City Looks to Clamp Down on E-Scooter Violations as Vehicles Multiply

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A group of people tries to register for Lime-S electric scooters outside of the Rand Building.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Thousands of e-scooters have been put into service in San Antonio.

San Antonio appears to be tightening its enforcement on the swelling numbers of e-scooters on city streets and sidewalks.

With an increasing number of riders – and pedestrians they’ve collided with – ending up in local emergency rooms and a glut of vehicles scattered about sidewalks in the center city and beyond, the City has beefed up enforcement of its dockless, electric vehicle regulations in recent weeks.

Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said Wednesday the City will begin testing out designated parking areas early next year with the Henry B. González Convention Center, Hemisfair, and other high-traffic areas targeted as early proving grounds. City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said he will propose six updates to a six-month pilot program that established rules of the road for the nascent e-scooter industry. Treviño said he would like to see the updates adopted before the City Council reviews the program in May.

“We don’t need to wait until the end of the pilot program,” Treviño said. “A lot of these things we can act on pretty quickly.”

When operators Bird and Lime first arrived in the city, just a few hundred e-scooters were zipping through San Antonio streets. That number rose to more than 3,000 when the City Council enacted a six-month pilot program in October and has since grown to more than 10,000 approved e-scooters.

Hundreds of unfinished Blue Duck scooters are lined up in the warehouse.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Hundreds of unfinished Blue Duck scooters are lined up in the local startup’s warehouse.

Homegrown e-scooter operator Blue Duck Scooters, which maintains just over 100 scooters, is in favor of the parking zones and expected them to be included in the original pilot program, said Casey Whittington, Blue Duck’s national director of government affairs.

“We are of the opinion that it has gotten out of hand here,” Whittington said. “Frankly, more scooters have shown up than we anticipated. … When the initial regulations came out, we were surprised with how lax the City was.”

Blue Duck also endorses a cap on the number of vehicles allowed to operate locally, Whittington said. Current rules do not limit the number of scooters a company can operate in the city. The City of Austin set a maximum for how many scooters each company can operate downtown, but operators can seek authorization to operate more outside of downtown. Austin recently penalized Lime for exceeding its authorized amount.

“As much as we believe in the free market … we have seen, certainly, that this [increase in e-scooters] is unsustainable,” Whittington said. “There has to be a middle ground. I’m worried about the process of finding that middle ground, but I have confidence in the city officials we’ve been working with.”

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

The City’s initial approach to regulating the nascent transportation mode was lauded by scooter companies and local tech sector leaders as employing a light touch – effecting safeguards, such as age restrictions and parking guidelines, while not overreaching with stifling rules.

In November, the City and Centro began correcting parking violations. Since Nov. 1, about 6,100 have been moved because of parking offenses, Houston said.

Seventy e-scooters have been impounded for being parked in prohibited areas, such as the River Walk, Mission Reach, and Alamo Plaza. The City began impounding e-scooters parked in restricted areas on Dec. 17, Houston said. Center City Development and Operations, the City department tasked with monitoring e-scooter parking, will hire more enforcement officers early next month, she said.

Although the City encourages complainants to report violations directly to the operators, Houston said 311 has received more than 120 complaints from residents since Oct. 11. Most were reporting parking infractions.

As more riders hop aboard scooters, injuries are mounting for both riders and pedestrians in their path. The City has recorded in excess of 50 e-scooter-related injuries since that time, but that includes only patients transported via the City’s Emergency Medical Services.

The Emergency Clinic at the Pearl, a 24/7 free-standing emergency room on lower Broadway, sees anywhere from one to three patients with scooter-related injuries a day, said Dr. Michael Magoon, The Emergency Clinic’s medical director and co-owner. Including its Alamo Heights location, Magoon estimates the clinic has admitted anywhere from 150 to 200 with injuries they sustained while riding e-scooters.

The Emergency Clinic at the Pearl is located at 2015 Broadway St.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The Emergency Clinic at the Pearl is located at 2015 Broadway St.

