City Places Moratorium on Scooter Permits, Mulls More Regulations

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Pedestrian, vehicle, and scooter traffic navigate through the Pearl District.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Scooter riders navigate through the Pearl District.

The City of San Antonio has shut the door on more dockless scooters and bikes  – at least until its six-month pilot regulation program ends in April.

The City Council’s Transportation Committee took immediate action Tuesday to place a moratorium on dockless operator permits as part of regulations the City enacted in October. The full Council also is set to consider a curfew for riding dockless vehicles, encouraging riders and scooter company contractors to park the vehicles in designated parking zones, and immediately impounding vehicles parked in prohibited areas.

The moratorium also restricts current operators from adding more vehicles to their fleets. However, it does not apply to Lyft’s application submitted last week to operate 2,000 scooters in San Antonio.

Perhaps still recovering from its unpopular approach to regulating the rideshare industry, which drove out Uber and Lyft, City Council aimed last year to oversee the nascent dockless vehicle market with light regulations. But now that the local electric scooter and bike fleet has ballooned into the thousands – with about 14,000 vehicles authorized, more under consideration, and around 7,000 deployed on a given day – Transportation Committee members Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) took a harder line at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Whether you love scooters or hate scooters, what’s clear is what we have right now isn’t working,” Sandoval said. The councilwoman recounted nearly being struck by scooters on the sidewalk and seeing the vehicles cluttering pedestrian thoroughfares. She expressed her disappointment that residents ostensibly could not report issues with dockless vehicles to 311. A scooter complaint option was added only recently to the City’s 311SA app.

Scooters, Pelaez said, have become a public nuisance. “I’ve gotten enough data to know there are already too many scooters out there,” he said, referring to the calls he gets from his constituents complaining about them. “There isn’t a single neighborhood in my district that thinks that this is a great idea.”

Brockhouse applauded Pelaez’s comments but maintained he is “more interested in figuring out ways to embrace [dockless mobility] rather than eliminate it.”

But Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) took a different tack: “What if we held the auto industry to the same account that we are holding the micro transportation?” she asked rhetorically. Gonzales said the City should embrace investing in infrastructure that will create a safer environment for riding dockless vehicles as well as traditional bicycles.

“A lot of the core of the city is very young,” she said. “We should be making policies that will last for generations.”

Now in the third month of the pilot program, City staff is enforcing regulations more strictly. The City impounded 70 scooters in December but has not confiscated any since then, as the scooter companies have become “more vigilant” about correcting issues, said John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations Department, which oversees the pilot program. The San Antonio Police Department will also heighten its enforcement of riding violations.

City Council is set to take up the additional proposed amendments to the program on Feb. 14. Unlike the last time the City considered rules for scooters, however, the companies may not find all of the new regulations agreeable.

“Some of them have expressed some concern about” picking the scooters and bikes up by 11:30 p.m, Jacks said. “Some of it may have to do with specific locations or how many there are in an area, so there may be some compromise there.”

The proposed curfew allows for dockless vehicles to be ridden from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Council also will consider whether to allow the City to collect scooters from prohibited areas without warning the companies. Operators currently have an hour to respond when their vehicles are in prohibited areas, such as the River Walk and Alamo Plaza, and two hours to respond to issues in other areas.

After the pilot program concludes, the City will consider whether to increase its application and permitting fees to cover the cost of greater enforcement coverage. Companies may also be required to use geofencing technology to limit riders from entering prohibited areas. Banning riding on the sidewalks is also under consideration.

The City will survey the public again to garner feedback on the dockless mobility industry and how the pilot program has worked thus far. Jacks noted the changed tenor of the debate around scooters as more vehicles have been deployed in more areas of the city.

“When we first adopted the ordinance there were about 3,000,” Jacks said. “Now we have permitted up to 14,000. It’s clearly changed what it looks like, what it feels like. … It’s our job to listen to Council and come up with a good recommendation, and that’s what we’ll do moving forward into February.”

49 thoughts on “City Places Moratorium on Scooter Permits, Mulls More Regulations

  1. I find the clutter very unappealing, unorderly when not in use and very unsafe for patrons exiting a building when’s scooter is traveling fast on the sidewalk. Our city now looks very trashy.

  2. Just downtown today.

    Some corners off Houston St. had a total of as many as 25 scooters.
    What a sad and disheartening blight on our great city.

