Manassas residents have a new way to get around. Bird, the California-based electric rental scooter company, has set up shop in Manassas.
The scooters – already popular in dense urban areas like Washington, Alexandria and Arlington – generally cost $1 to unlock and then 15 cents per minute to ride. They’re booked through the Bird app and a QR code on every scooter.
A spokesperson for Bird couldn’t say exactly how many of the scooters were being made available in Manassas, but the city’s director of planning and development, Matt Arcieri, said the company has a permit for 50 scooters, although only 20 could be placed downtown every day.
According to Arcieri, a “fleet manager” for the company is supposed to reset its scooters every morning, moving any in Old Town to four bicycle parking locations: City Hall, the Harris Pavilion, the train depot and Manassas Museum.
“If you park [a scooter] on the sidewalk next to a restaurant, what’s supposed to happen at the end of the day is the fleet manager is supposed to move them to one of the four designated spots,” Arcieri said.
Other local ordinances are associated with the scooters as well. In most of the city, they can be ridden on the sidewalk, but in most of the downtown area riders are prohibited from using them on the sidewalk. Like a bicycle, they are supposed to be used in the roadway downtown. Most electric rental scooters available top out between 15-20 mph.
At the end of 2019, the Manassas City Council established guidelines for scooter rentals or electric-assist bicycles, although at that time no companies had shown interest in moving into the market. Based on a state law passed in the General Assembly, localities had until January 2020 to establish rules for such companies or allow them to enter without any permitting.
As part of the city’s ordinance, any company looking to rent scooters in Manassas has to pay an annual permitting fee of $500 for every 25 devices inside the city.
The scooters have been hailed as another emissions-free transportation alternative, as well as one that particularly addresses the “first mile, last mile” issue – that is, getting people to and from other modes like the Virginia Railway Express station in Old Town.
“We’re pleased that Bird is setting up in the city and that they’re offering another transportation option for folks who are interested,” Arcieri said. “But … we do have concerns and want to make sure those concerns … are being responded to.”
The scooters have drawn some complaints in other areas regarding improper parking.
Arcieri told InsideNoVa that any issues with the scooters, in particular improper parking (they’re not supposed to be left in a place that blocks pedestrian or vehicle right of way), should first be directed to the company itself. But after that, people can contact the city.
“The first call should go to Bird, but if citizens aren’t happy with the response they’re getting from Bird they’re definitely welcome to contact my office and we’ll take it up as a condition of their license,” he said.