Dockless scooters and bikes have arrived in Austin.
These new shared vehicles do not require docking stations, which means they can be—and are— picked up and dropped off anywhere. All of the dockless scooters are electric. Some dockless bikes are electric, others are not.
When the scooters first appeared on downtown streets earlier this year, the City of Austin banned all dockless vehicles while they determined the best way to handle the situation. As of this writing, the city has issued permits for over 1000 electric scooters and another 1000 bicycles to six companies. (One of these is Uber, which owns JUMP bike-sharing. Lyft is rumored to soon enter the market here.) Batteries need to be recharged, so there may be fewer vehicles in operation at any given time. Each company periodically redistributes their fleet to popular locations, such as this sidewalk across from the W Hotel.
I have used the (docked) B-cycle shared bikes, but have not tried these new dockless options yet. Not having to find a docking station is a big plus, and those e-scooters sure look like fun. However, I have two complaints about these dockless vehicles. First, they are parked all over downtown. There is at least one dockless scooter or bike sitting on every block of Congress Avenue now—and usually many more. For example, I noticed three scooters parked on the corner of Congress and Second on a recent afternoon…
…and just a few minutes later, the three scooters were joined by two dockless bicycles. I did not stay around to see if they continued to multiply.
My second gripe is about e-scooter riders. I’ve seen scooters weaving through traffic on the streets, racing in Republic Square Park or on the Texas State Capitol Grounds, and zooming around pedestrians on the sidewalks. In general, the bikers stick to the bike lanes and roads, but the scooters go everywhere.
The City of Austin has issued the following guidelines for Dockless Mobility:
- Pedestrians First – Yield to people walking on sidewalks.
- Park Responsibly – Park in a secure, upright position in designated areas, such as furniture zones of sidewalks, public bike racks and other marked parking zones. On sidewalks, give at least 3 feet of clearance for accessibility.
- Stay on Right of Way – Do not take dockless devices to unauthorized areas, such as private property, parkland, or state-owned land, unless otherwise authorized. [Electronic vehicles are not permitted on the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail.]
- Know What You’re Sharing – Users have access to dockless mobility services without having to share Personally Identifiable Information and can opt in to data sharing only after getting clear information about what data will be shared.
- Right and Report – If you see a unit toppled over or parked improperly, help out by righting the unit and reporting the issue to Austin 3-1-1.
City officials say that the dockless rules and guidelines will be reviewed later this year.
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