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Austin bike, scooter rules debut to mixed reaction from companies


The city of Austin Tuesday put out emergency rules for quick startup of rental scooter and bike operations.

But representatives of companies involved say some of those rules are ‘impractical’ or even ‘impossible.’

A city in a memo says it will begin accepting license applications from rental companies on Monday.

11:30 a. m. update: Lime (formerly LimeBike) issued a statement Thursday morning in reponse to the city of Austin’s emergency rules for dockless scooter and bikes, which were finalized late Tuesday:

“Austin has always been a leader in innovation, and we commend the city for remaining committed to forward-thinking, modern transportation alternatives; however, the regulations put forth would severely limit Lime’s ability to serve the community,” the statement read. “We have been able to demonstrate the value our dock-free mobility service has brought to over 60 other markets, and we hope to give Austin residents and visitors the same opportunity.

“We will continue to work with the city towards a collaborative transportation solution, and look forward to bringing our scooters back to Austin as soon as we can.”

Earlier: The city of Austin late Tuesday put out emergency rules for dockless scooter and bikes, and at least some of those requirements could raise hackles with the dozen or more companies waiting to launch their services here.

The 10 pages of rules and six pages of licensing requirements, crafted by the Austin Transportation Department in the nearly two weeks since the Austin City Council passed an ordinance allowing the new type of rental devices, include some elements that fall outside the typical operations of dockless bikes and scooters.

For instance, by Aug. 1, the rules say that all “units” — the definition includes both bikes and stand-up scooters — “shall be capable of being locked to a bike rack or shall be equipped with haptic technology that indicates to the user if they have parked in a designated, geo-fenced parking area.”

“While we appreciate Austin’s quick work in addressing the future of mobility, these emergency rules make it nearly impossible to operate in the city,” said Everett Weiler, general manager for Chinese bike rental company Ofo. “We’re eager to continue working with Austin officials to ensure we’re able to provide more affordable and convenient options to everyone in Austin.”

Only Zagster and Jump, according to a representative of one of the dockless rental companies, have so-called “lock-to” devices on their bikes and scooters. Neither Bird or LimeBike, which introduced electric rental scooters to Austin last month without first getting city permission to operate, have lock-to devices.

Zagster, at least, was happy with the city’s handiwork.

“We share the concerns that city officials have about protecting the safety of pedestrians, the elderly, and those with disabilities,” Tim Alborg, Zagster’s director of public policy and government relations. “We’re considering a launch of our Pace dockless bike share service soon, and appreciate Austin’s efforts to keep public sidewalks clear by requiring lock-to technology on bikes and scooters by August 1. Companies opposed to lock-to requirements need to stop complaining, and start innovating.”

The rules also require that any units that operate at night be equipped with a front light and reflectors. LimeBike scooters have a light-activated headlight, but the companies in their earlier operations here had their scooters picked up at dusk and put back out near first light in the morning.

The rules also contain extensive reporting requirements and say that, should a company submit incomplete or inaccurate data, “shall have their license revoked.” The companies must show that, on average, each of the 500 bikes or scooters allowed are being used two times a day. If not, the city’s transportation director may require a company to relocate or remove a device.

The company, under the rules, will be required to submit a performance bond of $100 per device, and have insurance of at least $500,000 per occurrence, covering bodily injury or property damage. The insurance must list the city as an additional insured party, the licensing requirements stipulate.

The rules, Brian Kyuhoon No, Spin’s head of public policy, said in email to the Statesman, “without any input from industry stakeholders or chance to provides comments on draft language, contain several provisions of serious concern to Spin, ranging from the impractical to the potentially impossible.”

The city, in a memo from transportation director Robert Spillar to the companies, said it will hold a workshop Friday for the companies and then begin accepting license applications on Monday. By July, the memo says, the city will initiate a process to create and put into place “standard” rules to replace the emergency rules released Tuesday.

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