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Days after San Antonio City Council updated its scooter regulations, another major operator is set to launch.
Following close behind rival ride-hailing company Uber, Lyft will release its dockless electric scooters on Wednesday. The company is permitted to operate as many as 2,000 scooters in the city. Lyft applied last month for a permit to participate in the City of San Antonio’s six-month pilot program to test regulations for the nascent dockless vehicle industry – just before the City shut the door on new applicants.
The City is now up to 16,100 permitted dockless vehicles – 14,100 scooters and 2,000 e-bikes – and seven authorized operators: Bird, Lime, Razor, Blue Duck Scooters, Uber-owned Jump, Lyft, and Spin. San Francisco-based Spin has a permit for 500 scooters but has yet to announce a launch date.
Lyft will hold a press conference Wednesday to kick off its San Antonio scooter operations and unveil scooter docking stations. In a January interview with TechCrunch, Lyft officials said riders would not be required to dock the scooters after use.
Lyft declined a request for comment Friday.
The City has installed several dockless vehicle parking zones in the urban core. It recommends, but does not mandate, users park their scooters at the end of their ride in one of the chalk-outlined designated areas on the sidewalk, but only a handful of zones have been created in high-traffic areas in downtown San Antonio. In areas where the sidewalk is too narrow to accommodate sidewalk parking zones, City staff plans to create several so-called parking corrals for e-scooters and e-bikes – located on the street in place of on-street parking spots.
Bird notoriously kicked off scooter operations in the city last June when it released several hundred scooters downtown without informing the City and continues to be one of two operators with the largest local presence. The Santa Monica-headquartered scooter giant is authorized for 4,500 scooters in San Antonio while Lime holds a permit to operate as many as 4,000 scooters.
Unlike Bird, Lyft has been in communication with the municipal department overseeing the dockless pilot program, said Kelly Kapaun Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Center City Development & Operations Department. The company also reached out to community stakeholders such as Bike San Antonio, said Janel Sterbentz, the organization’s executive director.
Sterbentz said Lyft has made financial contributions to BikeSA as it looks to support that organization’s efforts to realize the Broadway protective bike lane project. Invited to Lyft’s press conference on Wednesday, BikeSA will speak about creating a safer environment for all road and sidewalk users.
“There has been an increase in crashes with the increase in scooter usage, and pedestrians don’t feel comfortable on the sidewalk with the scooters,” Sterbentz said. “We’re advocating for making the streets safer for everybody.”
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said the company has been “very proactive” in working with the City to avoid contributing to the increasing complaints of sidewalk clutter. More than two-thirds of respondents in a recently disseminated City survey said parked e-scooters often block their way, and more than 80 percent have said they look cluttered in some areas, according to a City presentation at a Thursday Council meeting. Parking enforcement employees and Centro San Antonio workers have corrected about 20,500 improperly parked vehicles. The number of 311 complaints made regarding dockless vehicle violations exceeds 1,300, according to the City.
“They’ve been very cooperative and want to be a community partner, and they even talked about how they want to help address some of our serious concerns,” Treviño said. Lyft’s proposed scooter docking stations are “very much in line with what we are trying to do to make sure we are making room for these kinds of technologies while not creating a burden or problem for our existing infrastructure.”