Recently, Austin City Council passed a rider safety ordinance, which officially permits the Austin Police Department to ticket riders of Austin scooters who are found to be in violation of city rules.
Currently in the city of Austin, police officers have no legal authority to cite riders of dockless scooters who make the decision to drive them in a reckless manner. Instead, they are only permitted to issue a citation if the rider chooses to ignore an initial warning from the officer.
Additionally, in terms of fines, these will also be kept as they presently stand, which are $20 for a first-time conviction and $40 for each subsequent conviction. A previous version of the rule had initially suggested that the fine be increased to $40 for a first-time conviction, but this was not approved.
Furthermore, the safe riding ordinance also requires any and all dockless scooter riders under 18 years of age to wear a helmet for protection. As it currently stands, many companies that produce these devices have gone on record of stating that riders under 18 years of age should not actually be riding them anyway.
The ordinance further states that both bicycles and dockless scooters are permitted to be used on sidewalks, provided those who operate them do so in a “reasonable and prudent manner,” including yielding to all pedestrians. Furthermore, it is also illegal ride any of these while using a cell phone for any reason, as well as riding a dockless scooter on any type of street furniture or landscaping.
The ordinance further bans two people riding on a single scooter, as well as wrong-way riders.
The Austin Police Department says that once the official language of the ordinance itself is finalized, they will begin enforcing the rules immediately. They expect that this will take only a few weeks to complete.
It’s also important to note that the ordinance would amend the current Austin city code in order to allow the Austin Transportation Department to regulate scooter companies in the same manner in which they regulate other vehicles such as taxis, pedicabs, limousines, charter buses, and more. The ordinance, however, would not apply to rideshare companies such as Uber and Ride Austin, as well as electric personal assistance devices.
Currently, there are 14,700 dockless scooters and 1,021 dockless bicycles in the city of Austin, with the current carrying capacity for scooters in the downtown Austin area believed to be at approximately 20,000 devices. Ten scooter operators are currently permitted in Austin; however, a total of only seven presently have devices on city streets.
Furthermore, there remains no official cap on exactly how many scooters or scooter operators can actually be in the city of Austin; however, the number of new licenses for dockless scooters and bicycles that can be obtained have been paused by city officials, at least for the time being.
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