Dockless Scooters

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

From Texas Standard:

If they're in your city, you've certainly seen them, and you've probably formed an opinion about electric scooters – personal transportation devices that are ubiquitous in most urban Texas areas. (Though Houston has been more resistant.) 

Many, mainly younger people, have flocked to the fleet of scooters from companies like Bird, Uber, Lyft and Lime. Scooter boosters say the vehicles – easily available, unlockable via apps and priced by the minute – are an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to get around a city's urban core. 

Their detractors point to an uptick in visits to hospital emergency rooms by riders and innocent bystanders, plus the obstruction of sidewalks, which is an especially tough issue for people with disabilities, to say little of the clutter along college drags from Austin to downtown Dallas to beachside Corpus Christi. 

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.

Dockless electric scooters are available for rent in dozens of U.S. cities. While the companies behind them are quick to extol their benefits, some health and safety experts are starting to see the challenges that come along for the ride. Scooter companies and city officials say they are aware of the issues, but solutions aren't coming anytime soon.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Rentable scooter riders on the 40 Acres will now no longer be able to ride faster than 8 mph, according to UT Austin.

The university said Bird, Jump, Lyft and Lime's e-scooters will have speed restrictions on the lion's share of UT's campus starting tomorrow. The decision comes at the suggestion of a campus safety group and was done in cooperation with the providers, UT said.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Note: This story includes raw data from the Austin Transportation Department. Official data would not have included trips of under a 10th of a mile or over 500 miles. 

Dockless scooters were the headliner in their first year at SXSW.

City data show the scooters outpaced rentable dockless bikes over the festival, accounting for nearly 434,000 rides over the 10 days of SXSW – 12.3 percent of the 3.5 million scooter rides since the scooters descended upon Austin last April.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The introduction of dockless electric scooters to Austin's streets has come with its share of growing pains. Nine months since they were first introduced, you can see hundreds of scooters parked on the side of the street — especially in Central Austin.

But what exactly are the rules for riding scooters in the City of Austin?

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A crash last week killed a 21-year-old scooter rider, the Austin Police Department says. The department says it's the first death related to a rented scooter in Austin.

A near-miss between a scooter rider and a pedestrian along Speedway on the UT Austin campus Tuesday.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

As classes resumed from winter break Tuesday, UT Austin announced – effective immediately – that improperly parked scooters will be impounded and the scooter companies will be charged $150 per offense.  

Dockless scooters on Rainey Street in Austin on Oct. 11, 2018.
Emree Weaver / KUT

The Austin Transportation Department is holding off on issuing new licenses to dockless mobility companies for the time being.

City officials said they're reassessing the more than 17,650 dockless devices licensed in Austin to ensure they're a “safe, reliable, convenient transportation option for residents.”

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Sixty-two-year-old Joe Paschall was walking near Burnet Road and Koenig Lane last November when he almost tripped over a dockless scooter.

“I was able to catch myself, but I had no idea that it was there," he said.

OjO Electric

Another dockless scooter company plans to enter the market in Austin – but its users will get to sit down.

OjO Electric, LLC, a California-based company, is launching the first sit-down electric scooter rideshare in the capital. One hundred scooters are expected to hit city streets by Feb. 1 and grow to 250 later in the spring.

Emree Weaver for KUT

Joe Cardillo was riding a Lime scooter home from work last month when it just stopped and he fell off.

"I landed on my knees and kind of fell forward and scraped up my hands," the 24-year-old East Austin resident said. "Then [I] kind of rolled and then fell into the street on Riverside."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

In Austin, and elsewhere, 2018 was the year of the scooter. Love them or hate them, they're all over the city's streets (and sidewalks) and they're here to stay – at least for now.

Now, a snapshot from the city gives more insight into where users rode scooters in 2018.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The city says it's working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study dockless scooter-related injuries and incidents in Austin – a first for the nation's public health institute.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin is ordering dockless scooter operator Lime to pull 1,000 scooters from its fleet after the city alleges Lime violated its agreement with the city.

A memo from the Austin Transportation Department says it ordered Lime to cut its 5,000-scooter fleet by a fifth on Tuesday. ATD Director Rob Spillar said Lime violated the terms of the city's agreement by rolling out more than 500 scooters in the downtown area.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin trail-goers may encounter more electric scooters starting next month.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department is launching a pilot program that will allow the e-scooters and e-bikes to ride on certain trails to better determine how riders can share trails with runners and cyclists in the future.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Dockless electric scooters have been for rent on Austin streets legally since May. Love them or hate them, they present some interesting legal questions for city officials, police and insurance companies.


Emree Weaver for KUT

Paul McCartney, Metallica and dockless scooters are all back for the second weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. And as thousands of people make their way to Zilker Park, many will do so riding a scooter. And, like in other parts of town, parking them will be an issue.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

When electric scooters flooded into Austin, the companies that rent them touted their environmental benefits: “Riders were able to prevent 445,334 pounds of carbon emissions,” a press release from Bird said. The startup LimeBike estimated its scooters reduced 8,500 pounds of CO2 here in just two weeks.

But those numbers are based on some shaky assumptions.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

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.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Jumping the gun works, it seems.

While city staff were devising a pilot program to govern dockless bikes and scooters, expecting to bring a proposal to council members in June, two companies dropped their electric scooters throughout the city. Now the Austin Transportation Department has proposed fast-tracking approval of the pilot program.