  3. Knuckle Heads- when the pilot program ends, Remove this “disruptive transportation SOLUTION” First/Last mile from our COSA landscape!!!
    Remember FITSA- apply’s to Tourist also. Tripped over these darn thing’s while in Corpus this past weekend. Just takin’ money from ur’ pocket.

  4. You cannot get by these scooters on a walker. Downtown and univ of incarnate word are the worst offenders. San Antonio is a walking downtown and the scooters
    Piling up and drunk riders running into people and buildings leaves a very impression on tourists

  5. Please no scooter or bicycles on the sidewalk. What happened to the age limit of scooter riders – saw a family at the Pearl a couple of weeks ago getting scooters
    and two of the children looked age 10 or younger. I thought they had to be 13. I agree that they are eyesores. I’m all for compromise but pedestrians have only one place to walk and they shouldn’t have to be watching out for scooters. Maybe the city should have thought about more bike/scooter lanes before they allowed this to get so out of hand.

  6. Scooters all over the sidewalks are a terrible hazard for the visually impaired. And I faced 3 of them head on riding 3-abreast down the wrong way on a one-way street in the dark.

  7. This is great news! Limit the number of scooter companies to 3, 1000 scooters each and no more that two scooters at any one pick up point.
    It should be obvious that there is an over abundance of scooters when there are more scooters strewn about, than actually in use.

  8. If there were proper bike lanes, we would have all the needed scooter infrastructure. San Antonio actually removed a bike lane just north of downtown around where I was looking to buy a house a couple years back. Glad I’m not stuck with a house in a backwards thinking city! Scooters are here to stay so all you automobile supremacists are going to have to get used to it.

    • How taxing the heck out of the scooters, heavy fines for those breaking the rules and companies whose scooters are improperly staged or end up in the river, and heavy annual registration fees and safety inspections for bikes? Then we can consider those special lanes.

  9. The fact that 14k have been deployed says something that at least half 7k are more than likely in use at any given moment. There is a cool factor to having them, old people see trash, as a Milenneal I see a cool way to get around cheaper that is mucho cheaper than getting the car out, finding a parking spot, paying for that spot, and/or paying a higher rate for uber/Lyft/taxi. It’s all about perspective here.

    Additionally, I hope someone at city hall sees this as a transportation crisis SA is in. Many people from my generation want rail! We need and want RAIL! Let me say that again we need rail! It’s time for someone forward thinking to propose this. This city has drastically changed in 10 years. Just look at the last election cycle. I voted for Nirenberg because he touted he was for this. Of course that changed after being elected. I know it sounds crazy but major companies and young people look for this in cities they are looking to relocate. Lack of public transportation and an inadequate airport led to AT&T leaving. If we’re not careful we very well could lose others in the future as the competition gets more intense with our neighbors in Austin, DFW, and Houston.

  10. Drove by UIW today and the sidewalks looked trashy-upended scooters blocking the entire sidewalk. They made a beautiful part of the city look unkempt and trashy. I also did not notice scooters on the UIW campus itself…

    People have no respect for others. Scooter users need to have respect for others who use the same sidewalks and care about the way the scooters are just left…you can’t regulate that, but you can regulate the use of scooters.

    Scooters as a solution -even a last mile solution-to transportation, is so absurd I can’t believe a city of this size would consider it any part of a transportation plan. Crazy!

  11. There is a huge need for alternatives to autos, agreed! There is no need to limit ourselves to bicycles or scooters. Problem is, our entire traffic systems are designed for cars only! Pedestrian death rates are sky high. We need to find solutions. Safety must be a priority, especially for those with limited physical abilities. Handicapped spaces must be respected. No debate. Let the dialogue begin.

  12. There is a need for people with new perspectives on transportation to solve the problem. Why are the same people responsible for unfettered development without regard to transportation, green spaces or neighborhood quality, but deeply tied to developers, the same ones now being called on to fix the problem they created? Was urban planning even thought of in the last 30-40 years? It is a disgrace that this city is in a transportation crisis. Nirenberg is too tied to and directed by the same people responsible for the current transportation mess. I hope people with more vision and bold ideas who can articulate what needs to be done will be sought after and listened to.

  13. One humble thought—- how about “tricycle scooters “ with bigger wheels and two wheels in the front for stability so that old folks like me (> 50) might be able to join in the scooter craze. If available I would at least give it a try. To be honest if more segments of our population would try scooters and find them to be useful the more the efforts to make them acceptable to all.

