Motorized scooters on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Photo by Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

By Arya Sundaram • The Texas Tribune

Texans could soon be banned from riding electric scooters along sidewalks in the cities where the divisive devices have recently popped up. The Texas Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would add that prohibition and require that scooter users be at least 16 years old.

Citing safety concerns, some local governments have imposed restrictions on electric scooters, like creating restricted areas where they can't be used — but Texas legislators wanted to impose minimum statewide guidelines.

“It’s like the wild, wild west out there with no rules,” said state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Senate Bill 549, authored by Dallas Democrat state Sen. Royce West, would also prohibit more than two people from riding a scooter at once. Plus, the bill adds new guidelines for parking, so a rider can’t obstruct a road or sidewalk when they finish their ride.

The scooters are popular among riders who want a cheap and convenient way to get around. People pay a small fee to grab a scooter and go, and they can park it on the sidewalk once they’re done. But many urban Texans have complained that riders endanger pedestrians and leave the machines in places that block paths.

State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, decried the prohibition from riding on sidewalks, saying that there are some situations where it’s safer for a rider be on the sidewalk than on the street. But Houston Republican state Sen. Joan Huffman, who says she’s been nearly hit three times by a scooter, said the sidewalk ban is key for safety.

[ From the San Antonio Heron: "City wants to reduce scooter population by more than half," April 22, 2019 ]

“What about my personal liberty, my personal safety, when I’m walking on a sidewalk?” she said. “Not a side scooter-way, a side runway, or a side speedway — but a sidewalk.”

West's bill would allow counties and cities to add further scooter restrictions, like increasing the age limit, requiring helmets or adding a higher criminal or civil penalty for not complying with the rules.

Most of the bill — like the age limit and the prohibition from riding on sidewalks — would only apply to rented scooters, not personal scooters. The bill passed in a 20 to 11 vote, and it now moves to the House for their consideration.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Lyft launched 250 e-scooters today. BEN OLIVO | HERON

Ride-share company Lyft launched roughly 250 e-scooters today, bringing the total number in operation to 9,750, based on the latest figure provided by the city of San Antonio.

The San Francisco-based company was granted a permit to operate 2,000 e-scooters before a moratorium was placed at the city level in late January, a spokeswoman with the Center City Development and Operations (CCDO) department said in an email this week. On Tuesday, the Heron requested a copy of the permit granted to Lyft, but the city has not yet provided it.

Overall, there are permits for 16,100 dockless vehicles in San Antonio. Bird holds the most with a permit for 4,500 e-scooters. Jump, which holds a permit for 4,000 rides, is the only company to introduce dockless e-bikes to the market. Blue Duck, the only local company among the seven operating in San Antonio, holds a permit for the lease amount at 100.

Dockless vehicle total

The city of San Antonio has issued permits for 16,100 dockless vehicles for mostly e-scooters to seven companies so far.
» Bird—4,500
» Lime—4,000
» Jump—4,000 (2,000 e-scooters, 2,000 e-bikes)
» Lyft—2,000
» Razor—1,000
» Spin—500
» Blue Duck—100

On Jan. 22, the council's Transportation Committee placed a moratorium on issuing dockless vehicle permits for the pilot program that ends April 19. During that meeting, CCDO Director John Jacks told council members Lyft had applied for its permit the week before, but he made no mention of his department granting the permit.

The agenda item for the Transportation Committee meeting did not list Lyft as one of the companies cleared to operate.

On the agenda for the City Council meeting on Feb. 14, when the body approved tighter e-scooter restrictions, as well as ratified the Transportation Committee's cap, Lyft is listed among other operators as being "under review."

During a presentation give to the Council at that meeting, Jacks' presentation shows Lyft as one of the operating dockless vehicle companies, and said that Lyft had been permitted, but had not yet launched.

At a press conference this morning, a Lyft spokeswoman said the company was working closely with the city to identify potential spots to place its own scooter docks, and will cooperate in providing data that the city may request on ridership patterns.

