A larger platform with a foot grip gives riders more stability and confidence during rides.
A bid from Blue Duck Scooters was not accepted by the City of San Antonio. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Local e-scooter operator Blue Duck Scooters is weighing its options in light of its rejected bid for one of three City contracts to provide scooter-share services in San Antonio beyond September.

A bid from the company, founded by father and son Paul and Eric Bell, was not accepted after the submission was timestamped at 11:01 a.m. on July 22, one minute after the deadline for the public bid. Blue Duck claims it submitted its proposal at exactly 11 a.m. and that it was only timestamped after the deadline because of the City’s clerical process.

In his response to the company’s protest, San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said accepting a late proposal would be unfair to the nine applicants that turned theirs in on time and that there were no extenuating circumstances that caused the tardy submission. Eric Bell threatened to move his San Antonio-based company in light of the decision.

The Rivard Report obtained a letter penned Friday by Blue Duck’s attorneys that called the City’s response inadequate.

“Blue Duck is currently assessing its options for additional review of the City’s actions in connection with the [City bid],” the letter stated, adding that the City should keep any materials related to Blue Duck’s proposal, the City bid, and Blue Duck’s formal protest as the company considers its next steps.

The letter further charged that the City did not acknowledge Blue Duck’s claim that it delivered its proposal on time. In its response, the City offered no case law or language of any requirement in the public bid that a proposal must be timestamped in order to be considered received, according to the letter.

“This response is inadequate and confirms the City’s resolution of the protest was arbitrary and capricious,” the letter stated.

Setting up shop with a few dozen rentable e-scooters in the summer of 2018, Blue Duck began its existence just months before the scooter craze took hold in San Antonio’s center city.

Eric Bell, CEO of Blue Duck Scooters

It has achieved far less to date than the lofty ambitions its CEO Eric Bell has stated in the local press, with only three active markets: San Antonio, Laredo, and Corpus Christi.

The company’s failure to meet the City’s submission deadline topped off a series of unsuccessful endeavors – from its aim to establish itself as a presence in college markets to growing beyond state lines. The company was kicked out of Pensacola, Florida earlier this year after failing to secure the requisite business permits. Modified local regulations may open the door again for Blue Duck in that city.

Since missing the cut for a City contract, a number of news reports have roiled the company. Infighting, a complicated power dynamic, and a lack of business strategy have led to Blue Duck’s struggles, according to the reports. High-profile resignations have followed, including former vice president and chief marketing officer Elizabeth Lyons Houston, whose family was an early investor in Blue Duck.

Blue Duck may have to remove its scooters from San Antonio streets after Sept. 30, when the City’s pilot program for rentable e-scooters is set to end. But City sources state the pilot is likely to be extended pending an expected October vote by the City Council awarding the three scooter-share contracts.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.