The lone applicant seeking to provide electric-bicycle service in Arlington has been rejected by county officials, but five operators of electric-scooter devices did make the grade, County Manager Mark Schwartz told County Board members on Feb. 25.
The five e-scooter firms – Bird, Jump, Lime, Razor and Skip – were among eight that had sought permission to operate in the county. The other three were rejected for various reasons, including having no speedometers on their devices.
The lone applicant for an e-bicycle permit was rejected for the same reason, but Schwartz told board members that future e-bikes were likely to have such a feature.
“I’m hoping they will come back” and apply again, he said.
Firms that applied and were rejected have until March 15 to remove their equipment from the county. The same date is the deadline for those who were approved to meet all requirements and pay applicable fees to the government.
(In their quest for that nebulous “equity” that politicians bandy about these days, county officials are requiring scooter operators to deploy some of their equipment in areas beyond the urban core of the county.)
Arlington officials spent most of 2019 engaged in a pilot program to evaluate the scooters and e-bikes before enacting a formal policy late last year. Like other Virginia jurisdictions, Arlington faced an end-of-2019 deadline to craft a plan.
During the pilot program, some residents worked up an almost visceral rage about the transportation devices. Complaints from the public flooded in: Those using the scooters ride on sidewalks (which wasn’t allowed during the pilot program but now in certain cases is), are underage (not allowed), litter the landscape with the scooters and don’t respect others with whom they share space. Complaints also rolled in about a lack of rules enforcement by county police.
But supporters, including those in the county government, see them as another option in getting from Point A to Point B without adding to congestion or environmental impacts.
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.
In his report to board members, Schwartz accentuated the positive. “I’m happy with the results so far,” he said.