New Braunfels police on Wednesday issued a 90-day ban on commercial electric scooters in the city and will cite anyone caught using one with a Class C misdemeanor, city officials announced.
The temporary order was issued by Assistant Chief of Police Joe Vargas in an effort to address the scooter issue through "proper channels of city government," according to a statement from David Ferguson, the communications coordinator for the City of New Braunfels.
"We understand it's a national trend, but the reason behind this is getting something down on the books from city council and figuring out what the city wants to do about [the scooter companies] should they locate here," Ferguson told mySA.com.
The ban applies to the commercial use of "electric motorized scooters on public streets, sidewalks and rights-of-way inside the incorporated city limits."
"Under the temporary order, officers with the New Braunfels Police Department will be able to cite those using motorized scooters if they were acquired through a commercial business (shared mobility service) and if they are being used on public streets or sidewalks," Ferguson said in a statement. "Each citation is the equivalent of a Class C Misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $500."
Prior to Wednesday's ban, at least one scooter company, who Ferguson declined to name, conducted a test run in New Braunfels and then removed all the scooters from the city. No scooter companies currently operate in the city.
New Braunfels' municipal code allows the chief of police to make "regulations necessary to make and enforce temporary or experimental regulations to cover emergencies or special conditions." Because New Braunfels' current Chief of Police, Tom Wibert, is out on medical leave, the responsibility fell to Vargas.
New Braunfels isn't the only Central Texas city taking a closer look at policies surrounding electric scooters.
The San Antonio City Council last year approved a six-month pilot program for scooter regulations, then watched as scooter use "exploded" to a level that "compromises" safety, sidewalk traffic and cleanliness, officials said.
Citing the unexpected growth in the vehicles' popularity, Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Tuesday expressed support for even more regulation. The city council will consider tighter regulations and more oversight for the electric vehicles on Feb. 14.
"Pedestrian safety must be our top priority," Nirenberg said. "While I remain committed to nurturing innovative transportation solutions, we must institute best practices to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for everyone using City streets and sidewalks."
In nearby Kirby, the city council directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance banning the electric scooters from all 118 streets of the suburb.
"We didn't take a formal vote yet," said Kirby councilmember Mike Grant. "But there is consensus among us all that we have to get in front of this issue and not allow ourselves to be like downtown San Antonio."