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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Future Of Electric Scooters: San Antonio Residents Turn Out To Talk Regulations

Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
A San Antonio resident indicates they support helmet requirements for electric scooter riders.

Updated Aug. 4

Mikel and Juliet Mendoza place red stickers on a foam-core board. The board has questions about where the nearly 500 electric scooters currently operating in San Antonio should be allowed to go. Each section has a yes or no segment. They place the red sticker in the yes category for most.

“We are for the usage of electric scooters on the Mission Reach and museum reach sections of the Riverwalk,” said Mikel, while his wife lists another three areas she would like them to be able to operate.

But, they both agree they shouldn’t be allowed in high traffic areas of the Riverwalk.

The Mendozas want to open a guided tour business using scooters, so they — like 150 other community members, scooter operators and city officials — turned out to a meeting at the central public library downtown Tuesday night.

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Juliet and Mikel Mendoza weigh in on where scooters should and shouldn't be allowed.

Three companies operate in San Antonio, but according to city officials that could grow to as many as eight. The city wants to know how residents feel about the scooters before they craft regulations that they anticipate sending to City Council mid-September.

“I think they’re the best thing since sliced bread,” said Damian Caruth, a student at Alamo Colleges.

He held a free helmet Bird scooter reps were handing out, and his opinions mirrored most of the people at the meeting.

He liked the technology, thinks it’s good for the city, but is concerned about the clutter they can cause on sidewalks.

“I do have an issue with the way they park them,” he said. “People are just throwing them anywhere.”

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Damian Caruth speaks with Bird scooter representatives.

The city found similar responses in its online survey. Of the more than 360 respondents so far, 52 percent said blocking sidewalks was a concern.

“It is safety. It’s the safety of people walking of on the sidewalks and the riders too,” said John Jacks, director of San Antonio’s Center City Development & Operations Department.

Jack said how to ensure these dockless devices weren’t obstructions was the number one question the city needed to answer.

On the same survey, more than 60 percent said they felt positively about the impact of the scooters.

Draft recommendations will be submitted to Council’s transportation committee in the next month, and advocates are hoping to avoid the issues they have seen elsewhere.

From Los Angeles to Boston, companies like Bird Rides Inc. and Lime Bikes have rolled out their electric scooters, often with controversy in tow. Cities like Milwaukee; Cambridge, Massachusettes; Indianapolis; and even Austin have banned the devices from some or all of its streets.

Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
CCDO director John Jacks takes questions after his short presentation.

Many bans come with threats of fines and impounded rides. That is why many of the companies have enlisted the help of local advocates like Tech Bloc and city officials to ensure a smooth integration in San Antonio.

“Of the seven dockless companies, five of them have reached out to Tech Bloc,” said David Heard, CEO of the industry advocacy organization.

Heard said Tech Bloc is at the table with the city manager, the mayor’s office and CCDO to craft those regulations to help avoid bans that have plagued the companies elsewhere.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive

CORRECTION: The story has been updated with the correct spelling of Mikel Mendoza's name.