Want scooter riding services out of the 'Lime'light?
Scoobi, a Pittsburgh-based moped rental service, is bringing 200 of their vehicles to downtown for on-demand use starting on Tuesday, with the service fully functional by Friday.
The service is the latest to come to town in an attempt to alleviate downtown traffic and limited parking. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Austin-area commuters endured over 48,000 hours of traffic even in a COVID-stricken 2020.
Scoobi scooters are ever-so-slightly more expensive than industry-leading Lime scooters, but they have the leg up in storage with a lockable trunk, phone mount and charger included in each bike for the mobile professional or student. Like electric scooter apps, the fully-electric mopeds are also designed to combat CO2 usage: according to Scoobi's press release, Pittsburgh riders have saved over 388,000 pounds of CO2 in the 353,000 miles traveled with the service since its founding in 2018.
"Our mission is to provide an efficient, alternative mode of transportation for Austin's residents and visitors in order for them to experience the vibrant culture of the city in a fun and sustainable way," Scoobi CEO Mike Moran said in the release.
The self-proclaimed "People's Moped" has reached an agreement with the city that allows free metered parking for all of the 200 street-legal mopeds. The bikes will be placed in key areas around downtown and can be tracked through a GPS on the Scoobi app. Mopeds can be reserved for 10 minutes free of charge before a $2 unlocking fee and 36 cents per-minute riding fee are added. Scoobi charges 18 cents a minute while paused in the app, and discount packages are also available.
Bikes come with free storage compartments, and the app helps users park with a parking guide. (Scoobi)
The company will join industry leaders Lime and Bird, sit-down scooter app Wheels and Capital Metro's MetroBike service in providing rental options downtown. The city has lost most of the 14 scooter services that littered Austin's streets back in 2018, but as of January, 5,100 Lime scooters, and 3,250 Bird scooters and 1,000 sit-down scooters are still parked downtown. Lime has also implemented a pilot program with 500 e-bikes.
There has been turbulence in the scooter/rental vehicle's short existence, including a pandemic-driven low of just 10,551 monthly scooter rides in April 2020. But after a mass exodus of rental scooter companies, Austinites took over 343,000 trips in May 2021 alone. MetroBike services are still much lower but reached a record high of over 17,000 in the same time period.
Nationwide, scooters and other micromobility vehicles have cropped up in even the most traffic-congested cities like New York. One perk of Scoobi is that it provides two different-sized helmets in its lockbox—an effort that may combat safety concerns around head injuries from e-scooter accidents.
The mopeds can go up to 30 miles per hour and have a battery life that lasts up to 30 miles. They're street legal, so they won't be allowed on bike lanes or sidewalks. Users must be at least 18 years old and have a valid drivers' license.
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Austin police have charged Kaitlin Marie Armstrong, a local cyclist, for the murder of Moriah "Mo" Wilson.
Wilson, a rising star in the gravel and mountain bike community, was found dead with gunshot wounds inside an East Austin home on the night of May 11 when she was in town for the weekend Gravel Locos race in Hico, Texas.
Police believe Wilson was having a relationship with a man Armstrong was also in a relationship with. The man, another gravel cyclist, Colin Strickland, has since issued a statement on the murder.
In his statement, he said he had a brief romantic relationship with Wilson in October 2021 before he resumed his relationship with Armstrong, but that he remained friends with Wilson. "There is no way to adequately express the regret and torture I feel about my proximity to this horrible crime. I am sorry, and I simply cannot make sense of this unfathomable tragedy.
NEW: Austin professional cyclist Colin Strickland has just released a statement about the murder of cyclist Moriah Wilson, clarifying his relationship with her and expressing “torture about my proximity to this horrible crime.” pic.twitter.com/KnIna3mWrE
— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) May 20, 2022
Wilson, a 25-year-old Vermont native living in Colorado, had won a slew of races becoming a fan favorite. She had just become a full-time racer this year.
Anyone with information on this crime can contact Austin police at 512-974-TIPS or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 512-472-8477.
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Austin has added 24-hour security to the city-owned Pecan Gardens property, which will be converted into supportive housing for people exiting homelessness, after the former hotel was found with months of damage and vandalism May 5.
The building, which was broken into and stripped of copper and had people illegally sleeping inside of it, has been secured, Kelly said in a Friday press conference. Kelly said the city confirmed a measure to implement 24-hour security, including updates every 60 days until the property opens up as supportive housing.
"We cannot let this happen to any vacant city-owned property ever again," Kelly said. "This blatant act of disregard and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in our community."
The city bought the former hotel in August 2021 for $9.5 million with plans to renovate the property into a 78-unit supportive housing property. Those 55 or older that are experiencing chronic homelessness can qualify to live at the site once it is completed in late 2022-early 2023.
While the council was set to discuss a $4 million deal with Family Eldercare to begin converting the property Thursday, Kelly pulled the item for a later executive session due to security concerns. But the council did approve an item to authorize city leaders to begin negotiating other renovation contracts.
"I want to thank my colleagues for pumping the brakes on this contract and realizing that we owe the community not only an apology, but reassurance that the protection of the assets the city owns is vital to the success of achieving our intended goals," Kelly said.
When the building was found vandalized May 5, Kelly, who presides over the district containing the property, said damage included:
- Damage spanning all three floors of the building and is in nearly every room.
- The entire hotel was stripped of copper.
- Destroyed washers, dryers, air conditioners and electrical wiring.
- People sleeping at the hotel without permission.
On Tuesday, Austin’s Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray apologized and said there was no security due to a delay in processing the request.
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