Alamo Heights City Council. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Alamo Heights has become the latest area city to establish rules for dockless electric scooters and bicycles.

The City Council on Monday unanimously passed an ordinance setting the total number of permitted scooters at 75, regardless of how many carriers operate in the city.

Scooter companies Lime, Bird, and Razor have been known to either release vehicles in Alamo Heights or rent to riders who bring the vehicles into the enclave city. Seven companies have permits to operate in San Antonio, with six of them currently deploying vehicles.

The Alamo Heights ordinance does not limit the number of companies that can deploy vehicles inside city limits. The new regulation also carries a $500 permit fee, renewable every year, for each operating company. The carrier also must pay $10 per permitted vehicle.

The City is requiring each carrier to provide contact information of a fleet manager who can respond to local concerns.

Operating companies will be required to extend worker’s compensation coverage to subcontractors, such as individuals who pick up scooters and bikes and recharge them at their residence.

Additionally, the ordinance will allow Alamo Heights to determine where it’s best to deploy and park vehicles and how much time companies should be given to collect improperly parked vehicles.

The Council plans to review the issue in May, along with data from carriers operating in Alamo Heights.

Mayor Bobby Rosenthal said the City had to start addressing an increasing number of complaints from residents.

“We’ve got people who want minimal regulation and we’ve got people want to ban [scooters]. My personal opinion is that this is a good first step for us,” Rosenthal said, adding it was important for the City to immediately establish insurance and indemnification requirements with the carriers.

Police Chief Rick Pruitt said Alamo Heights patterned its ordinance after the basic regulations San Antonio has enacted for e-scooters and e-bikes. Neighboring Olmos Park, too, has adopted basic rules for scooter carriers and riders.

“The ordinance is doing exactly what the community wants us to do,” Pruitt said. “It’s not intending to deprive the community of transportation options but addresses community and public safety concerns.”

Some Council and audience members at Monday’s meeting shared questions they or their neighbors have had about e-scooters.

While calling the initial set of regulations helpful, Mallory Geis, who oversees business operations at Geis Properties on Broadway near Hildebrand Avenue, asked whom property owners can contact if they see scooters improperly parked in their immediate area. Councilwoman Lynda Billa Burke echoed the same question.

Joe Deshotel, government relations and community affairs manager for Lime, replied police and residents are encouraged to promptly contact the company about improperly parked vehicles. Deshotel said because e-scooters are an emerging technology, the company and each city should work together to arrive at reasonable regulations.

“We do want to see an ordinance in place with a very clear role where we work with the city – where there’s rules and we stick to those rules,” he added.

Deshotel and Brandon Martini, operations manager for Razor, pledged to the Council that their companies will try to provide the City with user data. That information will help local officials determine whether the 75-vehicle limit meets the demand for e-scooters and e-bikes in Alamo Heights.

Former Councilman Bill Kiel echoed Deshotel’s sentiment that the City and the scooter companies face a learning curve.

“The compan[ies are] trying to figure out what’s happening,” Kiel said. “It’s a learning experience for them, and it’s a learning experience for the City.”

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.