A new pilot program allowing electric bikes and scooters on some Austin trails will begin in mid-December, according to a Nov. 26 memo issued by the Austin parks and recreation department.
The pilot will run nine months, through fall of next year, and will help the parks and recreation, public works, transportation and law departments craft recommendations for potential code changes.
Since Austin City Council authorized a dockless mobility program in April, the number of such electric vehicles licensed to operate within city limits has grown to 11,371—and residents have raised concerns about accessibility and safety.
Motorized vehicles are currently prohibited from public recreational areas, including trails maintained by the parks and recreation department.
The department has received feedback regarding electric bike and scooter use on trails via surveys, email communications, stakeholder meetings and from advocates, per the memo.
In response, the relevant city departments developed the pilot, which will gather feedback from trail users and nonprofit partners, monitor the speed of electric vehicles, identify pinch points, develop a trail etiquette education campaign, update signage to indicate the trails included in the program, and track crash reports and injuries.
Five trails are included: Johnson Creek, Shoal Creek, Northern Walnut Creek Trail, Southern Walnut Creek Trail, and the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
The Ann and Roy Butler Trail will only allow electric bikes. The parks and recreation department heard specific opposition to electric scooters on this trail, whose surface is questionable for safe operation of scooters, according to the memo.
To enforce this program, the parks and recreation department will follow its processes already in place: increasing signage in areas of concern and increasing patrols from the park ranger unit. In more serious cases, the department will work with its parks police unit to address issues.
“Our trails are being used by both electric bikes and scooters,” said Amanda Ross, Natural Resources Division Manager for the parks and recreation department.
The pilot, Ross said, will help the city understand the best way to deal with this issue, whether by increasing enforcement funding or investing in divided use trails.
“We’re really just trying to understand what our options are,” she said.