City needs to address scooter infestation

December 20, 2018

They have descended on street corners and crowded sidewalks. They have toppled in the wind and been strewn about Southtown. They have found their way onto residential streets in Alamo Heights, and outside the front doors of restaurants, businesses and even churches.

People love them — except when they do not. We are talking, of course, about e-scooters. The transportation equivalent, in some minds, of the grackle as they have swarmed and descended upon the Alamo City this fall and winter, their numbers expanding.

Two months ago, there were 3,000 scooters here. That number will likely grow to 10,500 with new scooter and e-bike additions.

We have done our fair share of scooting about town — always with a helmet, and always in a bike lane or to the side of the road — and have no problem with the concept and the mode. In many ways, they are a fun and efficient way to get from Point A to Point B (but not as much fun as walking or riding a bike).

They are perfect for the trip that is too far to walk but a hassle to drive. And we had hoped, and continue to hope, the free market would sort itself out in terms of demand and number of scooters. But this laissez-faire attitude, a pilot program notwithstanding, is not working. The number of scooters has created visual pollution and clutter downtown, and the city of San Antonio needs to get a handle on the problem.

That could mean capping the overall number of scooters, or finding a way to disburse them to areas beyond the center city, or limiting the number of scooters in an area at certain times of day. But there are suddenly too many in too small of an area.

San Antonio has passed a pilot program limiting some scooter usage. This pilot program keeps scooters off busy streets, the River Walk and plazas (riding on Alamo Plaza is especially discouraged). It requires bike lanes to be used when available, and scooter riders are supposed to yield to pedestrians, although we witness that many do not.

Whether these rules are being enforced, or are even enforceable, is anyone’s guess. The city hasn’t exactly been aggressive in issuing citations or confiscating scooters. Earlier this month, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston told Express-News reporter Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje the city was in process of hiring enforcement officers and had yet to confiscate an e-scooter.

But even if the city does step up enforcement of its own rules, the question of scooter clutter remains unanswered. Downtown is a tourist destination. Scooters in the middle of sidewalks or strewn in front of businesses looks trashy and overwhelming. The city also has a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of residents and visitors.

As Stoeltje reported, just since Oct. 11, there have been 122 complaints about scooters, mostly from angered pedestrians who might have been hit or almost hit by scooters.

We see this, one member of the Editorial Board having recently almost been hit by a scooter whose rider (no helmet) was cruising the wrong way on Broadway downtown and practically ran a red light. There have also been reports of people riding scooters with babies strapped to them in carriers. C’mon, people. These are vehicles moving at roughly 18 mph often surrounded by cars and trucks. As Stoeltje reported, more than 70 scooter-related injuries to riders and pedestrians have been reported to the Fire Department since July. A relative small number, unless, of course, you are one of those pedestrians injured.

The city helped create the scooter infestation and has a responsibility to fix it. There can be too much of a good thing.

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