City Proposes Fixes for Its Scooter Problem

The city thinks it has a solution to drunk scooting. The City Council will vote on the changes in late March.
courtesy Lime
The city thinks it has a solution to drunk scooting. The City Council will vote on the changes in late March.
The city is proposing implementing new restrictions and raising fees to address safety concerns about its "Dockless Mobility Program."

The program allows five companies — Bird, Jump, Lime, Ojo and Wheels — to blanket the city in scooters that can be picked up, rented by the minute and then dropped off nearly anywhere downtown. There are now 12,000 on Dallas' streets.

Although heralded for its convenience, the program has had unintended side effects like hundreds of emergency room visits and a deluge of 311 calls reporting blocked sidewalks.

Here's one reason: “There’s a lot of reports of drunk people riding them,” City Council member Lee Kleinman told CBSDFW. He's the chair of the transportation committee that on Tuesday will consider a list of city proposals to crack down on inebriated riding.

The city wants the scooters turned off after 11:30 p.m. citywide and after 9 p.m. in the epicenter of the problem, Deep Ellum, where cops have been writing tickets for riding on sidewalks. Council members pushed back against this idea when it came up in December.

Then there's the issue of the scooters obstructing sidewalks and being a general nuisance, a problem widely documented online with photos of the devices strewn on the ground and piled on street corners.

To fix that, the city is proposing adding more than 100 new bike racks and contracting with an "impound vendor" that will hunt for wayward scooters. Offending scooters will be confiscated and companies charged a fee to have the scooters returned, an arrangement that has been implemented in San Diego, Phoenix and Santa Monica, California.

But that strategy has its own kinks. Lime and Bird filed suit against one of those contractors, ScootScoop, in San Diego, accusing it of "unlawfully impounding micro-mobility devices and demanding a ransom for their return.” ScootScoop fired back, accusing the pair of billion-dollar companies of breaking into its impound yard and stealing them back.

In Dallas, the scooter companies are hoping to avoid the fate of their cycling predecessors, which turned the city into "ground zero for a nascent national bike-share war" before disappearing in the wake of city scrutiny and what one company called "exorbitant fees."

Now, those fees are about to get even higher. In exchange for being allowed to continue operating in Dallas, the scooter companies have agreed to pay up. The city wants to increase permit fees even more and also charge 20 cents per trip.

This money, said Michael Rogers, the city's transportation director, will fund more bike lanes, which are sorely needed for scooter riders looking to avoid crowded sidewalks.

"A portion of that fee goes straight into an infrastructure fund," he said and later added, "So we can actually build more dedicated lanes for bikes and scooters."

The City Council is to vote on an ordinance adopting these changes in late March.