Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the city's new e-scooter allocations. The overall maximum was reduced by 2,000, but Bird and Lime fleet sizes weren't affected.

Austin transportation officials rolled out new restrictions on electric scooter operations beginning April 1.

Transportation Director Richard Mendoza cited a need to address safety, accessibility and public space management concerns by reducing the number of scooter devices that can be deployed around town, and limiting their speeds and locations.

“I am not anti-scooter, and I understand that in terms of providing a service, especially with regards to last-mile connectivity, this recent asset and service has filled a very valuable space for our community. However, with anything new there’s a period of adjustment, and there’s an experience of perhaps unintended challenges that we’ve been encountering," Mendoza told City Council March 28.

The overview

The total number of e-scooters allowed in the city has been curbed following the exit of Superpedestrian and its Link scooters last year. The fleet sizes of Bird and Lime, the two remaining operators, are being maintained.

Mendoza also said Austin will now be "holding the line" at just two operators and no longer licensing any additional companies .

Previously, nearly 9,000 total e-scooter devices were allowed to be in service across Austin. Now, the Transportation and Public Works Department is capping that total at just 6,700—leaving Lime with 3,700 and Bird with around 3,000. The average number of scooter devices on city streets had typically exceeded 6,700 devices since mid-2021.

Additionally, the transportation department is phasing out the use of dockless e-bikes citywide, leaving only the city and CapMetro's docked MetroBike program.

Other e-scooter rule changes now in effect include:
  • Limiting the number of scooters allowed in Austin's "urban core" by 50%, leaving Bird and Lime with an allowance of 1,125 devices each around downtown and south of Lady Bird Lake
  • Restricting scooter speed limits in nightlife districts by 5 miles per hour between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Requiring scooter operators to stage their devices in designated areas on a regular basis, rather than leaving them to be freely distributed across the city
While scooter staging areas will start off as marked spaces on the ground, Mendoza said they could eventually be "hardened" into more permanent corrals. The change stems from worries about community aesthetics, business storefront access and Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility along streets and sidewalks.

Building off a previous pilot program, Mendoza said permanently blocking scooter access along Congress Avenue is another concept now under consideration as the city seeks to revamp many aspects of the key downtown corridor.

“We just need to reach a medium where all these modes of mobility can coexist harmoniously in the same space," he said of the updates.

Zooming in

Mendoza said he began developing the new micromobility policies last fall. Private conversations with Bird and Lime stretched on for months, and the updates went into effect in April after a two-month delay.

Last November, Mendoza had proposed halving the city's device count, removing one of three licensed operators from town, implementing a late-night curfew on scooter rides and requiring daily staging of scooters in designated areas, according to emails obtained by Community Impact. Mendoza was also considering a helmet requirement for scooter trips, although that change hasn't advanced.

The updates were supported by interim City Manager Jesús Garza and moved forward after Mendoza consulted with a local trauma doctor about injuries related to the devices around entertainment districts, according to the emails.

Austin-Travis County EMS officials reported last year that scooter-related injuries account for a small fraction of incidents medics respond to in the city, mainly around downtown. They said the incidents rarely result in serious injury and generally don't impact anyone aside from the rider.

Austin's new e-scooter restrictions come years after the city first welcomed micromobility devices to its streets.

The regulation of electric scooters in Austin stretches back to spring 2018 when Bird and Lime started rolling out their fleets. City officials went on to propose and implement firm rules for the devices the following year, and thousands have remained in operation since then.

City Council also weighed several new limits and standards for e-scooters in Austin one year ago, although the proposals never made it to a final vote.

By the numbers

Since the start of 2019, Austinites have taken more than 15.74 million total e-scooter rides and traveled more than 18.64 million miles across those trips, according to data tracked by Ride Report and the city. About 2.66 million rides were taken in 2023 alone.

Austin's recorded e-scooter usage peaked in March 2019, when more than 39,000 trips were recorded on a single day. Ridership fell off after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and by 2023 it ranged from about 3,000 to 14,000 daily scooter trips.
What they're saying

Adam R. Davis, Bird's senior manager for government partnerships, said the scooter company would continue to work with Austin and promote scooters as an alternative to vehicle traffic.

"Bird values our partnership with the city of Austin and with the Austin Transportation Department. We’re going to continue to partner with the city to ensure that we provide safe, effective alternative transportation to meet residents’ first- and last-mile needs, and lessen the reliance on personal vehicles throughout the city," Davis said in a statement. "We’re excited to work with the ATD team to continue to evolve with the city and the program."

Lime Senior Operations Manager Chris Betterton, Sr. said the company views the updates as a chance to improve local service.

"Ridership is always strong in Austin, and that makes perfect sense as the city booms and grows as a tech hub and a place to which people from all over the country want to move, but we understand there’s work to be done to improve parking, and we’re happy to continue our work on this," Betterton said in a statement. "We’ve been constantly communicating with and educating our riders on safe riding and proper parking, including our newly implemented warning system for people who park incorrectly multiple times. Now with these new rules and staging and parking areas, we look forward to continued strong ridership and less street clutter."

Council member Zo Qadri, who represents much of downtown, said he appreciated the focus on e-scooters as one of the biggest areas of complaint his office deals with. However, he said he hopes to get more feedback from everyday Austinites about the new limitations over the coming months, as Mendoza had only spoken with Bird and Lime representatives before making the changes.

“High level, I agree with staff’s assessment of better managing our pedestrian realm with scooters, and I applaud the effort to think about how to prevent fatalities and serious injuries downtown during late-night hours. But, still some concerns about some of these recommendations, and I’d really like to see changes to be considered more holistically with Vision Zero implementation for downtown and overall street safety," Qadri said.

Leaders with the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association stated their opposition to some of the new policies given their effects on the area and city mobility initiatives overall.

"We hope the city chooses to delay its planned changes and instead moves towards solutions that more prudently balance the impacts on mobility users, the city's mobility goals and safety," DANA board members said in a March 30 letter to Mendoza.