Thinking of renting an electric scooter? Pay attention to these new guidelines

Sami Sparber

As city officials discuss how to manage the recent influx of dockless electric scooters in Austin, both UT and the Texas State Preservation Board have taken steps to enforce regulations regarding scooter parking and operation.

Last week, both Bird Rides Inc. and LimeBike, the companies which brought scooters to Austin, updated their apps to reflect SPB rules restricting scooter use on State Capitol grounds and at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. 

“Under the state’s administrative rules … the SPB has had to consider several factors,” said Chris Currens, SPB director of special projects, in a statement. “First, the safety of the public. With well over a million visitors to our properties each year including numerous school groups, the high volume of pedestrian traffic on the grounds makes any potential tripping hazard or collision possibility a high concern — especially once the dockless bike share programs scale up to thousands of units.”

Currens also cited a provision saying properties maintained by the board “shall not be used for the commercial benefit of any individual, business, corporation, special interest group or other entity.”

Bird added “No Ride Zone” designations for the State Capitol grounds and the Bullock Museum, meaning users should not ride or park scooters in those areas, Bird spokesperson Kenneth Baer said.

“We added information in our app to educate riders about the appropriate places to ride and park Birds,” Baer said in a statement.

LimeBike designated the Capitol grounds and Bullock Museum as “No Parking Zones,” meaning Lime-S riders can ride, but not park, scooters there.

LimeBike Regional Manager Anthony Fleo said the Austin LimeBike team does daily sweeps to ensure LimeBike products do not end up in places they are not supposed to be.

On Monday, UT Parking and Transportation Services sent an email reiterating campus transportation rules for scooter riders.

“One of our primary concerns is whether these scooters will cause unsafe obstruction areas on campus,” the email read. “So, PTS would like to offer a gentle reminder to students, faculty, and staff who utilize these scooters that they must be operated according to campus rules and regulations.”

The email said scooters may only be operated in areas where bicycle traffic is allowed and should be operated at a low speed in the presence of pedestrians in accordance with the campus speed limit of 15 miles per hour.

Scooters should also not be operated on sidewalks unless traveling to or from a bicycle rack, the email said. PTS reminded students that “pedestrians have priority right of way and scooters are required to yield to pedestrian traffic.”

Business freshman Matthew Brenner, who has used both Bird and Lime-S scooters, said implementing stricter rules is a good idea, but he is not sure how effective they will be.

“The scooters are really dangerous, and the Capitol is a small region so there’s a big a risk of collision,” Brenner said. “But the rules can’t always keep up with technology.”