As Austin prepares to analyze use of scooters, bikes on public parkland, here is an explanation of how geofencing technology works

Two Bird scooters sit parked outside the Austin Central Library in downtown Austin. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper
Two Bird scooters sit parked outside the Austin Central Library in downtown Austin. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper

Two Bird scooters sit parked outside the Austin Central Library in downtown Austin. Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper

On Nov. 12, city staff from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department is scheduled to go in front of the Austin Urban Transportation Commission to deliver a report on the pilot program that has allowed electric scooters and bikes on some of Austin’s trails since January.

Armed with the data from that program, which began in early 2019, city staff is set to then take findings to the Parks and Recreation Board and eventually City Council, with an ultimate goal to devise a long-term solution for scooter and bike usage based on the data they have gathered.

In September, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department announced geofencing technology was established as part of the pilot program. The program, the city said, was designed to “discourage scooter usage on parkland” and came about in response to what the city called “growing concerns over safety and inappropriate use of micro mobility devices on parkland.”

Geofencing technology can vary slightly from operator to operator, but generally falls into two categories: speed reduction—limiting a scooter’s speed when it enters an area like the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail—and no-parking zones, which prevent a rider from ending a trip in a restricted area such as the trail, The University of Texas campus, Sixth Street on weekend nights or the Capitol grounds.

Lianna Leal is the Central Texas operations manager for Lyft, which operates 2,000 scooters in Austin. Leal said geofenced speed reductions and no-parking zones are in effect for some parts of Austin, and Lyft scooter riders can see those zones when they pull up the map on the app. According to Leal, Lyft “heavily relies” on the technology to create a safe space for their riders, and the company employs the technology all over the country, not just in Austin.


“Geofencing is one of our most powerful tools to keep the community safe. That’s the case nationwide,” Leal said.

Lime, which operates 5,000 scooters in Austin, first implemented geofencing along the hike and bike trail in fall 2018, according to Joe Deshotel, Lime's Texas manager of government relations and community relations. When a Lime rider approaches a geofenced area, the scooter reduces its speed to 8 mph and the user cannot lock it until he or she leaves that area.

“This effort, along with the 30 ‘No Scooters on the Trail’ signs that we produced and displayed at trailheads, has resulted in a positive response from riders,” Deshotel said in a statement.

In addition to speed reduction and no-parking zones for scooters, Uber applies a fine for riders on its Jump bikes and scooters if riders end their rides outside of its service area, or the zones where the vehicles are permitted to operate.

“We actively monitor rider behavior and partner with city officials and stakeholders to create a dialogue on when/where to utilize geofencing technology,” Uber Texas Communications Manager Travis Considine in an email said.

In total, there are 15,550 electric scooters and 2,050 electric bicycles permitted to operate in Austin. A spokesperson for the parks and recreation department said staff is set to present to the city’s boards and commissions before the end of the year before going in front of City Council at a date to be determined.
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

Navarro Early College High School, pictured here, is one of over 30 Austin ISD schools frozen to transfer students for the coming 2020-21 school year. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD announces 31 schools frozen to transfers for 2020-21 school year

Austin ISD released its list of schools that will not be accepting in-district transfer students for the 2020-21 school year.

Austin Regional Clinic has administered more than 84,000 flu vaccinations to date in 2019.
DATA: Austin Regional Clinic gave thousands of flu tests after Thanksgiving; second spike possible during holidays

Austin Regional Clinic gave more than 4,500 flu tests leading up to Thanksgiving.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler (center), flanked by Assistant City Manager Christopher Shorter and City Attorney Ann Morgan, listen to public testimony on the land development code rewrite Dec. 7. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Property owners objecting to Austin’s land development code rewrite sue city for rejecting their protest rights

The lawsuit could hold up the city's approval of its land development code overhaul.

The city of Austin will begin charging a $0.15 per trip regulatory fee on shared mobility vehicles in early 2020. Community Impact Staff
City of Austin will implement a $0.15 regulatory fee on shared mobility rides

The city of Austin will begin charging a $0.15 per trip regulatory fee on shared mobility vehicles, which include electric bikes and scooters, Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar wrote in a Dec. 10 memo to City Council.

The proposed bridge design is in a wishbone shape and includes a plaza space at the center. (Rendering courtesy city of Austin)
City of Austin reveals wishbone design for new bridge over Longhorn Dam

The city of Austin debuted a design proposal for a new bridge over the Longhorn Dam connecting the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail at a Dec. 10 open house.

Travis County commissioners voted to allow staff to begin contract negotiations for a new women's jail facility at a Dec. 10 meeting. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
Travis County begins contract negotiations for women’s jail facility as overall jail population continues to decline

The county has planned to build a new, separate women’s facility for years, despite some pushback from local activists.

The Microtel Inn and Suites is located in Southeast Austin, only a 4.5-mile drive from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Courtesy Google Maps)
Zoning concern prevents Austin from moving forward with second conversion of hotel to homeless shelter

Officials have already indicated they are eyeing other hotels and motels for purchase and conversion into homeless shelters.

Block 21 will change ownership. The mixed-use development includes ACL Live at the Moody Theater and the W Austin hotel.
W Austin and ACL Live development will sell for $275 million

The transaction is expected to close in 2020.

When Austin voters approved a $250 million affordable housing bond in 2018, they signed off on using part of that funding to expand a home repair program for low-income residents. Many beneficiaries are seniors.
Affordable housing bond funding helps seniors 'age in place' through home repair program

When Austin voters approved a historic $250 million affordable housing bond in 2018, they signed off on a $28 million investment in home repairs for low-income residents.

Common winter allergies in Texas are caused by pollen from the Ashe juniper—also known as a mountain cedar. The tree is native to the area. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
As pollen counts rise in Central Texas, learn about cedar fever and allergy prevention

As temperatures cool heading into the winter season in Central Texas, pollen counts from Ashe juniper trees begin to climb, causing seasonal allergies referred to locally by residents as “cedar fever.”

Back to top