If you plan to ride an electric scooter through Olmos Park, you may want to first check out what is and isn’t allowable in the San Antonio suburb. In December, Olmos Park became the the latest city to adopt rules for dockless electric scooter users and companies.
The Olmos Park City Council signed off on the new regulations after city officials, including mayor Ronald Hornberger and police chief Rene Valenciano, cited a rise in the number of complaints by residents who have witnessed near-collisions between scooters and motorists or cyclists.
“We’ve gotten calls from people saying we should ban scooters," city manager Celia DeLeon said. "I know we can’t do that.”
The new rules passed by city council are:
- Riders can use bike lanes, but must follow the laws that are applicable to local motorists and bicyclists. (Olmos Park is renowned for maintaining low speed limits.)
- Users may park a scooter on or along a sidewalk as long as it does not block the path of pedestrians or motorized wheelchairs.
- Scooters may be left at a public bike rack.
- A scooter user found improperly riding his/her device will receive a warning for the first offense.
- Operating scooter companies in the area must pay a yearly $1,000 permit to operate up to 500 scooters inside the city limits.
- A company will be charged $20 per day in order to reclaim impounded scooters that are not picked up by a certain time by that company or its local contracted collectors.
Like in San Antonio, the use of e-scooters has skyrocketed in popularity nationwide over the past year, with many people seeing them as cheap, easy, fun options for quick transportation.
In South Texas, even more scooters are on the way, along with e-bikes and Vespa-like sit-down scooters. Late last year, Razor began deploying scooters with cushioned seats and a front basket in San Antonio, and Jump, which is operated by ride hailing app Uber, also began recently rolling out e-bikes and additional e-scooters around town. In total, San Antonio is soon set to have on record more than 12,600 total vehicles licensed citywide, according to the city.
But the number of reported scooter-related accidents is also mounting, and so are the number of complaints of scooters dumped in the wrong places. Several cities across the nation have responded by imposing varying levels of regulation.
The City of San Antonio also laid out its new rules last fall — including those that let riders use sidewalk if no nearby bike lane exists. San Antonio’s "Scoot Safely" public service announcement initiative encourages scooter riders to wear a helmet and to ride at a safe speed and distance from pedestrians and motorists.
Coouncilman Roberto Treviño, who represents downtown San Antonio, recently ran an op-ed piece in the San Antonio Express-News acknowledging that parking and riding scooters on sidewalks has become troublesome and hazardous for anyone walking downtown.
In his January 5 piece, Treviño offered several recommendations, including clearly defined parking zones/no parking areas for scooters and proposed that Centro San Antonio, the downtown public improvement district, work with area private property owners to designate e-scooter parking spots.
He also suggested that the city come up with long-term infrastructure solutions so that e-scooters and other forms of smaller alternate transit can co-exist with vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. “Let’s remember that scooters are a last-mile transportation option, they don’t need to be a last 3-feet option. Accessibility and safety must coexist with innovation,” Treviño added.
Meanwhile, riders in Alamo Heights, Olmos Park’s neighbor, may also face increased regulation. Last November, city regulators were tasked to explore the potential for e-scooter regulations in that city. Police Lt. Cindy Pruitt told the Alamo Heights City Council about an increase of scooter staging areas along Broadway, the city’s main commercial street, and along Austin Highway.
Pruitt said there is concern about the proper parking of e-scooters because there are no dedicated bike lanes, only sidewalks, in the Austin Highway/Broadway area.
Alamo Heights officials have not yet indicated whether they’ll take up the issue again anytime soon.