Safety Concerns About Austin’s Dockless Scooter System
Safety Concerns About Austin’s Dockless Scooter System

In April, two California companies launched dockless scooter systems in Austin. The City Council limited the two companies – LimeBike and Bird – to 500 scooters each, until the city determines the feasibility of dockless scooter systems.

In theory, riders use a scooter and leave it next to a bike rack or some other out-of-the-way area; but by mid-April, the city had impounded 55 scooters that were blocking sidewalks, roads, or public areas. By mid-May, the city was scrambling to regulate scooters and published 10 pages of rules and six pages of licensing requirements.

What the New Rules Say

The Austin Department of Transportation’s new rules address several safety concerns. The rules apply to scooters and bikeshare bicycles. Companies operating either of those devices in Austin are now required to:

  • By Aug. 1, outfit all units with technology that tells the rider if they have parked in an approved area.
  • Outfit all units that operate at night with a headlight and rear reflectors.
  • Prove that each of its 500 bikes or scooters is used twice per day; the city may relocate or remove a unit that isn’t being used twice per day.
  • Pay $100 (per unit) for a performance bond and carry at least $500,000 in bodily injury or property damage coverage.

Some operators of dockless scooters or bikeshare bikes say the rules were developed without their input and may be difficult or impossible to implement in their fleets.

Advantages of Scooters

Scooters may be ideal for college campuses, especially when temperatures are extreme. Students can get to class more quickly and with less effort. These scooters are often a practical mode of transportation for students. Still, if there’s no standard for parking scooters, they could become a safety hazard, given the number of students on campus.

Reacting to Change

Austin residents may remember that car-for-hire service Uber left the city when the city tried to implement stricter licensing requirements. State legislators, however, passed a law that forbids cities from developing their own regulations about car-for-hire companies, and Uber returned to Austin. That issue, and the current reaction to dockless scooters, seems to indicate that technology is moving faster than regulators can keep up with it.

As is often the case with safety regulations, laws aren’t enacted until a problem develops, or an injury occurs – for example, before 1968, automakers were not required to install seat belts in cars, but the federal government recognized the importance of those restraints in saving lives. Hopefully, dockless scooter regulation will keep people safe and prevent injuries.

The Evans Law Firm will be monitoring the dockless scooter situation as it unfolds. Our firm has helped many people in Austin and throughout Texas who have been injured in vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation that can help with lost wages and medical costs. Don’t wait to ask for help. Contact our office today to request your free, no-obligation case consultation.