Arlington begins regulating motorized scooters

Bird Rides Inc. has been offering motorized scooters across Arlington for months; the county government on Sept. 25, 2018, approved a pilot program to evaluate whether they should be allowed to stay. (Bird Rides Inc./Facebook)

Though scheduled to come to an end in June, Arlington officials could extend through the summer months a pilot program allowing motorized scooters across the county – while potentially imposing additional regulations in the interim.

County Manager Mark Schwartz on April 23 raised the possibility of asking for an extension of the pilot program, which started last September, but said no decision had been made.

“We are currently having a conversation . . . if we want to extend it for a few months,” Schwartz told County Board members, who will have the final say.

Schwartz said he likely would have a recommendation on extending the pilot program to board members within a month.

The comments came on a day County Board members fielded complaints about scooters that are similar to those since the pilot program began: those using them ride on sidewalks (which isn’t allowed in Arlington), are underage (also not allowed), litter the landscape with the scooters and don’t respect others with whom they share space. Complaints also have rolled in about a lack of rules enforcement by county police.

County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey told one complainant that others had weighed in in the same vein. “You’re not alone” about complaints.

The goal of the pilot program, Dorsey said, is to “figure out exactly what works for Arlington.”

County Board Vice Chairman Libby Garvey said she liked the idea of extending the pilot program, in order for the county government to accumulate more data. But she said the government shouldn’t be afraid to take steps in changing some of the rules, given community concerns that have been raised.

“There are things that we know now” that could be improved, Garvey said.

County Board members last September agreed to allow entrants in the nascent scooter business to deploy hundreds of the hipster-mobiles across Arlington for the duration of the trial period, in exchange for cash and agreement to follow the rules set out by the government.

In most instances, riders pay providers a flat fee per rental, then are charged a modest additional per-minute fee for use. The scooters are monitored remotely, and as part of the rider agreement, those renting them agree to place them in a lawfully designated area upon completion of use.

Supporters see them as another option in getting from Point A to Point B without adding to congestion or environmental impacts.

“We’re witnessing the biggest revolution in transportation since the dawn of the jet age,” said Travis VanderZanden, founder and CEO of one of the firms, said, apparently being serious.

On the other end of the spectrum, the scooters seem to have engendered a visceral dislike bordering on rage from some critics, in Arlington and across the nation.

Yet others predict the scooters may be more fad than trend, particularly if the curiosity factor abates and rider concerns about safety rise. And at the very least, the proliferation of firms currently engaged in competition for riders may require a consolidation to make the end result profitable.

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(1) comment

CJE

There is zero actual interest in bicycle safety and scooter safety by anyone in a position of authority and responsibility.

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