New signage debuts on scooter-free Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail ahead of new regulations taking effect

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The Trail Foundation and electric scooter company Lime have partnered to provide signage on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail to remind users that scooters are not allowed on the trail, only electric bikes.

“E-scooters have become part of the Austin culture, and we want to educate users on where they are allowed to ride so that the trails continue to be a treasured asset that we protect in our city,” said Joe Deshotel, manager of government relations and community affairs for Lime, in a media release.

Thirty new signs were posted at key points along the trail in mid-May, according to a spokesperson for The Trail Foundation.

Additionally, since October, Lime has enabled geofencing, which uses GPS to create virtual boundaries, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or exits a particular area.

Scooter usage on the trail is monitored by the city of Austin via its 311 service, which fields service requests, such as when a scooter is obstructing a pathway and needs to be removed.  Residents can contact 311 by phone or through the app. 

Austin City Council voted in May to approve an ordinance updating regulations for scooter users, including allowing them to ride on previously off-limits downtown sidewalks; requiring users under age 18 to wear a helmet; and prohibiting the use of mobile devices while riding, except when referencing a GPS system. Certain offenses are eligible for fines between $20 and $40.

A transportation department spokesperson said the ordinance has not yet taken effect as the city’s legal department is still reviewing the language. 

As a result, no fines have been assessed yet. 

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department launched a pilot program in December allowing electric bikes and scooters on four trails: Johnson Creek Greenbelt Trail, Shoal Creek Greenbelt Trail, Northern Walnut Creek Trail and Southern Walnut Creek Trail. A fifth trail, the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, is also included but only allows electric bikes.

The pilot is intended to help the parks and recreation, public works, transportation and law departments craft recommendations for potential rules regarding scooter use in public parks and on public trails. It will end this fall.

While the pilot is still ongoing, some preliminary insights have emerged. Speed monitoring has shown most people are adhering to the recommended 10 mph speed limit on the included trails, said Amanda Ross, a division manager for the parks and recreation department who is overseeing the pilot.

The pilot also includes a Speak Up Austin survey, which remains active. The “overwhelming majority” of responses thus far have focused on the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, Ross said, and are not supportive of allowing scooters on it.

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Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.
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