Electric scooter riders, cyclists officially allowed on Austin sidewalks after City Council vote

Lime scooters line a sidewalk in Austin.

Lime scooters line a sidewalk in Austin.

In what has been a roughly yearlong effort to regulate the behavior of electric scooter riders, Austin City Council decided May 23 that electric scooter users, as well as cyclists, can ride on the city’s sidewalks, including those located downtown.

Since the electric mobility devices dropped onto the community’s streets last spring—there are 12,400 active scooters throughout Austin, according to city numbers—riders have struggled to comfortably find a home on Austin’s public infrastructure. Although no law prohibited riders from traveling on sidewalks, city officials and scooter companies explicitly discouraged the act. A previous version of the rules approved May 23 attempted to leave open the option of prohibiting riders from busy sidewalks.

However, city officials supported new rules May 23 that would officially open up sidewalks to bicycles and electric scooters, as long as they ride in a “reasonable and prudent manner,” yield to pedestrians and do not obstruct the path of or endanger disabled persons.

The new law included several other facets: Riders under 18 years old have to wear a helmet or else face a fine of $20 to $40, a fine which parents can also face if they let their children ride without a helmet; no use of mobile devices while riding, except when referencing a GPS system; no lane splitting or riding in the opposite direction of traffic; only one rider per mobility device unless it is explicitly built for two people; and riders must obey all traffic laws and signals.

The ordinance applies to all “micro-mobility devices” which it defines as, “a scooter, skateboard, or other compact device designed for personal micro-mobility, either privately owned or part of a shared micro-mobility service.”

Police officers or any other officer appointed by the transportation director can enforce these rules, which drew an objection from Robin Stallings, the executive director of advocacy group Bike Texas. Stallings expressed concern that non-police officers, without bias training or experience in citation writing, might unevenly enforce these new regulations.

Stallings also criticized the “reasonable and prudent manner” clause as vague and objected to the idea the city would require 16- and 17-year-olds to wear helmets while on bikes and scooters.

“We’ll let them drive a car, but we are actually going to require them to wear a helmet?” Stallings said. “There’s been no evidence that mandatory helmet laws actually increase helmet use. I don’t really see 17-year-olds or 16-year-olds or any other age walking around with a helmet in their hand for the once or twice a week when they might take the opportunity to jump on a micro-mobility device.”

The city legal department will now begin drafting the official ordinance language following some minor City Council amendments. A transportation department spokesperson said the rules will likely take effect sometime next month.


MOST RECENT

Developers of The Backyard multiuse site said construction should begin in Q1 2022. (Rendering courtesy city of Bee Cave)
Bee Cave approves The Backyard property assessments

Bee Cave City Council also authorizes city's first Capital Improvement Plan.

Photo of Austin's skyline
Austin health authorities outline COVID-19 surge risks while eyeing possible shift to Stage 2

While Austin and Travis County remain under Stage 3 guidelines, hospitalizations have moved into possible Stage 2 territory.

Giselle Copa, an Austin Community College pharmacy student, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for administration. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
At least 81% of Austin ISD staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, per district data

After the district had staff sign up for bonuses only available to fully vaccinated employees, the district can count its vaccinated employees at over 8,000.

"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Lebowski's Grill upends expectations in Austin; first Houston-area Costco Business Center opens in Stafford and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 26.

More than 35,000 passengers traveled through the airport on Oct. 25, the Monday following the 2021 F1 U.S. Grand Prix. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport sees busiest day ever following 2021 Formula One U.S. Grand Prix

The new record topped the previous busiest day by more than 3,000 passengers.

City, county and community leaders gathered Oct. 21 to share an update on funding of the $515 million Summit Plan aimed at housing thousands of residents. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin leaders outline $515M homelessness spending plan with more than 75% of funding in place

Officials provided an update on a $515 million plan to house thousands of people experiencing homelessness and provide related social services Oct. 21.

The Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees met Oct. 25 and discussed the possibility of approving a bonus for all district employees. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs ISD considers approving bonuses for all district employees

With staffing shortages persistent, the district is considering upping its annual bonus amount from last year's $500 lump sum payments.

The new Oak Hill H-E-B is scheduled to open Oct. 27. (Courtesy of H-E-B)
New Oak Hill H-E-B in Southwest Austin opening on schedule

The 90,000-square-foot space will open a mile west of the old Oak Hill store.

The plan calls for traffic control methods to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. (Courtesy Living Streets)
Austin City Council paves way for more play, exercise on neighborhood streets

The program aims to make it safer to use neighborhood streets for community events.

New statewide maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Gov. Abbott approves new voting maps for state legislature, Congress, school districts for next decade

The maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022, after the state legislature passed them during a 30-day special session.

The committee will provide input on Capital Metro's expanded public safety department to the transit agency's board of directors.  (Courtesy Capital Metro)
Capital Metro board approves charter for public safety advisory committee

The approval comes after the establishment of a transit police force met resistance during the August meeting.