Huntsville considering e-scooter program

CNHI File PhotoThe Huntsville City Council is currently considering a six-month pilot program to provide electric scooters like the one pictured throughout the city.

Electric scooters have been the craze in various cities across Texas over the last few years and now another Texas community is thinking about allowing them.

Two companies have applied for city permission to deploy 100 e-scooters each along city streets under a pilot program that is currently being considered by the Huntsville City Council.

Of the two companies, one is a familiar name in Huntsville, with local residents Brad and Amy Warner a part of the proposed pilot program, after purchasing a franchise in Ride GOAT.

Scooter rentals will be handled through a smartphone app.

“My wife and I approached the city about introducing scooters … we feel that this is an affordable way for citizens to move around the city and also help with parking concerns,” Warner told the council.

Citing safety concerns, some local governments across Texas have imposed restrictions on electric scooters, like creating restricted areas where they can't be used. A bill to ban their usage along sidewalks was passed by the Texas Senate during the 2019 Legislature, but did not make it out of the Texas House.

The scooters are popular among riders who want a cheap and convenient way to get around. People pay a small fee to grab a scooter and go, and they can park it in predetermined drop off areas once they’re done. But many urban Texans have complained that riders endanger pedestrians and leave the machines in places that block paths.

The proposed pilot program in Huntsville will ban e-scooter usage on sidewalks and public right-of ways. Riders — who must be at least 16 years old — will also not be able to operate until 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after the sunset. The program also bans all dockless shareable mobility devices. The program allows for the use of bicycles, electric bicycles and scooters

Companies must pay the city a $200 application fee, plus $5 for each device. Officials say the pilot would run for 180 days, to coincide with the end of the fall semester at Sam Houston State University.

City officials also noted that SHSU will prohibit the devices on campus.

“I don’t know of anything controversial with having these scooters in town,” said John Smither, who serves as the vice president for the Downtown Business Alliance. “I see this as an instrument of tourism, and I think the downtown businesses will see this as an opportunity to draw more business.”

“We feel like we are in the second wave of restoration in the downtown cultural district, and we are relying on students and youth tourism. Brad and Amy's service aligns with the comprehensive plans and will address the accessibility of transportation.”