Council urged to take ridership and access objectives into account when reviewing rules on electric scooters


Thursday May 9, 2024 by Chad Swiatecki

The Urban Transportation Commission wants the city to rework some of its recent regulations on electric scooters and other micromobility devices, but has not specified what changes should be made.

At its meeting this week, the commission approved a revised recommendation — written largely by Commissioner Spencer Schumacher — that removed several pages of text regarding the number of scooter sellers allowed to operate in the city, the total number of micromobility devices in operation downtown and elsewhere. and changes to the maximum speeds at which aircraft are permitted to travel. The revised recommendation, which is expected to be submitted to the City Council this month, is primarily based on the need for the city to ensure that new regulations for e-scooter sellers are developed in accordance with the goals of the city’s strategic mobility plan. Austin’s plan to increase the availability and use of devices throughout the city.

Following a presentation by Department of Transportation and Public Works staff on recent updates to the rules governing micromobility devices, the commission discussed the specificity of its recommendation to the Council, while signaling a desire for more data and public comments on the need for stricter regulations.

Richard Mendoza, director of the department, said he was acting in the name of public safety by instituting changes to limit the speed of devices and ban e-bikes that can block the path of pedestrians or improperly parked vehicles.

“This is primarily a matter of public safety, protecting access (for people with disabilities) around our city, and then also the general appearance where these things seem to be congregating in greater numbers,” did he declare. “My commitment to the vendors is to work with them as well as the office of Councilmember (Zo) Qadri, whose district encompasses high use of these devices, to get to a place where we can put these regulations in place and evaluate and collect data on effectiveness to have improved quality of service after six months.

Schumacher explained his experience with transit issues and his work interacting with providers and other stakeholders to arrive at the specific actions included in the initial release.

“These are just recommendations that I believe have allowed us to achieve these (ASMP) goals, and I think I would defend any of them as allowing us to achieve these goals,” he said. he said, noting that city council members had indicated the May 30 meeting was next. probably the last time I will think about the issue of scooter safety for perhaps several months. “These were not arbitrary recommendations that I made. …A lot of them are taken from the way the director’s rules are stated. Many of them come from officials at the National Association of City Transportation. Many of them are taking inspiration from how other cities have approached the issue.

Commissioner Daniel Kavelman said many of the prescriptive steps included in the draft motion represented decisions city staff should make following necessary community feedback sessions.

Chairwoman Susan Somers said the commission can revisit any items removed from the recommendation before adoption without concern for the City Council’s timeline on the issue.

“Things are happening at the Council and they seem like emergencies. There may be emergencies, but we exist despite that and we can adopt recommendations regardless of that, on our own schedule, whenever we deem it appropriate,” she said. “We want to help the Council, which is obviously part of our role. … Sometimes we just need to season things more, and that’s kind of how life is.

Photo by Luis Tamayo made available via a Creative Commons license.

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