San Antonio to Ban Scooters from Sidewalk; City Opens Bids to Select 3 Vendors

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A family rides three on a Bird scooter on a downtown San Antonio sidewalk.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

An adult and two children ride a Bird scooter on a downtown San Antonio sidewalk.

The seven scooter companies operating a total of about 16,000 dockless electric vehicles in San Antonio have four months to prove they should be allowed to stay in the city, and scooterists have a month before they’re banned from riding on the sidewalk, San Antonio City Council decided Thursday.

By early October, a city government bidding process will pare the number of authorized operators to three and the number of vehicles to 5,000. On June 30, riding on the sidewalk will be prohibited.

By virtue of Thursday’s vote, the pilot program under which scooter companies were previously operating has been extended until Sept. 30.

The measure also reduced by half the number of authorized vehicles for companies that are permitted for 1,000 vehicles or more. For example, Lime, which had been approved for 4,000 scooters, will see its fleet reduced to 2,000. That would bring the total number of permitted vehicles down to 8,750, although the average number of vehicles available for use on city streets has been around 6,000.

Council was set to consider barring scooter use on sidewalks this fall, along with its selection of three scooter companies, but Councilman John Courage (D9) tossed in an amendment to issue the ban beginning June 30.

“It really is a matter of safety,” Courage said. “We haven’t talked about how many accidents have taken place recently. … Obviously, it’s a problem with [scooter riders] on the sidewalks. Let’s alleviate that problem right away.”

More than 150 scooter-related accidents have been reported to the City’s Emergency Medical Services since October, although they have decreased by 36 percent since the City implemented an 11 p.m. curfew for riding scooters in February.

Beginning its regulation of the nascent scooter-share industry with a light-touch approach, the City later shifted its rules in response to an increasing number of reported injuries and complaints about sidewalk clutter.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), who has railed in recent months against the proliferation of dockless vehicles, voted in favor of the government bidding process but remained concerned that a 5,000-vehicle limit would not fix what he sees as a problem.

“I still think 5,000 is too much,” Pelaez said. “… I’m hesitant, and I’m a little scared of what 5,000 might look like. And I fear 5,000 looks exactly like what it looks like right now.”

Dockless scooter-share first landed in the city last June when Los Angeles-based Bird placed hundreds of vehicles in downtown San Antonio. The vehicles can be rented using a smartphone with rates of $1 to unlock the scooters and 15 cents for every minute of usage.

The company – along with other providers throughout the country – had operated with a forgiveness-not-permission mentality, putting vehicles on the street overnight without notifying government officials.

The City of San Antonio enacted a pilot program in response to the growing fleet of the sharable electric vehicles. The pilot began last fall with a required permit application for companies wanting to operate in the City but no cap on the number of vehicles citywide. The number of authorized companies grew to seven before the City issued a moratorium on additional permits. Permitting fees will be prorated through the extension of the pilot program.

Reflecting on the increasingly contentious scooter issue, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the problem was exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure.

“This is our need for a market that drives innovation and transportation colliding with the fact that we’ve made really bad decisions about how to deal with our transportation infrastructure in the city,” he said.

The City will solicit bids from scooter companies beginning June 7. They are due July 22.

15 thoughts on “San Antonio to Ban Scooters from Sidewalk; City Opens Bids to Select 3 Vendors

  1. They shouldn’t be able to park them on the sidewalk either. I had to move several out of my way just today while walking downtown.

  2. So scooters can roam around freely on the streets? That sounds so safe. I’d rather dodge a scooter on the sidewalk than a dodge scooter me off the road.. but that’s just me.

  3. Ths scooter mess shows the total lack of leadership from Mayor Nirenberg and Council. They merely looked at a “new revenue stream” and it was nothing but greed. Now will Chief McManus finally enforce the law as he has not during the past year downtown and I wonder if he will use the term “officer discretion” to avoid doing the job! I have lost all trust in this Mayor, Council and Police and I live downtown.

