Austin

City of Austin impounds 55 dockless electric scooters this month

AUSTIN (KXAN) - The city of Austin's Transportation Department met with representatives from dockless, electric scooter company Bird earlier this month to notify them the city would be enforcing City Code to ensure public safety when it comes to the company's electric scooters. 

This month, the department says it impounded 55 of the scooters. 

The city says it's protecting the public from "unsafe obstructions and other illegal activity in the public realm" by removing property that has no city authorization or permission left within the city’s right of way for more than 48 hours. 

The city of Austin classifies this property as abandoned, making it subject to impoundment. The scooters have been released, but before doing so, city officials said they discussed safety violations with the company.

"People put them in places where they weren't supposed to be," said Morgan Mahler, who was enjoying her second trip on the electric scooter with her dad. 

The electric scooter company says they understand and agree safety is a priority and add that they do its best to educate consumers.

"Some Birds have been impounded and returned, but we share the city's focus on safety and their belief that any vehicle--whether a car, bike, or Bird--that is abandoned or creates a hazard in the public right of way should be removed. Throughout this process, we have been in positive talks with the city to ensure we protect the safety of riders and the community, and to find a framework that works for everyone." Bird Spokesperson Kenneth Baer

"They tell you on the app when you say yes to everything to not put it at intersections, don't put it in the alleyway, don't put it here," said Mahler. "So you shouldn't but there are no consequences as to who put it there kind of thing."

"We make every effort to educate riders about proper riding and parking etiquette. In Austin, we instruct riders not to block the public way, park in the street, and to use bike racks when available." - Baer

Mahler's father, Jeff, was trying the scooter for the first time but can see where the problem would arise. 

"You know how people are sometimes, they just read things and they just click yes and accept and go on," he said. "I would bet that people are not understanding what they're supposed to do."

Bird did not have to pay to get the scooters back, but the city says it's tracking all expenses related to the enforcement of the company's devices.

The company says the scooters are picked up every night for storage, repairs and charging. 

Bird also says it has pledged to Save Our Sidewalks to avoid the "out-of-control deployment" China experienced firsthand -- "huge piles of abandoned and broken bicycles, over-running sidewalks, turning parks into junkyards and created a new form of pollution."

The city continues to work with nearly a dozen other companies interested in participating in the dockless mobility program they kicked earlier this month. 

If you would like to voice your opinion, the city's transportation department will host the following forums:

  • Mon., April 16 – 6-7 p.m., Willie Mae Kirk Library, 3101 Oak Springs Dr.
  • Sat., April 21 – 12 p.m., Earth Day ATX, Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon St.
  • Fri., April 27 – 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Cultural Arts Training Room 201, E. 2nd St., Suite A
  • Sat., April 28 – 2:30-4 p.m., Twin Oaks Library, 1800 South 5th St.

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