GALVESTON

Island leaders are holding firm to their decision to tap the brakes on bike and scooter rentals, despite interest from more companies to enter the market.

Galveston, which attracts 7.2 million visitors a year, has room for more such rental services, said Adrian Baro, a representative for GoX App.

The scooter rental company, which operates in San Francisco and Houston, officially launched in Galveston about two weeks ago, Baro said.

Baro sees demand among island visitors who want options other than their cars to tour the city, Baro said.

“What I’ve been hearing from customers is they want to be able to rent them on the street,” Baro said. “There are ways to work with the community.”

But city leaders aren’t likely to soften their position that strict rules around rentals are better for the island, District 3 Councilman David Collins said.

Galveston last year voted to ban all dockless rental systems on the island, a position from which city leaders haven’t wavered.

The move was an attempt to preempt challenges other cities such as Austin have faced with dockless systems, such as scooters and bikes left in public right of ways and on public property and traffic accidents.

City ordinance requires scooters and bikes to be rented from a brick-and-mortar site and returned to that same site, according to city rules.

“We like it in the stores,” Collins said. “Docked systems are better than dockless. We are adamantly opposed to dockless systems.”

Other forms of transportation rentals, such as electric bikes or golf carts, have come under scrutiny from city officials worried about safety of riders, pedestrians and drivers.

GoX App partners with already established island rental shops to rent the scooters out of the store, Baro said.

In other cities, the scooters are dockless, he said.

While that’s not allowed in Galveston, he’d love to see a move toward docked systems, Baro said. People could rent and return a scooter to a dock placed on private property — such as a hotel or bike rental parking lot — with an app that doesn’t require interaction with an employee, he said.

That’s something the city council might be interested in discussing, but it doesn’t want scooters or bikes left in public streets or sidewalks, District 2 Councilman Craig Brown said.

“That’s the way they want to keep it,” Brown said.

GoX and Crab Scooters, 714 25th St., are working on a partnership, Crab Scooters owner Ryan O’Neal said.

Crab Scooters opened earlier this year and both sells and rents out scooters. Scooters help reduce traffic caused by tourists, but shouldn’t be left on city streets, like in dockless systems, O’Neal said.

The city has had to confiscate six GoX scooters that were left in public rights of way around the city, city spokeswoman Adri Richey said. Those scooters are still in city possession, she said.

Baro probably won’t pay to get the scooters back because the cost to recover them is more than the cost of a scooter, Baro said. He didn’t leave the scooters in city rights of way, but in the parking lot of one of his partner bicycle shops, he said.

More companies are likely to make a stab at island rentals, but all the options can cause safety issues, said Mike Babiak, a manager at Elite Surf & Bike Rentals, 4120 Seawall Blvd.

“It’s really just causing a lot of accidents,” Babiak said.

Regardless of the rules the city develops, there will likely be new devices at some point in the future that the city will have to control or adapt to, Collins said.

“We haven’t seen the end of this yet,” Collins said.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(9) comments

Steve Fouga

"Scooters help reduce traffic caused by tourists..." O’Neal said.

No, scooters BECOME traffic caused by tourists. Watch: Four tourists bring a car to Galveston, where they are part of street traffic coming and going. While they're here, they rent four scooters rather than walking, becoming four new pieces of traffic, on streets and sidewalks. That's more, not less.

Not a big fan of the scooter... [thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown][thumbdown]

Jim Casey

The city is doing the scooter vendors a favor. I think dockless scooters would tend to disappear and end up in the bay or trashed.

Lawrence Kagan

You are absolutely correct!!

James Lippert

Government should refrain from making such decisions regarding private business. Historically government never gets it right, if at all, and such govt regulations will always lag market demand. Allow the Free Market to do its job!

Gary Miller

James! When a private company ignores citizens health and safety government must intervien. You are correct that government has a poor record of "getting it right". Corporate greed has a worse record.

Lawrence Kagan

I Austin, scooters are a nightmare. The scooter riders come out of no where at intersections and cut in front of cars. Very dangerous!!

Wayne Holt

I already see electric skateboards (privately owned) being run down the wrong side of the road squarely in the middle of the oncoming lane...at night. I do not see electric bike riders or golf cart drivers doing this.

The informality of scooters encourages a sense that they can be run over, under, sideways and down and it's someone else's problem to spot them in time to keep from going right over them. Kudos to council members Brown and Collins for stating it unequivocally as far as the dockless systems but whether undocked or left at businesses, council will likely have to do more to enforce some semblance of order on the streets as these become more numerous.

Council's recent revision of bicycle rules was a good start in a measured approach to shared responsibility for safety. As someone who drives an SUV and rides an electric bike, I believe that requiring those using non-traditional modes of transportation to be equally responsible for safety is not asking too much. Now let's see GPD out there ticketing those who think the rules don't apply to them.

Ron Shelby

These scooters have been a "nightmare" in Atlanta,...especially around the GSU downtown campus. People don't know how to ride these in a safe manner. They don't interact well with traffic. Noone wears helmets. Injuries are numerous and significant. The city is still trying to get a handle on the total impact they are creating on Grady and other surrounding hospitals. Outside of safety concerns, they litter sidewalks and street curbs everywhere (though now reduced after some regulation) and cause significant problems for bikers and those in wheel chairs and other modes of transportation.

Ron Shelby

In creating regulations for scooters, the City of Atlanta developed a licensing plan for each scooter company which limited the number of scooters they could place on the city's streets, and charged a high annual fee. This significantly reduced the number of scooters left in "right of way" areas.

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