Yesterday, we joined with AURA, Bike Austin, CNU Central Texas, Vision Zero ATX, Walk Austin, and TexPIRG to send the following letter to the Austin City Council urging the city to increase protected bike/scooter lanes to meet the high demand, and decrease conflicts between street users.
Mayor and Council,
We are pleased to praise your efforts and those of the Austin Transportation Department to manage the introduction of dockless vehicles to Austin's transportation landscape. A recent survey by Populus found a 76% approval rating for scooters in Austin, the second-highest rating of any of the surveyed cities. More than 128,000 rides were taken using dockless vehicles in July, the equivalent of adding a brand-new top ten bus route to the Capital Metro system. This popularity and ridership success is a testament to your approach and the nimbleness with which Austin has adapted our rules to new events and new experiences. As time passes by and even more information is gathered, we have confidence that these vehicles can provide even greater benefits to the city.
Small, electric-powered, emissions-free vehicles such as e-bikes and scooters are part of Austin's path forward to a more climate-friendly transportation system and can dramatically extend the range where car-free trips are an attractive and realistic option. In light of the IPCC's recent special report Global Warming of 1.5°C on the dire need and difficult path forward to achieving the climate goals agreed to at the Paris convention, the time for solutions like this is now.
We are aware that the introduction of these vehicles has also introduced new challenges in Right of Way management, including blocked sidewalks as well as challenges in navigating the interaction between dockless users and other users of the streets and sidewalks. We are heartened at the efforts that ATD has taken to address these problems but more must be done, especially in the realm of adopting safer street designs. We urge you to:
1) Encourage the Transportation Department to focus their resources on increasing protected bike/scooter lanes to meet the high demand, and decrease conflicts between street users.
2) Empower the transportation department to add another tool to their toolbox: the power to make innovative, low-cost interventions in street design to improve safety and comfort for all. Examples of these kinds of street interventions could include new, low-cost protected bike lanes, on-street parking boxes, parklets with room for scooter parking and more.
Thank you for your continued efforts,
CNU Central Texas
Vision Zero ATX