Houston City Council OKs new limits on electric scooters

Electric scooter rider
Scooter rental companies downtown will have to find private storefronts instead of setting up shop on sidewalks, per a new ordinance change. (Courtesy Pexel)

Scooter rental companies downtown will have to find private storefronts instead of setting up shop on sidewalks, per a new ordinance change. (Courtesy Pexel)

Houston City Council approved a ban March 24 on electric scooters from sidewalks, parking spaces and other city-owned property downtown as well as in the Galleria area and in Greenway Plaza.

Riders can still use the scooters in these areas of town but must do so on the street or risk a fine for riding on the sidewalk, per the changes to city ordinances. Businesses that rent out scooters must also do so from private property, such as a storefront, rather than setting up mobile rental sites on sidewalks or at city parks.

“We’ve seen a lot of activity occurring around our parks. ... Scooters are taking up the sidewalks where folks are walking, and there have been reports of collisions; there have been reports of pets getting hurt. We are trying to move these scooter companies to private property,” said Maria Irshad, Assistant Director of ParkHouston. Irshad presented the ordinance changes to a City Council committee March 4.

Some owners of area scooter rental companies took issue with the ordinance, arguing that it limits rental companies' abilities to operate in some of the city’s most popular destinations. Those who operate businesses from sidewalks may face criminal citations and have scooters impounded, the ordinance changes state.

“When I first started my business, I tried to reach out to the city just to make sure I was doing everything right and make sure I had permits if they were available, and I became aware there were not existing permits. I was notified about being able to operate,” said Juan Valentine Mesa, owner of scooter rental company Glyderz.

Mesa said his company operates at Discovery Green and does not block pedestrians' right of way.

However, council members voting to approve changes to the ordinance said the changes were a needed safety measure.

“It's really unnerving and scary to be on one of the trails along Buffalo Bayou ... and the scooters fly by,” Council Member Karla Cisneros said at the March 4 committee meeting. “I don’t see the same observation of pedestrian etiquette as bicycles.”
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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