“If you fall off that scooter and hit your head hard enough you’ll see a fatality at some point,” he said.

Fatal accidents involving e-scooters have been reported in three cities: Washington, D.C.Dallas; and Chula Vista, California.

In San Antonio, a man sustained a life-threatening head injury after being struck by a pickup truck while riding an e-scooter against traffic in October, according to local TV station KENS5.

Injuries have become so prevalent that San Antonio-based personal injury law firm Thomas J. Henry has set up a landing page for people who have been involved in e-scooter-related accidents.

Some people have been injured after tripping over e-scooters toppled over on the sidewalk, said Dr. Manuel Vogt, a family medicine physician in Alamo Heights.

The City has conducted surveys, however, that show public sentiment largely favors e-scooters, and some riders who have been in accidents say they remain proponents of dockless, electric vehicles as part of the solution to traffic gridlock and an over-reliance on automobiles. But support appears to be rising for barring them from being ridden on sidewalks and reducing the permitted number of vehicles.

Residents Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) doesn’t regularly hear from have begun stopping her during her visits to the grocery store or taquería to show her pictures of e-scooters blocking pedestrian walkways and ramps for wheelchairs.

Two women with walking scooters sit on a bench next to Bird Scooters at the intersection of East Houston Street and Soledad Street.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Women wait at a bus stop next to parked Bird scooters at the intersection of East Houston Street and Soledad Street.

“When I get those kinds of messages, I pay attention,” Gonzales said. “They’re just regular citizens and they have been complaining a lot about them being all over the place in a haphazard way.”

She hasn’t seen enough data, however, to suggest a reduction in the number of vehicles or setting a limit, but that will be one thing she looks for as the pilot program progresses, she said. Overall, she is encouraged by what she sees as a genuine transportation option, one she hopes will advance the City’s bicycle master plan.

Treviño also has proposed charging the City’s new Pedestrian Mobility Officer with studying the safety implications of allowing scooterists to ride on sidewalks. He said the in-development sidewalk master plan must reflect the growing demand for non-automobile modes of transportation in the urban core.

“Our city has been very automobile-centric for too long, and understanding where the pedestrian fits into all this planning is very important,” Treviño told The Rivard Report. “There’s room for everyone. We just have to create a framework that allows this to work.”

Loretta Mendoza loved riding e-scooters to get from a downtown surface parking lot to the Hilton Garden Inn on Houston Street, where she worked this past summer. But her enthusiasm for them has tempered as she has seen them littered about downtown thoroughfares and as riders flout the rules.

“I like them, but I think people need to take responsibility when they ride them,” said Mendoza, a Southtown resident. “I can imagine what it’s going to be like this weekend with the Alamo Bowl and New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t doubt it if something happens.”

17 thoughts on “City Looks to Clamp Down on E-Scooter Violations as Vehicles Multiply

  1. Those signs on the riverwalk that say no motorized scooters allowed aren’t doing enough. I’m always having people zoom right past me and others without warning. It’s called a riverWALK not riverROAD. Lets not also ignore the fact that these people don’t obey the rules of the road. I’m 27 and i’m gonna sound like an old man saying this but those scooters are a nuisance.

    • The font on those signs is so small that no one flying by on a scooter could read it. Walkers have to stop to be able to read the entire sign. Thoses signs are a joke. Make the font red/orange, large, and straight to the point.

  2. Unless more citizens complain, the downtown apartment developers, the tech groups that have become city hall insiders and the millionaire city hall powerbrokers and their lobbyists controlling city hall will have the final say on what they want done with the scooters.

    Downtown has become a playground jungle for these downtown residents that are young adults. The developers cater to them as they rent many apartments yo them. Do not expect a reasonable solution as long as these money interest are filling their pockets.

  3. Enforce the rules already in existence. Children as young as six are driving these scooters . People are doubling and tripling up on the scooters. Drivers are zipping in and out of traffic. I live Down near the Pearl and work on Houston street. It is chaos. Enforce the rules and ticket for violations. Children at Travis Park were zipping around the Park on the scooters while the Park Patrol sat there. Fine them before there is a child who dies.

