BELTON — The Belton City Council is discussing alternative methods for zipping around town, and E-scooters are at the forefront of the conversation.
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Bates opened the discussion about the “micromobility” alternative during Tuesday’s City Council meeting after representatives from Bird Co. — a California-based E-scooter company — first expressed interest about coming to Belton in November.
These scooters require riders to download a phone application, where they can “unlock” a scooter after uploading a photo of their driver’s license and their payment information. Rides are typically charged by duration.
“In this business model, electric scooters are being introduced into smaller communities, rather than the traditional and existing model of fleets in larger cities,” Bates said. “Conversations began with a desire from Bird Co. to have the city search for a fleet manager to bring scooters to the community.”
However, Bates noted that Belton preferred the private sector to explore E-scooter interest within the community.
“They did just that ... and have since told us that they have located a fleet manager,” Bates said. “That fleet manager is an individual person who would be responsible for the repair, charging them and placement of the scooters.”
Although Bird Co. has thousands of scooters in major cities like Austin, the micromobility company aims to bring just 50 scooters to Belton — a model Bates said is similar to the one established in Waco.
“Waco has a very similar model … in their downtown zone,” he said. “They brought 50 scooters in and geo-fenced an area so you couldn’t (ride) past certain areas.”
Bates said benefits of E-scooters — which are permitted on roadways where speed limits are 35 mph or less per Texas Transportation Code 551.352 — include reducing the number of cars on the road, expanding transit options for residents and connecting riders to local businesses.
However, the parks and recreation director also highlighted some issues that could arise if E-scooters are brought into Belton.
“It’s much safer than we think, but it does raise the injury rate in your community with people riding scooters that haven’t ridden them since they were a child,” Bates said. “There’s also the issue of people riding these scooters where they shouldn’t be riding them like sidewalks … and in a community like Belton you’re going to be sitting there with drivers who are not familiar with people on scooters.”
But Belton Mayor pro tem Dan Kirkley, among others, sees a benefit to the E-scooters.
“We talked about how you can’t go as fast (on an E-scooter) as you can on a bicycle … and i think these would help really old nice people who can’t peddle bicycles to go places,” he said.
Councilman Daniel Bucher also was open to the idea of bringing the micromobility service to Belton, adding that designated E-scooter parking could be arranged.
“Being young and living for the thrill of it, I love the scooters,” Bucher said. “If we did this, we could create … ‘green zone’ scooter parking or something along those lines.”
Bates’ office will bring the concerns and suggestions addressed during the City Council meeting to Bird Co., as he said they are willing to collaborate with Belton.
“We can explain where we stand on some of these issues … and begin facilitation on how to proceed,” he said. “These things are becoming more common and whether it happens now with an E-scooter or not, I just think this is something good for us to be proactively talking about.”