City Bans Scooter and Bike-Share, Citizens Give Little Input

New Braunfels, Texas, placed an indefinite ban on shared mobility devices while the city council worked out laws to regulate their use. Residents provided little input on the decision outside social media.

by Kelsey Bradshaw, Austin American-Statesman / March 27, 2019
On-demand transportation is huge in Austin, Texas, but explodes during SXSW. Government Technology/Eyragon Eidam

(TNS) — The New Braunfels, Texas, City Council passed an ordinance Monday night that indefinitely bans shared mobility devices, like electric bikes and scooters, from being used in the city.

The ordinance, which was passed in a 6-1 vote, extends the 90-day temporary ban that was put on such devices in January after a pair of Unicorn Rides scooters appeared in town without regulations in place to manage them.

People caught using a shared mobility device on any public sidewalk or right-of-way in New Braunfels could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor that comes with a fine of up to $500, according to the ordinance.

Shared mobility devices are described in the ordinance as rentable motor-assisted scooters, bikes, electric bikes and other transportation services that use GPS and can be locked with or without a place to dock it.

Residents will still be able to ride their personal scooters and bikes, said City Engineer Garry Ford.

New Braunfels will revisit the ban once San Antonio City Council receives a completed report on that city's dockless vehicle pilot, which should happen in three to four months, Ford said. San Antonio's six-month pilot program went into effect on Oct. 19.

Ford said New Braunfels engineering officials might also give City Council and the city's Transportation and Traffic Advisory Board periodic updates on how other cities, like Austin, are handling its dockless devices.

"We'll be monitoring this as technology advances and as the concerns are addressed," he said.

During the 90-day ban and in meetings about the dockless devices, Ford said New Braunfels residents were relatively quiet on the issue. Most used social media to express they didn't want scooters in town, but not many showed up to the meetings to voice concerns.

"We were expecting some folks," he said.

In Austin, more than 14,000 scooters have been deployed around town. Like New Braunfels, it is still working out how to regulate the devices.

On Thursday, Austin City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance that would authorize police to write tickets to dangerous scooter drivers and would extend city law about texting and driving to scooters. Scooter users will have to travel "at a reasonable and prudent speed" while riding on sidewalks if the ordinance is passed.

It also says that scooter users cannot leave a device on private property without permission, in front of an accessibility ramp meant for people with disabilities, in a place that obstructs a bus stop, in front of a building entrance or in front of a public bench.

©2019 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.