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Published on April 02, 2024
Austin Tightens Scooter Regulations for Safety, Capping Fleet at 6,700 UnitsSource: Unsplash/Jan Antonin Kolar

Austin's streets are set to see fewer electric scooters buzzing around, as new regulations aiming to promote safety and reduce clutter took effect at the start of April. Council Member Zo Qadri, representing the downtown area, expressed a common sentiment about the proliferation of scooters, "For me, it’s not as much about the visual clutter. It’s about accessibility and safety," according to Austin Monitor.

Under the new rules, the city has clipped the number of scooter vendors down to two—namely, Bird and Lime, said Richard Mendoza, director of Transportation and Public Works, as reported by CBS Austin. The fleet of rentable scooters citywide will also shrink significantly from more than 14,000 to a proposed cap of 6,700 units, with allowances for more scooters during major events like South by Southwest.

Moreover, Mendoza underscored the need for adjusting to the integration of scooters, noting, as per Austin Monitor, "With anything new, there’s a period of adjustment and there’s an experience of, perhaps, unintended challenges that we’ve been encountering.” This includes scooters finding their way into waterways, causing environmental concerns, and ADA compliance issues due to improper scooter parking.

The contentious clutter of scooters, especially downtown, is set for a clear-out, with the maximum permitted number plummeting from 4,500 to just 2,250. And for those preferring a more seated ride, the city has axed the use of dockless e-bikes while allowing seated scooters to remain in service.

These sweeping changes are Austin's attempt at finding a middle ground in the ongoing conversation about micromobility and urban space utilization. While no plans were set, the potential removal of scooters from the iconic Congress Avenue is "still in conversation," as a part of a more extensive discussion to reimagine the street, Mendoza told the Austin Monitor.