Invasion of the of the electric scooter? This Tarrant County city might bring them in

Motorized scooters have been showing up in cities across the country, but Fort Worth does not allow them or dockless bikes.
Motorized scooters have been showing up in cities across the country, but Fort Worth does not allow them or dockless bikes. AP

Electric scooters have been the craze in Dallas and Austin over the last year and now another North Texas community is thinking about allowing them on some city streets and sidewalks.

A formal resolution hasn’t yet been brought to the Arlington City Council but the city has a framework for starting a pilot program that would allow dockless bikes and electric scooters around downtown Arlington and the University of Texas at Arlington campus.

City Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon said city staff is still discussing parameters with UTA about what a pilot program would look like. Once those discussions are complete, they will likely bring back a proposal to the City Council.

“Hopefully, we will move forward with some sort of resolution,” Wilemon said.

Mayor Jeff Williams said it’s too early to say whether the proposal will go forward.

UTA already has a bike share program that it would like to see expand to other parts of the city, said Meghna Tare, UTA’s chief sustainability officer.

“We are also exploring (not decided) whether to offer the electric scooters and if the City passes that resolution it will be good and help us with our decision,” Tare said via email.

Arlington doesn’t have to look far to get some answers on scooters.

A year ago, the City of Dallas had an estimated 23,000 dockless bikes clogging up sidewalks and city streets.

Now, the landscape has dramatically changed with 7,500 electric scooters and 3,000 dockless bikes permitted by the city.

The electric scooters have proved to be a hit. The number of riders during the first three months they were on city streets exceeded those of dockless bikes over a 12-month period, said Jared White, bicycle transportation manager for the City of Dallas.

“Generally, it has been good,” White said. ‘We haven’t seen near the issues with clutter. They work best in denser part of the cities. We’re really not seeing the issue of them getting too far from the center of the city.”

Arlington has talked about limiting them to the city center with the boundaries being Division Street on the north, Collins Street on the east, Park Row Drive on the south and Davis Drive/Fielder Drive on the west.

In Austin, the city has halted new licenses after issuing more than 17,650 permits. At the same, sit-down scooters have arrived with OjO bringing them into the city, according to the Daily Texan. Dallas has also received an application to bring them into its city.

Concerns remain about the safety of the bikes.

Last weekend, Austin reported its first scooter death as one rider collided with an Uber vehicle near Sixth Street, according to the Austin American Statesman.

Last month, Little Rock announced it wouldn’t renew its electric scooter agreement due to complaints about underage operators and a lack of safety measures, according to television station KATV.

Dallas, where there has also been one scooter death, is trying to study the extent of the injuries.

Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, which sits on the edge of the Deep Ellum neighborhood just east of downtown Dallas, tracked the number of e-scooter related injuries coming into the Emergency Department.

From July 2018 to January 2019, Baylor reported 88 e-scooter visits with 23 requiring hospital admissions. Those injuries included eight admissions to the intensive care unit, including one death.

More than half of the injuries — 57 percent — occurred after 7 p.m. Of those who were hurt, 58 percent had extremity injuries, 43 percent had facial injuries and 35 percent had brain injuries.

Total hospital costs of e-scooter injuries reached $1.4 million while uninsured trauma costs totaled $491,000.

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Bill Hanna is an award-winning reporter who has covered just about every beat at the Star-Telegram. He currently covers Arlington but also writes about a variety of subjects including weather, wildlife, traffic and health.