"We're also not just focussing our first 250 downtown here," said Carolina Samponaro, Lyft's head of public policy. "We're also looking at the transit corridors and (we're) particularly trying to reach the low income communities as a start."

Lyft has made available a low-income membership program called the "community pass," for $5 a month, Samponaro said, but she didn't know what qualifies someone for the pass.

In response to complaints of reckless riding and crowded sidewalks, the council added a handful of regulations on Valentine's Day, which include limiting e-scooter ridership from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Also, city workers, ambassadors with Centro San Antonio, and other "partners" can remove illegally parked scooters without warning the companies, and for special events, and construction or maintenance work.

At the meeting, council members alluded to more regulations, potentially a concession system where a limited number of operators would be chosen, instead of the current free-for-all.

CCDO recently began marking scooter parking on sidewalks using stencil, and the department is exploring converting metered spots into scooter "corrals," which would include some type of barrier to enclose the rides.

Currently, dockless vehicles are prohibited in Alamo Plaza, La Villita, Main Plaza, Market Square, the River Walk, and all city parks.

The city is also gathering feedback from the public through its SASpeaksUp website. At the Feb. 14 Council meeting, Jacks said

Since Jan. 12, anyone with the city's 311 app can report scooter parking violations. Last week, CCDO spokeswoman said there had been 398 reported violations on the app from Jan. 12 to Feb. 14, and 612 reported in total (including calls).

Reporter Gaige Davila contributed to this report.

Contact Gaige Davila: 956-372-4776 | gaige@saheron.com | @gaigedavila on Twitter

The city's Transportation Committee, which is composed of five City Council members, placed a moratorium on e-scooter and e-bike permits on Tuesday for the duration of the dockless vehicle pilot program, which ends April 19. The order caps the number of dockless vehicle permits at 14,000—currently issued to five companies—and prohibits other companies from entering the San Antonio market at this time.

Dockless vehicle total
The city of San Antonio has issued permits for 14,100 dockless vehicles to six companies so far.
» Bird—4,500
» Jump—4,000 (2,000 e-scooters, 2,000 e-bikes)
» Lime—4,000
» Razor—1,000
» Spin—500 (has not deployed)
» Blue Duck—100

The moratorium will not apply to Spin, which was recently granted permits for 500 e-scooters, but has not deployed them. However, Lyft, which applied for permits for 2,000 scooters last week, will have to wait until the moratorium is lifted to launch.

"This is a form of mobility—what we're uncomfortable with is the overall numbers of (them) and, perhaps, the lack of regulatory control," District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse at the Transportation Committee meeting Tuesday. He added that dockless vehicles are being utilized in the city as viable transportation but need better accountability from operators.

The Center City Development and Operations department proposed other amendments after identifying recurring violations and accidents by dockless vehicle riders. In recent weeks, the city updated its 311SA smartphone app to allow user to report scooter violations. The app, which is used for submitting service requests to the city, has received 556 scooter violation reports this month.

The Transportation Committee will submit the following amendments for the entire City Council for a vote on Feb. 14:

» Impose hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and require scooters and bikes in the greater downtown area to be picked up daily by the vendor—vehicles must be picked up by 11:30 p.m., and cannot be deployed until 5 a.m. This regulation was proposed to prohibit dockless vehicle usage all night and to alleviate cluttered sidewalks during morning rush hour.

» Vehicles parked in prohibited areas may be impounded without warning the companies. The impoundment fee will not apply. Dockless vehicles found in areas like the River Walk or Alamo Plaza would be removed by the city if their operators do not retrieve them in an hour—or, two hours if the vehicle is parked or deployed in an area that violates city ordinance, like blocking sidewalks and curb ramps.

» Encourage the use of designated parking zones—CCDO tested designated parking zones, using stencil and spray chalk, during Rock and Roll Marathon in early December and the New Year's Eve celebration, where they were used regularly, officials said. The city is also working to create other parking zones, or "corrals," for dockless vehicles, which could replace select single curb-side, metered parking spaces.

