Electronic scooters could soon be banned from Houston sidewalks

The city of Houston is voting on whether to keep motorized scooters off sidewalks or not

Houston, TEXAS – Supporters say a big reason for this proposed ordinance is the safety of pedestrians and pets.

But some business owners say it’s just not fair.

The owner of Glyderz Houston, Juan Valentine, says his business is booming.

He has a brick-and-mortar location downtown but also does pop-up rentals.

He says this proposed scooter ordinance would cause him huge losses.

“They brought up a lot of things, pedestrians could get hit, dogs can get run over, well what’s the difference with your bikes? Their bikes are heavier than the scooters. I feel that they are threatened that we are taking all their business,” said Valentine.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit displays of motorized scooters on sidewalks or rights of way for rental purposes. It would also prohibit motorized scooters on sidewalks in Downtown and in other business districts.

Nicholas Pham, the owner of Scoots Midtown, opened up his brick-and-mortar location last March. He plans to add a coffee shop soon.

He is in favor of the proposed ban.

“I think it’s a great new ordinance because it stops people from just buying a couple of scooters and opening up a business on the side of the road. It’s entrepreneurial, but they don’t really know how to keep customers safe,” Pham said.

And that’s what Houston City Council member David Robinson says is a big focus of the proposal, keeping people safe.

“We’re really not trying to outlaw scooters, we’re trying to protect the public right of way. We are trying to adapt so that if there is shared use of the roadway and this public right of way, that we’re doing it in a way that doesn’t endanger the riders,” Robinson said.

“We don’t want scooters on the sidewalks, just as we don’t encourage people to ride bikes on the sidewalks. There’s a huge appetite in Houston to be able to get out on two wheels, whether it on a bike or a scooter,” says Joe Cutrufo, Executive Director with Bike Houston.

The plan is set to go before the city council for a vote on Wednesday, March 24 at 9 a.m.

Frequently asked Questions

Question 1. What is being changed?

A: The Chapter 26 amendment specifically prohibits the commercial display and rentals of motor-assisted scooters in the public right-of-way. The amendments will also prohibit the display of motor-assisted scooters on the sidewalk for rental purposes and prohibit the riding of scooters on sidewalks in downtown and other business districts. This means that parking in a legal public parking space for the purpose of renting scooters is prohibited.

A. The Chapter 40 amendment clarifies that it is unlawful for anyone to block any part of the sidewalk.

A. The Chapter 45 amendment prohibits the riding of scooters on sidewalks in a business district.

Question 2. Is the city banning motor-assisted scooters?

A. No. The public right-of-way is for pedestrian and vehicle traffic and essential services such as utilities. These ordinances will require private business owners to operate from private property like any other business.

Question 3. Why can’t I ride my motor-assisted scooter on the sidewalk?

A. In the interest of public safety, the City of Houston Code of Ordinances already prohibits the riding of bicycles on the sidewalk in a business district. This amendment would do nothing more than add scooters to that prohibition. This ensures the sidewalks in congested areas, such as downtown, are safe for pedestrians and pets as we have already seen injuries to both occur.

Question 4. Can I park my personal scooter on the sidewalk?

A. We strongly recommend that personal scooters be locked to a bike rack in the same fashion that personal bicycles are secured.

Question 5. Why are these amendments necessary?

A. The public right-of-way is for the public use of pedestrians, public vehicular traffic, and utilities. Private businesses should be operating on private property.

Question 6. What about the Farmer’s Market? Those vendors park in public spaces all the time. Why are they allowed to use sidewalks?

A. City-sponsored special events, city permits or contracts are exceptions for these provisions as these items include specific requirements for participation including minimum insurance requirements, staffing requirements, indemnity, etc.

Question 7. Where can I ride my motor-assisted scooter?

A. Motor-assisted scooters can ride on the public right-of-way unless prohibited. Prohibited areas include the sidewalks in a business district and some hike/bike trails.

Question 8. What is the penalty for violation of these ordinances?

A. Three violations under the proposed amendments will be class C Misdemeanors, meaning they are criminal violations and the fourth violation will be civil (parking fine). Companies operating motor-assisted scooter rental businesses in the right-of-way are subject to criminal citation for violation of these ordinances and the City is authorized to remove and impound any scooters that are displayed on the public right-of-way for rental purposes. Companies parking a vehicle in a public parking space for the principal purpose of rental of services or goods are subject to a parking citation. Personal riders are subject to citations for violating the prohibition of riding motor-assisted scooters on sidewalks.