If anyone wants to see the disaster dockless scooter and bike programs might look like on the streets of Galveston need only to walk the streets Austin.
Maybe step over, around, or across the colorful units is a better term than “walk” in this case.
By design, the mobile units litter the walkways like last Christmas’s favorite toy on a clearance rack. The vendors want you to see them everywhere.
Six months ago, the Galveston City Council decided to ban dockless scooter systems on the island. And that decision is proving to be a good one for residents and tourists.
We hope, should the council be tempted to revisit that decision, the members first take a fact-finding road trip to Austin.
Scooters are a useful transportation unit. But what this new mobility movement is about is a race to establish a footprint and beachhead in the mobile transportation field.
Most are highly funded with venture capital and losing money hand over fist in an attempt to gain market share. That’s why, when you walk or at least try to walk, the streets of downtown Austin, you see so many different colored scooters mixed together.
Mobile scooters are easily accessed via a smartphone and are incredibly convenient. You bend over, pick one up, log on, and take off. When you get where you are going, you simply set it down and walk away.
And most are equipped with lights, both front and back and built to withstand elements and abuse. These are not toys and designed for use and abuse.
But with the undocked scooters come riders zipping in and out of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Imagine scooters zipping along or laying on the ground along The Strand, and you can imagine the challenge the old-fashioned pedestrian might face.
And on a congested weekend along the seawall, people stepping over or around them would face equal difficulty.
As for local shops renting scooters, at least there is an element of accountability for both the units and users. A local businessperson must invest in the community, put their name and reputation into the public, and answer to either the city or residents.
Local accountability is good. And with the local investment comes the relatively modest activity — not a truck arriving from California and dropping them around town on every street corner available.
Galveston is changing. Tourism is growing and visitors, as well as residents, are exploring new ways to get around. From golf carts to scooters, bikes to foot traffic, our community must make decisions with a calculation of the effect on daily life.
But before anyone on the Galveston City Council considers voting to approve undocked scooters or bikes, we implore them to take a drive up the road to Austin and walk the South Congress area. And we recommend they step lightly.
• Leonard Woolsey