  4. It is irresponsible for COSA city council to force scooter users onto dangerous SA streets when the council has not provided a new plan for expanded bike infrastructure (which benefits both cyclists and scooter users). The city council appeared to be moved by the recent deaths of Tito Bradshaw and Dr. Naji Kayruz, both who were prominent members of our San Antonio community. They’ve said that better and increased bike infrastructure is crucial.

    Well, actions speak louder than words.

    The speed in which new projects are created, announced, funded and implemented is indicative of how high of a priority the well-being of cyclists and scooter users is to COSA city council and the city manager. An expectation of a new longterm comprehensive bike infrastructure plan, created within the last month may be impractical, especially if COSA is collecting input from various biking advocates and stakeholders across the city. However, how difficult is it to identify five new bike lane projects that can be actioned immediately around town??? This would at least demonstrate that COSA is indeed serious about improving the safety of ALL road users. And yes, I’ve considered that this is election season and the incumbents have likely been preoccupied with bids for re-election, the Chic-fil-A controversy etc. NO EXCUSES!!

    Cyclists and allies may need to consider packing a city hall meeting in the near future. The onus is on us to demand that our elected and appointed city leaders hustle when they are accustomed to dragging their feet.

  5. See! Calling your local rep works! Get these scooters off the sidewalk and onto a dedicated biking lane or road.
    Encouraged by this ban!

      • Thats’s the whole point, my friend. THE CITY NEEDS TO NOW CREATE DEDICATED bike lanes with concrete planters as buffers from the car lane for bikers, skaters, scooters. The scooters are FINE, just keep them off the sidewalk and have dedicated parking spots. Limit the number of scooters in the city (3000 total) and FORCE the companies to geofence the scooters to shut off whenever they enter a sidewalk, The Riverwalk, plazas, and parks. Dunzo. Problem fixed.

  6. Yes I agree that the scooters are left in inappropriate places on the sidewalks. It has gotten better in the last few weeks. But you know what? You are able take 5 seconds to move it out of the way so someone that is mobility impaired can get around it. I do every night I walk downtown. I find it laughable that the council thinks they are going to ban the scooters from the sidewalks. First the streets are more danger than the sidewalks. Both in terms of the vehicle traffic and the potholes. Second the riders on the sidewalk are the younger people “joy riding” too fast. Unless the council themselves are going to come downtown and enforce the ordinance it will not stop the sidewalk riding. And then there are young ones riding in the street but not obeying the traffic laws – including riding the wrong way on one way streets.
    All the ordinances the council wants to pass are not going to make up for the LACK of respect the younger people have for other people.
    Also trying to restrict the scooters to three companies is Anti-American. Let the free capitalism decide how many and which companies survive. I have my favorites to use and I don’t want the city deciding which ones are available to me.

  7. Aren’t the scooters a pretext for “alternative energy-saving transportation”? My hit is that most scooterists are young people having fun on two wheels and not utilizing alternative transportation. I think I’ve seen one person who seemed to be actually GOING to a destination — I saw a 30/40-ish guy on a scooter on Broadway (yes, ON Broadway, in the street) heading in the direction of the Tobin, where I was going for a symphony concert. At intermission, I saw him in the Tobin which means he commuted a good number of blocks at least. A scooter-commuter’s non-giddy expression and intentional driving behavior is very different from a joyrider.
    Scooters have failed as providing alternative TRANSPORTATION. They are merely an alternative thrill. Get rid of ’em. To quote someone from another century, “Get a horse!”.

  8. The scooter idea came up at a Port Aransas Council meeting. I understand that they voted to BAN them. Port A allows golf carts with permits, and this is a tourist town, hands down. They must see something very negative about scooters or they would’ve accepted them with open arms like San Antonio did.

  9. Is anyone else concerned with the lack of bike helmets for scooter riders now forced to ride in the streets?? My husband’s life was saved by his bike helmet when he was in a bicycle/vehicle collision. An accidental collision between a scooter rider and a pedestrian on the sidewalk seems much less dangerous to me than an accidental collision between a scooter rider and a multi-ton, fast moving vehicle on the street. But that’s just me…

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