If 2017 was the year of the bike here in Dallas, then 2018 might just be the year of the scooter. These two-wheeled, motor-assisted machines are a big step-up from the contraptions you loved as a kid, and they’ve quickly established a strong presence throughout the city.
We’re officially a few months into the scooter craze, so it’s time to recap everything we know about where they came from — and whether they’re sticking around.
Electric Scooters Come to Dallas
The buzz about electric scooters began as early as last year, but the ball didn’t start rolling until the Dallas City Council approved a motor-assisted scooter ordinance in late June.
This ordinance allows for scooters on city-owned properties, such as public thoroughfares (paths, trails, roads, etc.), but requires scooter companies to first apply for a permit and pay the city a per-scooter fee.
With the ordinance passed, electric scooter startup Bird swooped in, unveiling a 150-scooter fleet only days later in both Downtown and Uptown.
These scooters are similar to the rental bikes that have become a familiar sight to Dallasites over the past year. The scooters are dockless and unlockable only with the use of a mobile app. The pricing model includes a $1 base fee plus 15 cents for every minute spent scooting.
Not to be outdone, LimeBike — one of several companies currently operating a bike-share program in Dallas — soon unveiled its own fleet of 250 scooters. Both companies are expected to ramp up to 500 scooters each, giving riders 1,000 options to choose from.
They may resemble toys, but these electric scooters are not for children. Riders must be 18 years or older, have a valid driver’s license and agree to safety protocols specified within the app.
Concerns About Scooter Use and Safety
In addition to the other stipulations laid out by the City Council, Dallas now requires both companies to collect excess or strewn-about scooters in a timely fashion once a complaint has been lodged.
Litter became a big point of contention for residents when the city’s bike-share initiative was first unveiled, as streets and sidewalks quickly became cluttered or blocked entirely due to the proliferation of vehicles. As with those dockless bicycles, each scooter comes equipped a built-in GPS tracker, allowing companies to pinpoint their location.
However, a concern specific to electric scooters has been their speed. Unlike rental bikes, these motor-assisted machines can reach speeds of up to 15 miles-per-hour.
In early July, a woman landed in the ER after crashing headfirst into the trolley tracks on McKinney Avenue while riding an electric scooter. She suffered scrapes and bruises, two black eyes and a cut that required stitches. A month later, the Dallas Police Department emphasized that the scooters had earned a fairly impressive safety record up to that point, with only four accidents recorded since May.
However, a month after that announcement, a 24-year-old man was fatally injured while riding one of LimeBike’s electric scooters in Old East Dallas. An investigation is still ongoing as to the cause of the accident, and there is no word yet on how the fatality will affect scooter operations in the city.
What the Future Holds
When the City Council voted in favor of electric scooters, they did so on a six-month, trial basis. Once the companies’ permits expire, city authorities will reevaluate the program. Safety will be a major focus of this assessment, as will the scooters’ overall effectiveness as a mode of transportation. Once this study has been completed, the city will decide to renew or end its partnerships with Bird and Limebike.
There has also been talk of tackling the problem of sidewalk riders in the future, as they pose a risk to pedestrians. Currently, electric scooters (and rental bikes) are prohibited on sidewalks by city code in Deep Ellum, Downtown and the Cedars/Southside neighborhood. Dallas Police do not currently have the resources to issue citations, but parking authorities could be allowed to ticket violators in the future.