Other amendments to were also discussed, including increasing permit and application fees, prohibiting sidewalk usage, and enforcing geofencing technology to stop riders from entering Alamo Plaza or the River Walk. CCDO also wants to increase its number of code enforcers, who move scooters out of streets and from blocking sidewalks, from two to six people, using funds from permit fees to pay for the larger team.

The Transportation Committee acknowledged the increased use of dockless vehicles in the city, with people riding more than 1.2 million times since Dec. 1.

As of now, 9,500 vehicles are operational in San Antonio, CCDO officials said. Consisting of scooters (mostly) and bikes, there are 14,000 permits total. Local company Blue Duck is waiting for its 100 scooters to get permitted, but is allowed to operate because it launched prior to the pilot program's approval in October.

Scooter injuries
From October to mid-January, there have been 78 scooter-related emergency calls to the San Antonio Fire Department.
» Oct. 1—5
» Oct. 8—3
» Oct. 15—3
» Oct. 22—3
» Oct. 29—12
» Nov. 11—9
» Nov. 12—3
» Nov. 19—3
» Nov. 26—11
» Dec. 3—5
» Dec. 10—2
» Dec. 17—6
» Dec. 24—5
» Dec. 31—6
» Jan. 7—1
» Jan. 14—1
Source: City of San Antonio

District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez said the scooters were a nuisance to police officers, who enforce riding violations. His constituents who live near the University of Texas at San Antonio's main campus regularly find them thrown in their yards. Pelaez mentioned dockless vehicles as a potential solution to the first mile-last mile problem of public transportation in the city—the oft-quoted ¼ of a mile people are comfortable walking to and from public transportation—but still had reservations.

"I'm not sure 12,000 scooters in the downtown area, clogging up our sidewalks, would make anybody look at it and say, ‘Wow, there's a solution'," he said.

Pelaez wants a strict curfew on their usage, a severe reduction in the amount of permits issued, and a better partnership between the city and dockless vehicle companies.

District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales was more welcoming of dockless vehicles, and also wanted a partnership between the city and their operators.

"We could actually go further to make it safer, not restrict it," Gonzales said. She said the dockless vehicles should be treated as a transportation issue and not a recreational one.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said regulations for dockless vehicles were not strong enough, specifically asking for more signage and data from the operators.

"I would challenge you to come back with something strong," she said.

CCDO is requesting access to "the raw data" from dockless vehicle operators to research why people are using them, where they're going, where most accidents are happening, and where to place them in the city after the pilot program.

The city also relaunched its dockless vehicle survey, which you can take here.

Previously published
Scooter, e-bike permits surpass 14K mark

Contact Gaige Davila: 956-372-4776 | gaige@saheron.com | @gaigedavila on Twitter

And the scooters just keep on coming.

This morning, Jump, the shared e-scooter and e-bicycle system owned by UBER, launched on downtown sidewalks, joining Bird, Lime, Razor and S.A.-based Blue Duck.

Jump has introduced pedal-assisted e-bikes for the first time since Bird ushered in the dockless vehicle era with 150 e-scooters in June. As opposed to the docking stations used by SW Cycle, operated by local nonprofit San Antonio Bike Share, there are no designated places to park a Jump e-bikes.

Dockless vehicle total
The city of San Antonio has issued permits for 14,100 dockless vehicles to six companies so far.
» Bird—4,500
» Jump—4,000 (2,000 e-scooters, 2,000 e-bikes)
» Lime—4,000
» Razor—1,000
» Spin—500 (has not deployed)
» Blue Duck—100

Overall, permits for 14,100 dockless vehicles have been issued to six companies. Jump has the second-most dockless vehicle permits with 4,000—2,000 for e-scooters, 2,000 for e-bikes. Only e-scooter company Spin, which has a permit for 500 rides, has not deployed. While the city is still processing Blue Duck's application, the local company is being allowed to operate since it launched before the pilot program was approved in October.

