulations is scheduled to be presented to City Council in August, and possibly be adopted in September.
Photos by Ben Olivo | San Antonio Heron
Scooters are here to stay, but they will be regulated