'Scooter Wars' heat up as LimeBike comes to Austin

Tollie Bernard works downtown.  He and his friends were on their way to lunch Monday when they saw a group of bright green electric-assist scooters they're called “Lime-S” from the dockless transportation company “LimeBike.”

“I think it's fantastic.  It's another way to get around town, it's more fun...even than biking I think.  I think it would take off,” Bernard said.  

City Council recently authorized the creation of a "dockless mobility" pilot program.  The City of Austin Transportation Department said in a memo on Monday the goal was to meet with stakeholders and dockless transportation companies to craft the pilot.  ATD Director Robert Spillar wrote "one company launched in Austin April 5, disrupting the process and anticipated timeline; the company is operating outside city parameters and their actions have increased pressures from other companies wishing to do the same."

He's talking about Bird scooters.  

And one of the companies wishing to do the same and level the playing field is LimeBike.  

LimeBike also sent a letter to the Mayor and Council Monday pointing out they have been meeting with city officials about the pilot and working in good faith.

Referring to the impounding and release of Bird scooters, LimeBike says "it now is apparent that our competitor will be allowed to operate without any significant repercussions.  As such, on Monday April 16, LimeBike will begin piloting a fleet of our Lime-S electric-assist scooters in Austin."

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan is Vice-Chair of the city's mobility committee.  He says they'll be receiving a briefing from Austin Transportation at Tuesday's meeting.

“What we found was the pilot program lacked some of the legal teeth we needed in order to enforce the right of way provisions or other elements so an ordinance will be on the agenda next week to button up those little legal loopholes.  Then we'll be able to enforce Class C misdemeanors and other fines based on their behavior,” Flannigan said.

Flannigan says council is expected to take action on that ordinance during next week's council meeting.  Even though Flannigan wasn't yet on council when the Uber-Lyft fiasco went down, we asked him if the scooter situation sounded familiar.

“The industry moves faster than government's ability to accommodate it.  And that is the conflict that is not very unusual.  We're going to get this one figured out, I don't think it is an Uber and Lyft situation, I think Uber and Lyft is an Uber and Lyft situation,” Flannigan said.

Austin Transportation says they don't want thousands of these vehicles “swamping Austin streets” so that's why they're are working on these recommendations for council.
Some of the things they’re proposing -- a 6-month term for dockless mobility permits starting May 1.  A $30 permit for each device and an initial 500-vehicle limit per operator license.