Council nears approval of e-scooter regulations

by Alexis AguirreSeptember 13, 2018
Lime scooters await riders along Houston Street as two people zip around on Bird scooters in the background. Rados | SAHeron

As more and more e-scooters hit the streets of San Antonio, the City Council agreed to take its time evaluating their impact with a six-month pilot program. Regulations on dockless vehicles, which the Council will consider on Oct. 11, include a permit fee per vehicle and monthly reporting requirements from the companies.

After six months, the Council could adopt the regulations into ordinance.

In late June, e-scooter company Bird dropped about 150 e-scooters on the streets of downtown. It now has 1,700 scooters operating downtown and throughout the northside. Lime has about 300 scooters downtown. And Blue Duck, a San Antonio company, has slowly been releasing its rides since earlier this summer.

Other operators, such as Razor, Spin, Skip and Zagster, are considering entering the San Antonio market, said Assistant City Manager Lori Houston.

The proposed regulations come after a few months of public discussion and input that includes a survey of 3,791 people; the survey is ongoing until the Council vote in October, and can be taken here. At a public meeting held July 31, 76 percent of people polled said they supported dockless scooters. They also strongly supported a minimum age requirement of 16 in order to ride, that riders follow the same traffic rules as cyclists, and that riders be charged a fee for parking scooters in prohibited areas.

“We don’t know theses issues yet or what other issues will pop up,” Houston said. “We want to look at how the market operates in those six months.”

Proposed recommendations include a vendor application fee of $500 with a charge of $10 per vehicle that is operating within city limits. Vendors would also be required to submit a monthly report on usage, violations and trip data.

The first draft of regulations presented to the Council’s Transportation Committee on Aug. 20 prohibited electric scooters from being used on sidewalks. That has since been changed after pushback from some committee members, including District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, an avid scooter user. District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez and District 2 Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw also said they ride the scooters. Now the recommendation is that riders should use their best judgment when deciding to use the street or sidewalk. Riders should only use roads with speed limits of 35 mph or lower. If riders opt for sidewalks, they would have to maintain a two-foot walk path for pedestrians.

The city is still recommending that all companies operating in the city have a San Antonio-based fleet manager that is responsible for the vehicles.

District 9 Councilman John Courage questioned how some of the recommendations would be enforced. One would require vendors to offer an education page on their app where riders could read about safe riding and how to park vehicles properly. While the liability lies with the operator, Courage said it is too easy for a rider to skip the reading, like those who skip reading privacy policies when downloading phone applications.

Previously published
» As Council discusses scooter regulations, city doesn’t want to limit number
» Lime adds 200 dockless scooters to downtown
» Scooters are here to stay, but they will be regulated
» Supporters of dockless vehicles pack public meeting | @alexisraguirre on Twitter

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