AUSTIN (KXAN) — E-scooters are one of the most popular forms of transportation for people trying to get around Austin’s busy downtown, but how the scooters are being used is a cause for concern for some city council members.
City council member Mackenzie Kelly, district 6, placed an item on Thursday’s agenda that would direct the city manager to explore possible regulations for the organization and management of the micro-mobility devices. However, council opted to postpone the item until its April 20 meeting.
As part of the postponement, Kelly requested the item be taken up at a public worksession so the council can discuss any possible concerns with the proposal.
“We use them everyday”
Kaylin Pyles and Caitlin Horvath both live in downtown and they said they use e-scooters everyday.
“Like if we’re going to Congress, like somewhere we want to get to where we don’t have to worry about parking our cars,” Horvath explained.
They like the scooters for the convenience, especially when traffic is congested and parking is a premium in downtown and along south Congress. The duo said they will park their scooters in an appropriate spot and standing up when they are done with them, but that’s not always the case for everyone.
“We’ll see a lot of them just laying out. Sometimes they get knocked over too by just the weather, but I definitely have seen people just throw them to the side,” Horvath said.
Kelly agrees the scooters are an important resource for travelers in downtown, but she has concerns for the scooters that lie on the streets and sidewalks.
“I’ve heard from mothers that have baby strollers they’re pushing down the street and they can’t get through on a sidewalk because scooters are polluting our sidewalks,” Kelly said.
Kelly wants the city manager and staff to look into the issue and make changes to the city’s code.
Kelly’s proposal mentions changing the language in chapter 12 of the city’s code to issue an increase in penalties for riders that do not park their scooter correctly after a ride. Another idea is working with the scooter companies to ask the riders to take a picture when they’re done riding to show they parked the scooter correctly.
Kelly got the idea after visiting Washington D.C. and learning more about an ordinance in that city which makes people lock the scooter to a bike rack or scooter corral after each ride.
KXAN reached out to three companies that have stationed scooters in Austin. The three companies are Lime, Bird, and Superpedestrian. All three companies said they were open to the idea of working with the city to find the best solution to infrastructure management.
A Lime spokesperson said, “At Lime we pride ourselves on working with the cities we serve to find solutions that work for everyone and we’re always willing to continue improving safety and street tidiness here in Austin. We look forward to collaborating with the Council and the city to find the right solutions here so Austin residents and visitors can continue to ride our e-scooters safely, ensuring green transportation options for all.”
A spokesperson for Superpedstrian, which handles the scooters that say “Link” around downtown, said, “Superpedestrian is committed to being a good partner in Austin, and will comply with any regulations put in place. Parking is critical to the success of e-scooter programs, and we work with a wide range of parking solutions across cities in the US.”
A spokesperson for Bird also shared the same message, saying, “We regularly engage with Austin City Council, the Austin Transportation Department, and other stakeholders to partner on the best regulatory framework for the city as it evolves, including solutions that incentivize safe and compliant riding and parking. We’re grateful to Austin’s leaders for their collaboration throughout the program.”