No other companies are waiting for permits. Company Wind applied, but withdrew its application last week to focus on European markets as they wind down U.S. operations, city officials said.

The city estimates 309,000 rides were taken in December.

City officials have expressed enthusiasm for dockless vehicles since the City Council adopted regulations in October. Among the rules: Riders must be 16 or older; Riders must stay three feet away from pedestrians on sidewalks; Riders are prohibited from parking within eight feet of a building entrance or loading zone. This is a "brand-new industry that was crowdsourced to resolve (mobility issues)," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at the time.

However, as more and more dockless vehicles hit the streets of San Antonio, and with Spring Break and Fiesta fast approaching, District 1 City Councilman Roberto Treviño has expressed concern over sidewalk clutter and scooter safety. He has suggested some enhancements to the six-month pilot program, which ends in May.

For example, later this month, the city will update its 311 app so that pedestrians can report scooter violations.

Also, some e-scooter parking areas have already been designated via stencil.

Jacks said his department first tested designated parking areas on sidewalks during the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon and Celebrate S.A., the San Antonio Parks Foundation's New Year's Eve celebration in front of Hemisfair.

"We knew people would be riding to those events—we wanted to give them an obvious choice as far as where to park them," said John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations department.

By the end of January, expect scooter "corrals" to pop up, some potentially in place of curb-side metered spaces. Currently, city staff is working to identify the areas where such parking corrals are needed based on data it's receiving from the various companies. There is no set goal for number of these corrals, Jacks said.

From looking at the data, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Alamo Plaza, Southtown and the Pearl seem to be the most popular destinations for e-scooter riders, Jacks said.

"To me, it's really two different issues for parking," Jack said. "We have deployment by the companies, primarily in the morning. We obviously have more control, we have more contact with the company and the people who are deploying them. They may not know that later in the day: This is the location where something is going to occur.

"Obviously, throughout the course of the day, they are being distributed by the riders and those seem to be more here and there kind of issues."

The city is also in the process of recruiting a pedestrian mobility officer (PMO), whose main function will be to oversee the city's Pedestrian Mobility Plan, but who could also weigh in on specific scooter problem areas, Paul Berry, spokesman for the city's Transportation & Capital Improvements department, said via email.

Since the fall, the city has been working with Centro San Antonio ambassadors on correcting mis-parked scooters, "understanding that our preference is the company police their own scooters out there," Jacks said. Parking enforcement officers also have been cleaning up scooter mess when they see it.

Scooter injuries
From October to mid-January, there have been 78 scooter-related emergency calls to the San Antonio Fire Department.
» Oct. 1—5
» Oct. 8—3
» Oct. 15—3
» Oct. 22—3
» Oct. 29—12
» Nov. 11—9
» Nov. 12—3
» Nov. 19—3
» Nov. 26—11
» Dec. 3—5
» Dec. 10—2
» Dec. 17—6
» Dec. 24—5
» Dec. 31—6
» Jan. 7—1
» Jan. 14—1

Cities such as Seattle and Austin have capped the number of bikes and scooters in operation.

"I think it's important to learn even from those (cities) that are struggling because it's helped us to find some common ground—we can’t do it alone," Treviño said. "The bottom line is we think that this is something that will work for us in San Antonio and there's plenty of partners that have committed to helping out, including the scooter companies."

Since Oct. 1, the San Antonio Fire Department has reported 78 calls related to dockless vehicle injuries. Stats were not available for June through September, the first four months e-scooters were used on San Antonio's streets and sidewalks.

Since the pilot program was passed in October, CCDO reports it has impounded 70 dockless vehicles, while the department and Centro ambassadors have moved 13,800 incorrectly-parked dockless vehicles.

Representatives with Bird and Lime did not respond to requests for comment this week.

Lea Thompson contributed to this report.

