Motorized scooters pulled from Austin after City Council crackdown


Highlights

City Council voted Friday to remove scooters from rights of way if owners do not have permits.

Bird Rides and LimeBike say the scooters will be back in a matter of days, after they obtain city permits.

Two companies that rent motorized scooters have temporarily pulled them from Austin roadsides in response to an emergency ordinance adopted by the City Council on Friday.

Representatives of LimeBike posted a message on the company’s app telling Austin users, “See you in a few days.”

Bird Rides, the other app-based scooter renter, had no available scooters listed in the Austin area Sunday. A spokesman with the company said the scooters are expected to be back soon.

Sunday was the first indication that either company was going to pause its service while the city hashed out a regulation plan. Both companies were expected to take the scooters off the street to comply with the emergency ordinance adopted Friday. That rule allows city workers to impound any of the scooters left on city rights of way if their owners do not have a permit and levies a $200 fee for each impounded scooter.

The city’s Transportation Department impounded some scooters in the first week after Bird scooters hit the streets but quickly returned them without levying fines because officials said existing ordinances did not make it clear that rental operations could not occur on city-owned property.

The new ordinance also instructed the Transportation Department to establish a licensing process that is expected to take effect May 1. Officials indicated that those interested in a license should be able to get one relatively quickly after applying.

Bird Rides and LimeBike launched their scooters in Central Austin earlier this month, and the service quickly gained popularity. But similar to regulatory discussions the city had over ride-hailing apps in 2016, Austin officials scrambled to create a new set of laws aimed at preventing the rental scooters from being left haphazardly on streets and sidewalks.

Any company found to be out of compliance with the law can be cited for a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500.

But neither company expects noncompliance to be an issue, according to statements released Sunday.

Bird signaled it would abide by the new law and put its scooters temporarily on ice.

“From the beginning, we have respected the rule of law, and we will not operate outside the boundaries of the ordinance just passed,” Bird spokesman Kenneth Baer said. “We look forward to working closely with the Austin Transportation Department to obtain a permit as soon as possible in order to minimize any potential disruption or delay in service to the people of Austin.”

LimeBike also said it plans to adhere to the city’s permitting process.

“Given this recent progress and in response to a request from the City of Austin, we will be removing our scooters from the streets of Austin effectively immediately while we apply for a permit,” a LimeBike statement said.



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