  4. The river walk is being ruined as there is no enforcement of the scooter ban on the walk.
    It is not enjoyable to walk as you have to dodge scooters weaving on the sidewalk.

  5. Not sure how you control where people leave the scooters…but they have created an eye sore,as well as a hazard both while in use and when left on the sidewalk.

  6. It is insane that the COSA has approved 10,000 scooters! It’s always about the money. Where did they think these scooters would be located? The person approving this should be fired and the City Council next. They think it’s so hip and world class to have these scooters. What has happened to encouraging exercise to help us slim down and lose the reputation of being the Fattest City? Our choice is to be World class or thin, our city fathers have chosen.

  7. I would encourage all citizens, law enforcement personnel, and City Council Representatives of San Antonio to read the STATE of TEXAS ELECTRIC SCOOTER DEFINITION/OPERATING ORDINANCES as defined in:
    SUBCHAPTER E:
    MOTOR-ASSISTED SCOOTERS
    Sec. 551.351 DEFINITIONS
    And:
    Sec. 551.352 OPERATION ON ROADWAYS OR SIDEWALKS

  8. My wife and I had not been downtown in months. When we went earlier this month we were take aback by all the scooters littered about the city. Definitely and issue the city needs to address.

  9. We talk about technology so much when it comes to dockless vehicles. How about geo-fencing that renders the vehicles inoperable if taken on a prohibited place such as the Riverwalk or the Alamo. Make this a contingency for being granted the opportunity to deploy your company’s vehicles in San Antonio.

    • Geo-fencing is a great idea! Can’t imagine the scooters in busy pedestrian areas. We will no longer go downtown. It is too dangerous now. I compare this ridiculous situation with scooters on sidewalks in New York City. Can you imagine how horrific that would be? We are not NYC but we certainly have areas downtown that are just as crowded. The city better do something before more pedestrians are injured or killed. Maybe someone injured in a no scooter zone should sue the city and operators. Geo-fencing seems the only option because riders feel entitled.

  10. there is a new company in town that uses an all black scooter for giving tours that have been zipping down on the river walk and over on the San Pedro Creek area the guy was told not to by SARA and the next day this guy was back again and park police is a joke the guy stands there watching and or texting on his cell phone while people are zipping by on the scooter

  11. There is always discussion regarding viewshed concerns in the downtown area. The viewshed when looking down any downtown street, with scooters scattered everywhere, is horrific!

  12. I use these everyday! I have saved lots of money as I can now park outside the ring of expensive parking and drive in on one of these vehicles. I do try to be responsible and park out of the way, not drive over pedestrians and follow traffic rules. It does anger me as well when people don’t do their part. It of course is not far off from the way many people drive cars, or park incorrectly, etc. This is able to be curtailed by law enforcement. I am not one for adding more costs to the city like a new employee, but we do have cycle cops who should be in the mix of all this as it is now. I do wonder if it is possible to give people citations. These penalties are possible as people drive around, it is the parking that seem to be the biggest complaint for people. I would think that the technology exists to allow cops to scan a poorly parked device, and retrieve the name and info of the offender. Then a citation arrives in the mail; just like a red light camera citation!

  13. E-bike/e-scooter(e-BS) mode of transportation is too burdensome to society. The safety factor, not just to riders, but to others is unacceptable. Just stumbling over one could be fatal to the elderly. e-BS venders are carelessly profit motivated and have not contributed to the necessary infrastructure for usage or safety; their avarice is obvious.

    Look how long it took for San Antonio to get bike lanes. Then e-BS hucksters just slither in and boom, the “City Powers that Be” push these pesky scooters on us. Why? Who got paid? Who’s campaign fund got fat? And now the self-serving e-BS venders are the ones dictating the rules and regulations that seem to burden the community and restrict their competition.

    A moratorium on e-BS should be declared. Their e-BS should be gathered and stowed until a City plan is made. I suggest a collaboration with VIA Metropolitan Transit would be best for our Community.

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