A Plane in the Sky, A Bird on the Sidewalk: Electric Scooters Overrun City Council B-Session

Photos by William Timmerman - Photographer, The San Antonio Sentinel.

Article by: William Timmerman - Writer, The San Antonio Sentinel

Updated: 05/17/19 at 11:10 AM by Sentinel Staff

Wednesday’s City Council B-Session was held at Port San Antonio. Located in the shadow of the former Kelly Air Force Base, the area has since expanded into a mecca for research-development and cyber security. The campus is a prized location that includes available warehouse space along with a connected airport and railroad. The campus also hosts big name companies such as Boeing, as well as numerous tech startups that flourish within the diversity of businesses on campus.

Rendering of proposed Technology Arena at Port SA. (Photo by  William Timmerman  - Photographer, SA Sentinel)

Rendering of proposed Technology Arena at Port SA. (Photo by William Timmerman - Photographer, SA Sentinel)

Port San Antonio created an internship system as well as a space for e-sports, but you shouldn’t look for it to host the next Fortnite™ competition just yet. At this moment, Port SA is offering the space to a diverse group of local teams and the next generation of robotics and coding innovation may well come from the familiarity that these players have with the emerging technologies being utilized in gaming software.

Port San Antonio is also breaking ground on its second high-end office building. This is promising news for the growth of the southwest side of San Antonio, as well as the outlook for job creation in the city as a whole.

Later in the session, John Jacks, the Director of Center City Development and Operations Department, presented San Antonio’s draft proposal for a dock-less vehicle policy to the Council. There is no denying that dock-less vehicles are popular and used often, especially in the downtown metropolitan area. Scooters have been used in the Alamo City over 2.16 million times and those who have ridden them are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping them. However, another portion of the population sees them as little more than an eyesore in downtown SA. Manny Peláez of District 8 stated that scooters are different than bikes and other forms of transportation and that citizens don’t feel the same way about them. He affirmed that we must set some harder guidelines since, “this downtown belongs to the people of San Antonio.” It should be noted that there have been 92 people transported to the hospital due to scooter-related accidents and, although none of the accidents were fatal, John Courage of District 9 was concerned about those number of injuries.

Mayor Nirenberg surveys the room. (Photo by  William Timmerman  - Photographer, SA Sentinel)

Mayor Nirenberg surveys the room. (Photo by William Timmerman - Photographer, SA Sentinel)

The proposal would reduce the number of permits by half to match the 5,000 scooters currently being deployed on an average day, as well as set up a further discussion on the safety and logistics of dock-less vehicles. It would also create a bidding system for three scooter companies to service San Antonio. Jacks spoke on the issue, saying, “We think with three companies there will be less competition for that space on every corner, and the companies may identify other parts of town that they could disperse.”

As of now, scooters have already been prohibited from Alamo Plaza, Hemisfair, and La Villita, but there have still been 30,000 violations in these zones. With these violations accounting for 1.5% of all rides, the scooter companies worked hard to remove and relocate the infringing vehicles. The scooters themselves have also been programmed not be rentable from 11 pm to 6 am in order to promote safe scootering. The proposed policy would also reduce the maximum user speed to 15mph.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales speaks at the B-Session. (Photo by  William Timmerman  - Photographer, SA Sentinel)

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales speaks at the B-Session. (Photo by William Timmerman - Photographer, SA Sentinel)

Shirley Gonzales of District 5 is against designating a separate policy and bidding process. She believes scooters can fit within our current goals for alternative transportation and brought up the issue of accessibility, suggesting that ADA options be included in the proposal as well. Clayton Perry of District 10 noted that although scooters are disruptive, so too were cellphones when they were first introduced. He also remarked that there should be an increased amount of visibility in the process of selecting the providers, since choosing the three scooter companies that get to remain within city limits would be a high profile bidding process. Mayor Nirenberg urged the Council to take a light approach to the scooters and trust the market.

Number of Scooters in SA by Brand

The seven current scooter companies operating in the city are (in order of # of scooters): Bird, Lime, Jump, Lyft, Razor, Spin, and Blue Duck. The proposed policy, if approved by the city council, would not go into effect until October 2019 and would completely eliminate sidewalk riding and reduce the number of total scooters to 5,000 provided by the three remaining vendors.