Flock of Dockless Electric Scooters Lands On San Antonio Streets

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Bird scooters landed across downtown San Antonio early Friday morning.

Jeffrey Sullivan / Rivard Report

Bird scooters landed across downtown San Antonio early Friday morning.

Electric scooters started popping up on the streets of San Antonio early Friday morning as part of an initiative by Los Angeles-based scooter-sharing company Bird to provide an alternative mode of transportation, mostly for those downtown.

The scooters, or "Birds" as the company calls them, are reserved through a mobile app that charges a base fee of $1 per ride with an additional 15 cents charged per minute of use. A map on the application shows the location of available scooters, which are typically clustered with others in a "Nest." They may, however, be picked up and dropped off almost anywhere.

"As San Antonio rapidly grows and develops, it’s clear there’s an urgent need for additional transit options that are accessible, affordable, and reliable for all residents and local communities," according to a statement released by Bird to the Rivard Report on Friday morning. "Birds are a great solution for short "last-mile" trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive."

According to Bird's website, its scooters have a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour and riders must be at least 18 years old. Scooters are delivered before 7 a.m. and are picked up each evening starting around sunset.

Bird riders also are not permitted to park or ride scooters on the River Walk or at the Alamo, according to the mobile application.

Bird told the Rivard Report that the scooters are now available in downtown, Southtown, Government Hill, Dignowity Hill, and Harvard Place.

"Right now, more than one-third of cars trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long," according to Bird. "Bird's mission is to replace these trips — get people out of their cars, reduce traffic and congestion, and cut carbon emissions."

While the idea might seem like an environmentally friendly mode of transportation for San Antonians, City officials aren't quite on board — yet. The City had hoped to delay local operations until rules could be established for dockless transportation options.

Releases of similar vehicles around the country have surprised city officials, prompting some, such as those in Austin, to temporarily impound the scooters.

John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations (CCDO) department, told the Rivard Report on Thursday that while the City hopes to coordinate with companies to keep their scooters on the street, it has the right to remove obstructing vehicles left in places such as public right of ways like sidewalks, streets, or trails.

The department first considered regulating dockless bikes in January, before the scooters became a widespread and highly-funded phenomenon. Jacks said his department would likely pitch a more comprehensive pilot ordinance to the City Council's Transportation Committee in August.

"We've asked them to hold off until we at least have a briefing or some kind of pilot program for Council committee," Jacks told the Rivard Report earlier this month. "There's currently not any specific ordinance that prohibits it. ... We may do nothing, it just depends [on the circumstances]."

Other scooter companies have expressed interest in entering the San Antonio market. Blue Duck Scooters, LimeBike, and Spin all have communicated with City officials in recent months.

The company recently began advertising online to attract scooter chargers, who locate, collect, and recharge scooters for the company. A June 14 Facebook advertisement for Bird stated that "chargers" could earn between $5 and $20 for each charged scooter, and that "chargers" could collect as many scooters as they want.

Residents in other cities have complained that scooters "litter" public right of ways and are strewn about on sidewalks or in front of entrances to buildings, limiting some people's access public space.

Jacks told the Rivard Report that the City is less concerned with dockless scooters than bikes because they take up less space and need to be routinely picked up off the street for recharges.

Bird's mobile application stated that riders in San Antonio were required to wear a helmet while riding if 21 years or younger, to ride in bike lanes and off sidewalks, to park by bike racks when available, and to ride with a valid driver's license.

15 thoughts on “Flock of Dockless Electric Scooters Lands On San Antonio Streets

  1. The city had better get ready. Scooters, dockless, e-bikes — they’re all going to show up here, probably unannounced just like these first scooters did, and you can bet the impetus behind them is profit. Convenience, safety and public well-being do not necessarily go hand-in-hand with that goal. I’m a strong advocate for cycling and bikesharing, but it’s gotta be done smart.

    • Does smart imply that it has to be controlled by the city? Can smart be the wisdom of the user and the company? I agree they will all show up and all options should be available to all.

      • Zhen you’re responsible for the streets, sidewalks, and public safety, you better believe “smart” should include major municipal input. We’re not back in the wild west of the mid-late 1800’s anymore.

    • Yeah okay, guy. Search Dockless Bikes Dallas and see what happens when a city agrees to allow a dockless share program enter with little to no City oversight.

  2. Hmmm. Yesterday I almost got hit by 2 of them zipping by on the sidewalk at Broadway and 3rd and another one zoomed past me and through a red light and group of folks this am on N. Presa…

  3. Bad idea… people are using them and too many will have no consideration for Public. I say confiscate when warranted.

  4. I know two property owners that threw 3 of them scooters in the street or the trash bin for being placed on their property with out permission. seen guy on Friday get hit by a car for zipping in front of the car.

    • Seeing a lot of anecdotes here. Do you have a police report #, as I’m sure you stuck around as a witness, being the conscientious citizen you seem to be.

  5. 20mph or less does not require drivers license. Why can’t they be used on sidewalks? – Do you want them in the street with traffic? I don’t. I agree that any store owner can just trash them if they are parked in front of their store. City is so dumb that they don’t know what to do – they’ve had a year. They can easily confiscate them as trash if they are left pretty much anywhere that is public. I like them and don’t like them. It really depends on how/where the users leave them and use them. I wouldn’t mind one from my house to the store but that will never happen as I live beyond 410.

  6. I was almost run over several days ago by two individuals driving these haphazardly down a sidewalk in downtown, weaving in and around pedestrians. I had to sidestep quickly in order to avoid being hit. Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

  7. via,Uber,taxis operaterators are all the liars and negative comments in this debate. show viral video of any mishap or close calls? pics? of course there are none. just lies. it’s all about saving oil jobs. big oil big pollution big dollars. stifle freedom in the Alamo city. keep old ways. heads in sand. please gimme cheap transportation, fun and freedom to choose… let me spend my $ at your shop. your restaurant. your biz SA! more $ in my pocket to spend on fun crap, heathy foods and sporty activities rather then killing the planet with payments to the MAN(oil,taxes,fees,fines) SA be alive!reinvent! dare to be 1# in fun and healthier living! we need more share bikes, scooters, and a monorail to Austin thru the hillsides of hill country would bring tourist from around the globe. all south Texas! A killer zip line along the San Antonio river from the tower of America to the lone star brewery tower … then down into the river along the bike path ending near l-10 bridge at the old electric company building tower thingy! wow close eyes see it people! how epic and spectacular. .. and fun and fit this city could be! a smoke free river walk! vegan and organic texmex and fusion! electric and peddle power everything! clean the river for areas to swim and play! the city could be epic! jobs jobs! baseball team! pro soccer! make a beach on the river pro sand! Olympics! … oh wait this is what i should say… since this is what gets attention.. “a scooter almost hit me while I was vappin and texting and eating a bacon wrap carnchuca from wataheartatacks millers… I mean I was Jay walking on Houston street at 520pm and watching YouTube on my tablet too… but dang that scooter came about 500ft to close… burp!”

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