In 2018 at the onset of electric scooters in Dallas, this new transportation option was advertised as a boon for commuters and residents alike with little if no mention of safety concerns.
Fast-forward to today and the trendy vehicles are becoming a safety risk and potential source for personal injuries. According to city officials, scooter companies have not been disabling them late at night when their use is banned. That has led to a recent explosion of complaints about groups of people joyriding late at night and menacing downtown business owners and residents alike. Another problem with the scooter companies’ negligence – joy riders discarding scooters in piles on the pavement.
Since COVID-19 has closed many downtown businesses, city officials said that before the pandemic, scooters were used mostly for commuting but that peak use now is between 8 p.m. and midnight — mostly for entertainment purposes.
It is these safety concerns and the possibility of bodily harm to the joy riders and others alike that the city’s transportation department decided to halt the scooter program temporarily so it can work on tightening the rules. As of right now, scooter operators must remove the approximately 5,000 vehicles that are currently out on the Dallas streets.
The city’s ordinance, tweaked in March of this year, allows scooters to operate until 9 p.m. in Deep Ellum and until midnight everywhere else. Other regulations include a 20 mph speed limit. The council lifted a ban on motorized scooters in June 2018 to encourage alternative transportation.
Police report that criminals sometimes use the scooters after hours as a quick getaway, while large groups of young people are motoring around the city to get better views of illegal street races late at night.
Reports have detailed the misuse of scooters. They are no longer being used mostly for transportation to the bus station or a bar as intended – but rather have become a form of entertainment. From a public safety standpoint, they have become a problem.”
Unfortunately, the scooters come with a risk of injury and have also been used in connection with crimes such as purse snatchings. Personal injuries resulting from the scooters and public safety concerns with their misuse are the main reasons the city council has paused their availability. A Parkland Memorial Hospital spokeswoman said 68 people were treated in the ER over the past year for scooter injuries.
The city council hopes that their temporary ban gives the city a “second chance” to do a better job of regulating scooters. Five companies have permits to operate scooters in Dallas: Lime, Wheels, Gotcha, Bird and OjO. The city told the scooter companies about the late-night violations and they vowed to fix it – however that did not happen.
In some cases, up to 40 scooters have been discarded in streets and on sidewalks. A similar situation doomed the city’s bike-share program, which preceded the scooters but fizzled out in 2018. At the program’s peak, as many as 20,000 bicycles once rolled through the city.
City officials will meet with the scooter vendors and community leaders and come up with recommendations to make the scooters as safe as possible to all, he said. That includes adding corrals where people can leave the scooters.