It’s been like a party on streets since Bird scooters unloaded about 150 of its electric vehicles in the downtown area two Fridays ago. Their max speed is 15 miles per hour, and last week I saw an older gentleman (who had to have been in his 70s) in a brown suit whipping around King William the full 15.
If you haven’t tried one, they cost $1 to start a ride and 15 cents each minute after.
In the past few days, there’s been some social media buzz about whether the city of San Antonio will come in and ruin the scooter party with — gasp! — regulations. Some of these concerns stem from seeing Bird scooters impeding pedestrian rights-of-way. Others are concerned about whether San Antonio drivers are savvy enough to handle another mode of two-wheeled transportation on the roads.
“We ask that riders avoid placing the scooters anywhere that would block or obstruct the sidewalk or street,” said John Jacks, director of the Center City Development and Operations Department. “Riders are also asked to follow all posted regulations for similar vehicles such as bicycles, rollerblades and skates, skateboards, etc., and exercise caution.”
A scooter war may be imminent. Aside from Bird, another company is very close to deploying its fleet. Meanwhile, the city is moving toward putting a cap on the number of scooters allowed on the streets and on the number of operators in San Antonio. The regulations won’t affect riders.
For now, there’s nothing to stop other companies from unloading their fleets and potentially clogging up downtown streets and sidewalks.
“We could end up seeing similar situations that have happened in other cities where there’s just an overabundance of them,” Jacks said.
The city has asked other scooter operators to hold off deployment until the city puts in place an ordinance, the first draft of which the City Council could see in August.
“So far they’ve all complied with that,” Jacks said.
The Los Angeles-based company never talked with city officials. It swooped in (my apologies) last Friday and scattered its vehicles in the downtown area, including Southtown, Government Hill, Dignowity Hill and Harvard Place/East Lawn (kind of out of the downtown and farther east).
They’ll be allowed to continue, Jacks said, because there’s no statute on the books that bans scooters.
However, city crews have been scooping up some Bird scooters parked in the middle of sidewalks. They’re gathering them up, rather than impounding them, and Bird employees are allowed to pick them up without penalty, for now. Jacks said the city is collecting about 12 a day.
A Bird official was not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, local scooter start-up Blue Duck is “incredibly close” to deploying its own flock in downtown and on college campuses, a spokesperson said on Friday.
Featured photo: Robert Vetters rides a Bird scooter down Houston Street on Monday, July 2. All photos by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron