As Council discusses scooter regulations, city doesn't want to limit number

by Alexis AguirreAugust 21, 2018

City Council members servings on the city’s Transportation Committee on Monday got a first look at regulations for electric scooters.

Among the various proposed rules, officials with the Center City Development and Operations (CCDO) department recommend that dockless vehicle companies be required to obtain a permit to operate, pay a fee of $10 per vehicle (that would last six months) and maintain a San Antonio-based fleet manager that would oversee local operations.

Anyone younger than 16 years old could not ride the scooters — a suggestion rule that 85 percent of attendees at a recent public meeting on e-scooters agreed with.

Scooter riders would be prohibited from riding on sidewalks, just as cyclists are.

District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, an avid scooter user, opposed the recommendation. He said he wouldn’t be comfortable supporting a regulation that he wouldn’t be able to follow himself. The problem is that neither the streets nor sidewalks were created with electric scooters in mind, he said, and with limited bike lanes in areas the scooters operate in, sidewalks for many seem to be the safer choice.

Of the seven cities whose dockless vehicle regulations city officials are studying, only Austin allows riders to bike and scooter on sidewalks, as long as they yields to pedestrians.

Other recommendations include being able to park an e-scooter on a sidewalk as long as three feet remain clear for pedestrian traffic; and keeping the River Walk, creek ways and parks free of electric motorized vehicles. CCDO is also talking with Centro San Antonio on getting the nonprofit’s ambassadors (the folks in the yellow shirts once known as “amigos”) to re-park improperly parked vehicles.

CCDO Director John Jacks said the city is not proposing a cap on the number of e-scooters a company is allowed to operate in the city, because it wants to continue to collect data on how and where the rides are being used. The department is currently working with Bird and Lime — the only national companies operating in the city — on collecting such data.

Bird and Lime have 400 and 345 scooters, respectively, operating downtown and in neighboring areas. San Antonio-based Blue Duck is also currently operating in the city, but at a much smaller capacity in the Pearl district.

Over the past few weeks, city officials have been gathering public input on e-scooters.

Last month, the city held a public meeting at the Central Library, which was attended by 150 people. And an online survey was posted to the city’s website where more than 1,950 people have submitted responses. It will remain open until the next Transportation Committee meeting on Sept. 17.

Current results from the survey show the majority of respondents in favor of dockless vehicles — 37 percent answered “very positive” and 22 percent answered “somewhat positive” when asked their opinion on e-scooters. At the meeting, 76 percent of participants were in favor of dockless scooters, but 87 percent agreed dockless vehicle riders should be charged a fee for leaving vehicles in areas where parking is prohibited.

You can still sound off on e-scooters by attending the city’s Citizens to be Heard forum in front of the Council the evening of Sept. 12, and at the next Transportation Committee meeting on Sept. 17. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed regulations on Oct. 4. If the recommendations are adopted, dockless vehicle companies will have a month to obtain required permit. Rider laws will be enforced right away.

Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron | @alexisraguirre on Twitter

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