Starting today, you won't see people on electric scooters zipping down the streets of Dallas. Citing public safety worries, the Dallas Transportation Department halted the city’s scooter program this week. All scooter operators are ordered to cease operations today and the scooters themselves must be removed from city streets by the end of Friday.
This decision was made with consultation from the Dallas Police Department, according to the city.
“We have received complaints about scooters and would like to make substantial changes to the scooter program,” Transportation Director Mike Rogers said in a press release. “The changes will include public safety considerations so that the city may have safe modes of alternative transportation.”
People making complaints alleged the scooter companies and their riders were not adhering to the dockless vehicle ordnance, which poses safety issues.
Nico Probst, director of government relations for Lime, which has scooters in Dallas, said: "We're seeing that COVID-19 is causing people to rethink how they get around and that scooters are a socially distant, open-air alternative to transit and driving. We hope this pause in service is as brief as possible so that Dallas residents can continue relying on our services."
After a shooting in Deep Ellum on Aug. 28 that left five people wounded, including a 15-year-old who died of his injuries Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano said in a statement that he was working to get scooters temporarily removed in Deep Ellum and in the Central Business District. Medrano did not say exactly how the scooters related to the shooting.
Medrano also said he requested more police presence in Deep Ellum and the Central Business District, as well as a review of the teen curfew ordinance in an attempt to stop late-night gatherings.
But, in a statement released yesterday evening, Medrano said he, Rogers and councilmember David Blewett have been working together to investigate scooter complaints from residents and businesses.
They organized field trips with staff from different departments to assess the problems. Medrano said they discovered that scooter operations continued even after their shutdown times in Deep Ellum and downtown. Medrano said the scooters at this time were primarily used for “non-transportation purposes with inappropriate riding behaviors in dangerous corridors.”
Medrano said Rogers met with scooter operators on Monday to discuss these issues, which led to the halting of scooter operations in Dallas.
The transportation director has the right to pause the scooter program for public safety reasons without action from the City Council, Medrano said. The director has done this on at least two other occasions: during civil unrest and in the earlier days of the pandemic.
Medrano said he’s working to bring everyone together to ensure scooter companies meet expectations.
During the public speakers' session at Wednesday's City Council meeting, Shaun Gaston, a contractor for one of the scooter operators, said the decision doesn't take into account all the people it affects. "Removing the scooters isn't treating the problem, it's only treating the symptoms," she said.
Instead of removing the scooters from Dallas, city officials should sit down to have a conversation about what the real problems are, she said.
The city has had a rocky relationship with scooter companies like Lime, Ojo and Uber.
Basically ever since the city lifted its ban on electric scooters in June 2018, council members have had complaints about them. In August that year, then-Councilman Kevin Felder, despite some accounts to the contrary at the time, said ride-share vehicles like scooters and bikes were being used to commit crimes.
Felder was later indicted by a Dallas County grand jury
on a charge that he allegedly failed to stop and help a scooter rider after hitting him with his car near Fair Park in February last year.
Councilmembers and other city officials have continued to adjust and tighten restrictions on the scooters in Dallas.
On his Twitter page, Mayor Eric Johnson said he was surprised by the Dallas Transportation Department's decision. He said he found out about it when the rest of the public did. "I don’t understand how the city can essentially suspend an ordinance without city council action," Johnson said on Twitter. "We should discuss it ASAP. We may reach the same conclusion, but we voted in March to keep scooters."
Just this February, the Observer reported
on the proposed changes to Dallas scooter operations that were passed in March. The changes were meant to address safety issues about the "dockless mobility program" that brought about 12,000 scooters to Dallas streets. The changes made included curfews in Deep Ellum and downtown, as well as increases to permit and trip fees.
Since the program was put in place, there have been hundreds of visits to the emergency room because of injuries sustained by riders and numerous complaints of blocked sidewalks.
Ojo and Uber did not respond to requests for comment.
The transportation department and DPD will be meeting with residents, business owners and vendors in the coming weeks to discuss solutions.