First, a little bit of background.
In April, the City of Austin began hosting a series of public forums to collect feedback on the best ways to launch a pilot dockless bike share program in Austin. While that was happening, two dockless scooter companies (Bird and Lime) decided to launch anyway (before the city had developed an official program and permitting process). In response, the city quickly developed a set of rules, as well as a permitting process, for both dockless bikes and scooters.
This forced the companies to remove their scooters from the streets until they could obtain a legal permit.
So far, three companies (Bird, Pace, and GOAT) have received permits from the city and either have already begun putting bikes/scooters onto streets or plan on doing so very soon. It’s expected that several other companies will follow suit shortly.
- Must pay a $30 fee (for a 6 month license) for each bike/scooter they put on the street
- Each company is also capped at 500 bikes/scooters (or 500 of each, if they offer both)
- By August 1st, all companies must have equipment that allows them to be locked to a bike rack or technology that tells riders if they have parked in designated, geo-fenced (aka a virtual fence) parking areas (not all the companies who have expressed interest in moving to Austin currently have these “lock-to” features)
- Must submit usage data to the city. If each scooter/bike isn’t being used an average of two times per day, the city can require the company to remove or relocate the device
- Must have insurance and submit a performance bond of $100 per vehicle
And what are the new rules for the riders?
The best place to park dockless scooters/bikes is within marked zones, which have just been added at the following locations:
- Third Street between Nueces and San Antonio streets
- Trinity Street at Third Street
- Fourth Street at San Jacinto Boulevard (northwest corner)
- Fourth Street at Red River Street (southwest corner)
- San Jacinto between Fifth and Sixth streets
- Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks
- Park in a secure, upright position in designated areas
- Stay in the public right of way as opposed to private property, parkland, state-owned land or other unauthorized areas
Wait, I’ve never even used a dockless scooter/bike before. How do they work?
Dockless scooters/bikes operate very similarly to Austin B-cycle, except as the name implies, you don’t need to pick up or return bikes to a specific station. The idea is to allow for more freedom and ease of use.
Many of the dockless scooters and bikes are also electric, which means that they provide an assist to the rider (making your trip less physical, sweaty, etc). According to city ordinance, these electric vehicles can’t go faster than 20 miles per hour.
At night, some of these companies pay people to pick up the electric vehicles, charge them in their own homes, and then release them back onto the streets in the morning.
All you have to do to rent a scooter or bike is download the company’s app and pretty much with a click of a button you can locate the nearest bike/scooter and rent it. Fees are pretty expensive. Most of the companies charge about a $1 upfront, with additional fees based on usage.