When they first emerged on the New Braunfels scene during the past week, the Unicorn electric scooters—coincidentally mirroring the New Braunfels High School mascot—were taking off.
This alternative mode of transportation has gained popularity in Austin and San Antonio, but Joe Vargas, acting New Braunfels police chief, signed an order Jan. 30 that placed a 90-day ban on the scooters.
David Ferguson, communications coordinator for the New Braunfels Police Department, said the ban allows city government an opportunity to run the possibility of scooters through the proper channels.
Ferguson said the wheels were already in motion at the city level to address electric bicycles and scooters before they appeared on New Braunfels streets. However, recent events expedited the process.
Additionally, Ferguson said it appeared the scooters were part of a test run by the scooter company, as they seemingly disappeared before the temporary ban was put in place.
“My understanding is that [the scooter company]took them before [the city]issued the prohibition,” Ferguson said.
Matt Hemberger, who serves on the city’s Transportation and Traffic Advisory Board, said government officials need time to address questions surrounding scooters, such as:
• What age is appropriate for riding scooters?
• Does the city have enough connectivity to support them?
• Who is responsible for the maintenance of the scooters?
• What if the scooters end up in the city’s rivers?
• Which scooter companies can legally operate in New Braunfels?
Additionally, Hemberger said the city’s top concern is always safety and preparation.
“Ultimately, who responds when something goes wrong?” Hemberger said. “Nobody is going to be calling Unicorn Scooters; they’re going to be calling 911.”
Hemberger noted electric scooters are not out of the realm of possibilities for the city as more parts of New Braunfels become connected with walkways and bikeways.
“I think everybody is on board with moving forward with advancements in transportation, especially those that are eco-friendly,” Hemberger said.
The decision to ban the scooters has caused some social media backlash, but “it just needs some time to marinate,” Hemberger said.