City Ready to Wrangle Scooters

"Dockless mobility" getting permanent rules

photo by Jana Birchum

Loved and loathed, the dockless mobility sector – including bikes, e-bikes, and scooters – has been operating in Austin under emergency rules adopted in April, after operators such as Lime and Bird jumped into the market without prior approval. Compared to the long public dispute over regulating Uber and Lyft, the process of adopting permanent dockless rules has been pretty laid-back. Those proposed rules are now available for public comment through Nov. 3 at the Austin Transportation Department website, with City Council action sometime thereafter.

ATD's new proposal retains most of the big-picture structure of the emergency rules regarding fleet sizes, service areas, and so on, but uses more carrots and more sticks to wrangle dockless operators and riders in the mobility network. For example, ATD Director Rob Spillar can allow operators to expand their fleet size if they innovate with "strategies that promote or incentivize good parking or riding behaviors." At the same time, the new rules establish response times for operators to deal with "obstructions and nuisances" – one hour for blocking a sidewalk, two hours for leaving a unit on private property, etc. – and require that random riders be tested on their "understanding of proper usage, ADA accessibility, and vehicle parking" before they can unlock their vehicles. The new rules also require more detailed privacy plans for safeguarding user data, and reduce the top speed for electric units to 15mph (from 20).

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scooters, dockless bikes, e-bikes, dockless mobility, Lime, Bird, Austin Transportation Department, ATD, Rob Spillar

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