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Technology & Entrepreneurship

City Plans To Reduce Scooters By Oct. 1 If Council Approves

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San Antonians have taken 1.85 million rides on the city’s more than 14,000 scooters since the pilot program began six months ago. They’ve called 911 for scooter injuries more than 130 times in nearly the same time period.

The city’s six-month pilot will close this month, and scooter company contracts will begin to expire the next few months.  

City staff are weighing a plan to reduce the companies and scooters in the city through a request for proposals. During a tele-town hall Tuesday night, they restated the goal of limiting the companies to three and scooters to 5,000. They also gave the first hint at when a new program could be in place, October 1.

“Expect to see a big change starting October 1, but over the next couple months we’ll be working with each of these vendors as their permits expire.”

The popular transportation mode has been divisive in the city, as was reflected in Tuesday’s call-in. Many complained about the mess they make, reiterating the idea they are a nuisance. Others celebrated their presence but asked for changes like increased parking options, which the city pursued early this year.

Many callers, like Pearl resident Lynn Knapik, wanted to know what was being done to stop riders’ bad behavior.

“I see constant, constant people violating all these rules everyday,” Knapik said. “Kids riding, people riding with their kids. It drives me nuts.”

It is illegal for people under age 16 to ride and for concurrent riders to share a single scooter.

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Credit Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
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San Antonio police have issued 235 warnings and more than 70 citations by Park Police and  bike patrols, according to Capt. Chris Benavides.

“Almost 99 percent of the time people just don’t know that rule,” Benavides said.

City staff said they paid for advertising on social and local media, including TPR, to ensure people learn the rules of the road regarding scooters.

With so many rides, Knapik said she thought the number could be much higher, and Benavides at a later point conceded that scooter riders were often a lower priority for police.

Despite these complaints, city staff have worked to create space for scooters because they said if there had not been scooters available in San Antonio, those 1.85 million rides may have been car trips instead.

“When folks choose other modes of transportation it provides that mode for them as well as taking cars off the roadway which helps everyone else, then also it’s a cleaner mode," said Art Reinhardt, interim deputy director for the city’s transportation and capital improvement department.

No data was released specifically highlighting which rides would have been car trips. The city is conducting a survey that includes this kind of data. It ends April 29. With most trips being less than a mile, according to the companies, it often times is replacing walking trips and creating leisure rides.

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