The San Antonio City Council has approved tighter rules for dockless vehicles like electric scooters throughout the city. They're in addition to an existing pilot program.
The new rules will prohibit the companies from allowing their scooters to be used between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.. It also allows the city to remove scooters or impound them if they’re blocking rights of way or other prohibited areas. It also encourages the use of designated parking zones.
The vote was 10-1, with District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales the only dissenting vote. The new amendments will take effect after five days from Thursday’s vote.
The city is in its fourth month of a six month pilot program. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the amendments approved Thursday must be addressed before the end of the pilot program.
“These seemed to rise to a level that we didn’t have to wait. We know there have been issues with clutter and overpopulation of the scooters in certain areas of town. We also know there has been a relative lack of consideration for pedestrians.”
The city’s Center City Development Office highlighted several issues that required the new regulations. These included the blocking of sidewalks and curb ramps when a ride was finished, and the maintenance of downtown streets and sidewalks.
Representatives from two outside agencies, Centro San Antonio and the San Antonio River Authority, spoke to the council about problems they’ve encountered.
Centro San Antonio Executive Director Warren Wilkinson said the abundant scooters were causing trouble for power washing sidewalks. He said 49 million square feet were power washed by Centro employees before October last year, but after October, the work began to drop.
“We saw a 40 percent decrease in the square footage we could power wash. We use the same hours but those hours are consumed mostly by moving scooters in order to power wash safely,” Wilkinson said.
John Chisholm, the director of operations for the San Antonio River Authority, said scooters are prohibited on trails but his staff still sees tire markings defacing the trails.
“We are having to spend some time fishing some of these vehicles of the rivers and creeks, and it’s not as easy as you might think. These vehicles are very heavy and they are time consuming,” Chisholm said.
About mid-September, the San Antonio Fire Department began logging the number of scooter injuries in the city. It found there were 93 reported injuries reported, and about 40 percent of of them happened between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m..
John Jacks, director of the City’s Center City Development Office, said there wouldn’t be a fine for people riding any of the scooters after the curfew and that some of the apps actually turn off the ability to rent a scooter in the evenings.
Several council members expressed support for the changes. However, Councilwoman Gonzales voiced her opposition to the restrictions. She said the new regulations wouldn’t fit with what the city is trying to do with a 20-year transportation plan under review called ConnectSA.
“I just feel like this is really a step backwards if we’re serious about ConnectSA I think we need to be serious about alternative modes of transportation,” she said. “And that is going to have to be making alternative forms of transportation safe and available to everyone, and we have to learn to share the road. We have to learn to allow for different kinds of ways to get around.”
The pilot limits the number of scooters the companies can have on the ground and charges the company per scooter. Currently there are about 12,000 scooters from seven companies in San Antonio: Lime, Bird, Razor, Jump, Lyft, Spin, and Blue Duck.
Casey Whittington is the national director of government affairs to Blue Duck. It’s a San Antonio-based company and has about 200 scooters deployed throughout the Alamo City. He said the company believes the council took a responsible approach.
“There were a lot of great ideas batted around, and we think a couple of tweaks to the rules are going to lead to a better experience for riders and everyone else,” Whittington said.
Since the pilot program began in October, city parking enforcement ambassadors have corrected about 20,500 scooters, about 70 were impounded, and about 1,300 violations were reported to 311.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.