Austin

New rules for dockless scooters and bikes rolled out in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) - After hundreds of dockless scooters hit the streets of Austin, City Council passed an ordinance outlining rules for them. Now, they and dockless bicycles are officially legal and regulated.

The new transportation options are now officially allowed in the public right-of-way if they have permits.

"We commend the City of Austin for embracing innovation by putting forth a common-sense solution for this new, technology-based transportation option," a LimeBike spokesperson said in a statement. The company goes on to say it's "excited" to participate in the pilot process. 

Around 1 a.m. Friday, members passed an ordinance to allow the scooters on city sidewalks if they stay below 20 mph. The new rules also set up a permitting process where those that aren't permitted could be confiscated and fined.

The ordinance takes effect immediately, but the city is still in the process of establishing the license and permitting process. City leaders previously said they hoped to implement the permitting rules by May 1, but it could take longer. Austin Transportation Department employees are working through the weekend to establish the process as soon as administratively possible.

In the meantime, however, ATD says if Bird and LimeBike continue to rent out scooters before receiving the proper permits, they'll be in violation of City Code, and the scooters will be subject to impoundment. The city can fine the companies $200 for each scooter found on the street or sidewalk, plus impoundment fees.

Before the new ordinance, the city could only impound dockless scooters blocking the public right of way.

"We will not operate outside the boundaries of the ordinance just passed," said Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer. "We look forward to working closely with the Austin Transportation Department to obtain a permit as soon as possible in order to minimize any potential disruption or delay in service to the people of Austin."

Bird would not confirm whether that means the company will be pulling scooters off of the streets and sidewalks to avoid impoundment over the weekend. LimeBike did not say whether any of its scooters would be removed, either.

Austin's Transportation Department says the city's been working with about 15 different dockless bike and scooter companies since the start of the year, to come up with regulations that would make for a smooth introduction. Many were set to roll out their bikes and scooters in May. However, when Bird and LimeBike unexpectedly broke the market early, city leaders say they were forced to come up with a plan of attack before they were ready.

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