Rollingwood officials continue discussion on motorized scooter ban with potential $500 fine

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)

For the second time in as many months and due to what officials cited as safety concerns, among other reasons, Rollingwood City Council has mulled the topic of a ban on motor-assisted scooter use within city limits accompanied by up to a $500 fine for violators.

Council continued its talks on the potential new policy during its Nov. 20 meeting. This represents the second round of talks centered on the new policy, as the amended city ordinance was originally postponed during an Oct. 16 City Council meeting.

“I have personal scooters zipping around my house, and I am personally surprised no one is here to comment about banning scooters,” Council Member Sara Hutson said of the fact that no one showed up to discuss the agenda item during the meeting’s public hearing.

Council Member Wendi Hundley added she had put in a request for another round of public hearings to see if officials can craft an ordinance differentiating between commercial and personal scooters. Council Member Gavin Massingill said even though he dislikes the commercial scooters and how they are often abandoned, he probably would not vote for a ban.

Council Member Buck Shapiro echoed Massingill’s assertion and stated not many people in Rollingwood use motorized scooters for transportation.

Should it pass as it is currently written, the proposed ordinance states it is unlawful for anyone to operate a motor-assisted scooter on any public sidewalk, property, park, way, street or highway within city limits.

That would also go for anyone who abandons a motor-assisted scooter on any public property within the city.

Pursuant to the Texas Transportation Code, “the city has the authority to prohibit the operation of a motor-assisted scooter on a street, highway, or sidewalk if the governing body of the county or municipality determines that the prohibition is necessary in the interest of safety,” the ordinance states.

Those in violation of these rules would be committing a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500, the ordinance states, and each violation would constitute a separate offense.

Regarding the fiscal penalty, council also discussed how a fine might be assessed for abandonment of commercial scooters and who is liable.

"If Bird [a prominent commercial motorized scooter company] is popped with a $500-a-day fine, it gets their attention, and then maybe they can get programmed to not come into our neighborhood,” Massingill said.

During the first discussion of the ban in October, council members sought clarification on whether Rollingwood residents who have purchased motorized scooters already would not be grandfathered in and whether all motorized scooters as defined by the new ordinance would be banned for use within the city.

"I would wonder if one more public hearing on the ordinance itself would be prudent," Council Member Amy Pattillo said in October. "I like the ordinance that we have in place, but I want to make sure it doesn't have any unintended consequences."

Pattillo added during the Nov. 20 meeting a prime reason for the ordinance would be to diminish the effects of massive herds of scooters descending onto areas near Rollingwood, which is adjacent to Zilker Park, where the world-famous Austin City Limits Festival is held every year.

Council will hold a public hearing and possibly take action on the item at a future meeting.
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


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