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

Scooters are becoming a way of life for downtowners. V. FINSTER | SAN ANTONIO HERON

Mentioning a few minor concerns over ticketing inconsiderate scooter users, the City Council unanimously approved a six-month pilot program on Thursday that places regulations on dockless vehicles. The rules have been in the works since Bird, and eventually Lime and S.A.-based Blue Duck, entered downtown over the summer.

There are now 3,003 scooters throughout the city—1,700 belonging to Bird, 850 to Lime, and 453 to Blue Duck—John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations department, told the City Council. Other companies such as Razor, Spin, Skip and Zagster have considered joining the scooter fray in San Antonio, he said.

"We sort of watched this develop, saw where the pressure points were, and responded accordingly," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

Here are some of the highlights; download the complete presentation.

Riders ...

» Should always yield to pedestrians
» Must be 16 or older to ride
» Must ride on 35 mph-or-slower roads
» Must use bike lanes
» Cannot ride in city parks and trailways
» Must stay three feet away from pedestrians on sidewalks
» May park scooters in bike racks
» May not park in a SWell Cycle station
» Are prohibited form parking within eight feet of a building entrance; a loading zone; within four feet of street furniture: and cannot block curbs ramps, entryways or driveways; and within 15 feet of a bus stop pole or shelter

If scooters are improperly parked, concerned citizens should call the companies, which will have 1-2 hours to correction the violation. However, Jacks said, "typically, a lot of these are self-corrected," when the next rider picks up the scooter.

Jacks said the city is considering requiring companies to install geofencing which would render the rides inoperable in high-traffic areas such as the River Walk and the Convention Center. The city is also looking into putting signs directing users where to park in "highly-sensitive" areas such as Main Plaza.

So far, there's no limit of total number of scooters allowed on San Antonio streets, because the city wants to gauge how the market reacts to the volume.

The companies will have to pay a fee of $10 per vehicle and a "vender application fee" of $500—which would translate to $31,530 in fee revenue for the city based on today's volume. The fee is to help offset the city's cost related to regulation.

District 9 Councilman John Courage told Jacks he liked the idea of placing some form of cards on the handlebars that educate the rider of the dos and don'ts.

Both District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry and District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval asked about ticketing scooter users who violate these rules, or just basic traffic rules.

"I'm just concerned that we're waiting on this ordinance to start enforcing traffic laws on the streets," Perry said.

Jacks said, so far, no scooter rider has been ticketed for a traffic violation, such as running a red light or not stopping at a stop sign.

Police Chief William McManus told Sandoval that bike cops would likely to be the ones to enforce the new rules if there weren't more pressing public safety matters to attend to.

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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

alexis@saheron.com | @alexisraguirre on Twitter

More dockless vehicle companies may be on their way, joining Lime and Bird in the downtown market. Ofo, Razor USA, Spin, Zagster and Skip have contacted the city about operating in the area, city officials said at a public meeting Tuesday night. These new companies bring the potential for dockless bikes, as well as electric scooters, which made their debut a month ago. Blue Duck, a San Antonio company, quietly rolled out about a dozen of its dockless e-scooters recently in the Pearl area and has plans to expand in the fall.

The meeting at the Central Library gave advocates and concerned citizens a chance to offer feedback as city officials continue to craft regulations on dockless vehicles — mainly, they’ve talked about putting a cap on the number of companies allowed to operate in San Antonio, and a cap on the total number of vehicles allowed on the streets.

The potential for even more companies to descend on San Antonio streets left one attendee feeling a little nervous.

“It’s only been a month and there are so many issues already,” Christi Fillhart said. “There’s the clutter issue and the maintenance issue.”

Fillhart is a big advocate of dockless vehicles and the opportunities they provide commuters. However, she feels the large number of companies and their potentially large fleets will be overwhelming.

She has already seen quality issues with Bird scooters — which have been on the streets a month versus Lime, which launched on Friday. Wear and tear on some of the scooters, a broken or missing front light, could potentially be hazardous to nighttime rider, she said.

The majority of those in attendance supported dockless vehicles.

