Dockless vehicle providers now have rules for operating in Austin after a City Council vote early this morning, giving providers a framework to deploy dockless bikes and scooters legally by as soon as next week.
The unanimous vote rolls dockless vehicles into a city ordinance banning abandoned vehicles from blocking rights-of-way like sidewalks and sets up a framework to penalize dockless vehicles operating illegally in Austin.
It effectively speeds up the city's pilot program and gives the Austin Transportation Department the ability to impound any vehicle breaking city rules. Providers can apply for a license from the city to operate and deploy scooters and bikes by as soon as May 1.
This comes after Bird and LimeBike forced the city’s hand by rolling out their pay-by-phone scooter rentals earlier this month – flouting the city’s pilot program timeline for dockless vehicles, which Council approved in February. After dockless bikes caused sidewalk congestion in other cities, the Austin Transportation Department set about to gather public opinion on a possible city program before granting operating permits to providers.
Citing a lack of enforcement measures, Bird launched the first salvo of scooters earlier this month, with LimeBike following suit, arguing Bird’s deployment gave it a leg up in the market. The scooters have been operating unabated, as the city didn't have a system of enforcement in place to license or impound them.
The city's pilot program will continue for the next six months, but the May 1 start date allows for bikes and scooters to operate while the city is considering the best path forward. The city has capped the number of vehicles for providers at 500 per type of vehicle. The new ordinance charges operators $30 per vehicle to operate in the city and $200 to release impounded vehicles.