  14. We don’t have light rail in SA for a simple reason. We had a vote for a referendum on light rail about 20 years ago. It went down in flames. People in this city want to commute in comfort. That means with air conditioning. Public transit is fine, but when you get off at your stop and still have a couple of blocks to walk in blistering heat before arriving at the destination soaking wet with perspiration, the benefits of light rail are less apparent.

  15. I live in the middle of downtown near the Crockett street bridge and the scooters are so out of hand that there are days where I can’t easily walk outside the building’s front door. I am young and in the tech industry here but do not think these scooters are a great idea.

    They were intended for ease of transportation but have actually turned into “carnival rides” for teens and some drunk tourists. There are nights at 1am that it is difficult to sleep because you hear people zipping by my window screaming at the top of their lungs because they are on a scooter joy ride.

    I would say that getting rid of the scooters entirely is probably the wrong choice. But, we do need them OFF the sidewalks as I enjoy walking 4-5 miles a day and I’d like to do that without having to be so conscious of who or what is behind me so I don’t get hit.

    Also, they should definitely all be picked up and off the streets by 10pm.

  16. We don’t allow bicycles to crowd sidewalks. We put them in Racks. So they should have a rack station for them where ever they are located. This would limit the amount at a location. It would keep people from tripping over them. The city could approve sites and collect money for them. The companies would have to have someone drive around to ensure they were in the racks.

    • Then nobody would ride them. That’s the point of dockless scooters – it increases the use of shared vehicles by several orders of magnitude. There are shared bike stations on the river walk – almost nobody uses them.

      • When the weather is nice the
        B-cycle station at Blue Star is empty. I sit at the picnic tables right next to the bike station and enjoy a beer from Blue Star after my run. Lots of people walk away disappointed after seeing all the bikes have been rented out.

  17. The increase of total registered vehicles in Bexar County from 2016 to 2017 was 15331 vehicles. As of 2017, there are over 1.5MM registered vehicles in Bexar County. 14K permitted scooters would only represent 1% of total scooters on public roads in comparison to total registered vehicles in the county. 14K is also less than the increase year over year increase of registered cars from 2 years ago. If scooters were so dominating in the city at 1% representation then we should be seeing weekly riots in the streets about car growth in Bexar County. I am not against sensible legislation but if we plan to curb scooter growth maybe city hall should also be look at car growth as well.

  18. Common sense (ride on left, walk on right): Safety vest, headlights and reflective tape costs is worth for saving a life $150 approximate.
    – Scooter riders, please park scooters at a corner s of sidewalk – without blocking pedestrian walkway and without placing them on the edge – without blocking bus loading zones (like they now do at Navarro near Contessa) and without blocking ADA ramps.
    – Scooter rider, use common sense and courtesy when approaching a pedestrian, please always ride on the left side – while allowing slow people and pedestrians use the right side of the street (sidewalk).
    Scooter rider, please do not hit go as soon as light goes green, be mindful of vehicles right of way to turn right, proceed with caution.
    -Scooter rider, please do not ride scooter, bike, etc on middle lanes – please always use right lane.
    -Scooter rider please do not ride between cars and do not cross a red light (just as pedestrians and bikes are prohibited from doing so).
    -Scooter rider by all means please use colorful clothes and garments that light up in dark (under armor has some nice features, but otherwise a couple of personal safety lights (headlamp 250 lumens) will do (one on the front of your head and one in the back blinking near your neck or waist, they cost $20 each at home depot and it is worth not risking your life- driver really cannot see you on the dark and it does not help that scooter riders always wear dark colors. Or place some basic reflective tape on your back and legs – please we cannot see you- do not rely on the tiny scooter lights for your safety. – Think Green- Wear Lime Green.

    -Scooter driver, please do not speed on sidewalk, please share the sidewalk with other pedestrians (ride on left, walk on right).
    -Scooter driver, please do not just pile scooters all over the place.
    -Scooter rider, please do not ride opposite to vehicle flow- drivers do not expect to encounter someone coming toward them, not near The Pearl construction area.
    -Scooter operators, please do park scooters near construction areas.

  19. The scooters are the worst thing to happen downtown and just as things were looking for downtown. I will not forget at the next election!

  20. SCOOTERS – ON SIDEWALKS OR STREETS = has gone from a very dumb, stupid idea to one that is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Write it off and fire whoever pushed the idea.

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