For retiree Steve Arnold, the rides have been a helpful addition to the city. He's seen a difference in how locals use them versus tourists.

"The biggest thing I’ve seen is the tourists that are using them," Arnold said, "they’re paying less attention than the business people who use them everyday."

The scooters had some haters in the crowd.

“They’re thrown everywhere like trash,” retiree Richard Sharer said. “I’m opposed to them totally.”

Sharer said scooters are bringing nothing but danger. While he understands the “cuteness” and novelty of the scooters, the lack of regulations is a problem, he said. Sharer said he would be less opposed to the scooters if they were held to the same standards as bikes and were forced to be ridden on bike lanes instead of sidewalks.

At the meeting, which was standing-room only, attendees were asked to fill out comment cards and were given red stickers with which to vote on four large poster boards that were placed around the room. The boards tackled different issues such as parking, safety, areas the dockless vehicles should be used and people’s general feelings on the dockless vehicles.

The meeting came a month after Bird deployed 150 scooters. Two hundred Lime scooters have been on the street for less than a week.

If you weren't able to attend the meeting, you can still give your feedback in this city survey.

Photos by Ben Olivo | San Antonio Heron. Top photo: E-scooters line up at the Central Library, the location for Tuesday night's public meeting. Second photo: Downtown worker Andrew Velis (wearing the helmet) describes his personal scooter. Third photo: Michael Vu sells electric unicycles across Texas for S.A.-based company Electric Glider.

alexis@saheron.com | @alexisraguirre on Twitter

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

Previously published:
Scooters are here to stay, but they will be regulated

alexis@saheron.com | @alexisraguirre on Twitter

It's been like a party on streets since Bird scooters unloaded about 150 of its electric vehicles in the downtown area two Fridays ago. Their max speed is 15 miles per hour, and last week I saw an older gentleman (who had to have been in his 70s) in a brown suit whipping around King William the full 15.

If you haven't tried one, they cost $1 to start a ride and 15 cents each minute after.

In the past few days, there's been some social media buzz about whether the city of San Antonio will come in and ruin the scooter party with — gasp! — regulations. Some of these concerns stem from seeing Bird scooters impeding pedestrian rights-of-way. Others are concerned about whether San Antonio drivers are savvy enough to handle another mode of two-wheeled transportation on the roads.

"We ask that riders avoid placing the scooters anywhere that would block or obstruct the sidewalk or street," said John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations Department. "Riders are also asked to follow all posted regulations for similar vehicles such as bicycles, rollerblades and skates, skateboards, etc., and exercise caution."

A scooter war may be imminent. Aside from Bird, another company is very close to deploying its fleet. Meanwhile, the city is moving toward putting a cap on the number of scooters allowed on the streets and on the number of operators in San Antonio. The regulations won't affect riders.

For now, there's nothing to stop other companies from unloading their fleets and potentially clogging up downtown streets and sidewalks.

"We could end up seeing similar situations that have happened in other cities where there's just an overabundance of them," Jacks said.

The city has asked other scooter operators to hold off deployment until the city puts in place an ordinance, the first draft of which the City Council could see in August.

"So far they've all complied with that," Jacks said.

Except Bird.

The Los Angeles-based company never talked with city officials. It swooped in (my apologies) last Friday and scattered its vehicles in the downtown area, including Southtown, Government Hill, Dignowity Hill and Harvard Place/East Lawn (kind of out of the downtown and farther east).

They'll be allowed to continue, Jacks said, because there's no statute on the books that bans scooters.

However, city crews have been scooping up some Bird scooters parked in the middle of sidewalks. They're gathering them up, rather than impounding them, and Bird employees are allowed to pick them up without penalty, for now. Jacks said the city is collecting about 12 a day.

A Bird official was not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, local scooter start-up Blue Duck is "incredibly close" to deploying its own flock in downtown and on college campuses, a spokesperson said on Friday.

Featured photo: Robert Vetters rides a Bird scooter down Houston Street on Monday, July 2. All photos by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron

ben@saheron.com

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