Scott Ball / Rivard Report
In a year that saw e-scooters take over the city – eventually multiplying to more than 8,000 vehicles – seated e-scooters have arrived, and about 2,000 dockless bicycles are set to enter the fray.
Razor USA quietly rolled out new scooters in recent days with a cushioned seat and front-mounted basket.
Meanwhile, Uber's micro-mobility arm Jump is planning to launch 2,000 e-bikes this month, the City of San Antonio confirmed. On top of that, Jump is applying to bring 2,000 scooters to the city.
"People probably have more experience riding bikes than scooters," said John Jacks, who heads the City's Center City Development and Operations department. "To use an old cliché, it’s just like riding a bike. … That may increase opportunities for some that would be hesitant to try a scooter."
Jacks added the new Razor scooter model provides an additional option for scooter-averse riders because it's similar to a bike.
"We’ll see if they prove to be more popular," he said.
Dubbed the EcoSmart scooter, Razor's new scooter-share model can be found via the app. Similar to the other scooters available in San Antonio's dockless market, its top speed is 15 mph. The larger-framed vehicles are outfitted with bigger wheels than their stand-up counterparts in a bid to offer dockless vehicle riders a safer option for commuting to work or other long-distance trips.
“Razor’s dockless EcoSmart scooter was built with the rider’s comfort in mind,” said Danny Simon, chief operating officer for Razor USA, in a blog post. “With the option of standing or sitting and a front-mounted basket, the EcoSmart scooter is great for all adult riders, especially on those longer rides or when you are running errands.”
But many cities, including San Antonio, have grappled with scooter-related safety issues.
About 52 scooter-related injuries have been documented in San Antonio since early October. These include only incidents to which emergency responders have been called.
The City of Austin recorded a total of 37 EMS calls and 68 scooter injuries through syndromic surveillance conducted at area hospitals from September to November. Those calls and injuries are the focus of a forthcoming Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, the agency's seminal look at dockless vehicle-involved injuries. The City of Austin has authorized 11,851 dockless scooters and bikes as of Thursday.
A City of San Antonio spokeswoman said the City will review the CDC study when it is released and monitor other cities' approaches to scooter safety.
For now, its efforts to improve safety entail education. The City has launched a "Scoot Safely" public service announcement campaign to advocate for such practices as wearing a helmet and riding at a safe distance from pedestrians on sidewalks. After trip data collected during the pilot period has been analyzed, the City may recommend longer-term infrastructural improvements, such as new bike lanes and enhancing current lanes, Jacks said.
If and when Jump launches in San Antonio, the City's dockless vehicle fleet would eclipse Austin's total. With e-scooter company Spin's impending arrival, the total number of operators would climb to six – including Bird, Lime, Razor, and Blue Duck – and its total fleet would rise to about 12,600 vehicles, according to data provided by the City.
The City will collect about $129,000 in permit and application fees from the vendors, who pay $500 to apply for a permit and $10 for every vehicle they expect to operate. With the funding, the City will hire four temporary parking officers whose primary purpose will be to correct parking violations and other compliance issues, Jacks said.
That includes beefing up enforcement in and around the River Walk and other restricted areas, he said.
As the number of dockless vehicles operating in San Antonio swells, there is still no indication of whether the City is inclined to cap the number of e-scooters and e-bikes it permits, according to Jacks.
"Right now it's too early to say," he said. "But that’s one of the reasons we did a pilot program."
The City will review and make any needed amendments to its regulatory framework for dockless vehicles after the pilot program ends in May.