San Antonio officials are trying to regulate the now 745 electric scooters swarming downtown.
Center City Development and Operations Director John Jacks presented the first public draft of those regulations to the City Council’s transportation committee and he says they took a light touch.
“We wanted to make sure we had a set of reasonable policies and regulations,” he said, “that it’s easy for people to understand how to use them — where to ride; where to park — but made it easier for the companies to comply with too.”
The scooter experience stands in stark contrast to the experience of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, where the city passed regulations the companies found onerous and left town. The regulations later were walked back and the companies returned.
“We knew that not only did we completely scare away a new technology that could help with transportation solutions, but it completely upset our consumer and citizen market,” said Rey Saldaña, District 4 councilman and chair of the committee.
Currently, San Antonio’s municipal code says motorized scooters aren’t allowed on city streets or sidewalks. Under proposed regulations, scooters are allowed on streets, operators have to be at least 16 years old, helmets aren’t required for riders, and scooters aren’t allowed on sidewalks.
“There are some cases where you just have to use the sidewalk to safely get from point A to point B,” said Saldaña, who chairs the transportation committee.
He said he uses the scooters to traverse downtown and the infrastructure like bike lanes just isn’t there.
“San Antonio drivers are notorious for not wanting to share the roads with anybody but four wheels,” Saldaña said.
Said Jacks: “The reality is that the streets were not designed for scooters. But the sidewalks aren’t either.”
For simplicity sake, he said, the scooters should be under similar rules to bicycles.
Where and how the units are parked is one of the biggest complaints the city has received in a public meeting last month, according to a survey that has received more than 1,900 responses.
Under the new regulations, scooters can still be parked on the sidewalk as long as 3 feet is passable. Violating units will be reported to vendors that have at least an hour to address the problem. After that, they may be impounded — a scenario Jacks wants to avoid.
“We really don’t want to be in the business of collecting scooters” said Jacks, citing the cost.
There will be no cap on the number of scooters that companies can bring in. Jack said the city will work out a data sharing program with the scooter companies to see where the scooters are being actively used.
A $10 fee per scooter would be assessed to the companies along with an application fee that hasn’t been determined.
The city may partner with the nonprofit Centro to use their ambassadors to move scooters in violation of parking regulations.
City staff will hear public comment Sept. 17. Council expects to vote in early October. When proposed regulations pass, companies will have 30 days to get a permit.