The San Antonio City Council voted Thursday to ban electric scooters from city sidewalks on July 1. The move comes along with city efforts to reduce the popular mobility option’s fleet.
Council members passed the measure with overwhelming support.
“What continues to come back to me is that this is our need for a market that drives innovation and transportation colliding with the fact that we’ve made really bad choices in how we build infrastructure in this city,” said Ron Nirenberg, mayor of San Antonio.
The city needs more bike lanes, larger pedestrian walkways and safer roads, Nirenberg would go onto say before voting for the ban.
Scooters not obstructing the right of way, can continue to be parked on sidewalks.
Councilman John Courage added the amendment banning scooters to an ordinance extending permits for seven companies doing business in the city.
The extension reduces the number of permits for companies with 1,000 or more of the devices. Lime, Lyft, Bird and Jump will all see their numbers cut in half. The result will be less than 10,000 permits — down from 14,100 — on city streets until October.
City staff will present a request for proposals soon that will further shed companies and scooters, presenting the recommended three companies in October. No more than 5,000 total scooters will be permitted.
“I still think 5,000 is too much,” said Manny Pelaez, councilman for District 8, who said he was unsure what impact the drop would have.
“I fear that 5,000 might look like exactly what it looks like right now,” he said.
According to the data, he isn’t far off.
Vendor numbers presented two weeks ago by city staff show between November and April the average daily number of scooters on San Antonio streets was 5,662.
There are currently 16,100 dockless scooters and bikes permitted in San Antonio.
Thursday’s votes comes nearly a year after Bird unexpectedly dropped a flock of 150 e-scooters in downtown San Antonio — and kicking off a months-long debate often pitting scooter riders against pedestrians and drivers.
The number of scooters exploded along with the number of complaints. Sources of frustration include dangerous riding, riding in restricted areas like Alamo Plaza and the River Walk and poor parking that block sidewalks — including for people with disabilities.
Survey data from the city shows people both like scooters but want to see less.
Awash in scooters and community concerns, the city capped the number of companies, stopped issuing permits for new scooters, banned their use between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and required companies remove them from downtown each night.
City staff members argue the action has made scooters safer, reducing 911 calls from scooter injuries and hospital rides from those 911 calls by more than 30%.
Several council members wanted more done to encourage helmet wearing and some questioned the scooter curfew model.
“I think it should really be up to the companies, when they decide to operate,” said Ana Sandoval, councilwoman for District 7.
“If we’re really concerned about safety, helmets are absolutely critical,” she said.
Helmets aren’t required now, and aren’t expected to be required when the ordinance becomes final.