The Vienna Town Council is looking to implement a pilot program for dockless scooters and bicycles as a deadline nears for scooter regulation.
Legislation passed during the General Assembly session in January allows localities to regulate scooters and motorized skateboards, however, the localities have until Jan. 1, 2020 to take action to implement any regulations. After that date, the scooter companies can zoom around as they see fit.
Scooters, an increasingly popular alternative transportation option, are already around the area. Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church are also currently drafting up their own pilot programs for scooters.
At a work session last Monday (Sept. 9), the Vienna Town Council raised safety concerns while discussing a proposed pilot program by Public Works staff.
Councilmember Steve Potter said that he is worried that scooters going at 20 miles per hour could end up hurting pedestrians and urged the council to consider the fiscal impacts of the program, like impounding costs, late filing fees and recovery costs.
“I think we should have a schedule for public input surveys and public education efforts,” Potter said, adding that he wants representatives from the police department to also be involved in the decision making. “This is no small thing.”
Mayor Laurie DiRocco asked the Town Attorney to find out if the council can mandate helmet wearing for dockless scooter and bicycle riders.
Currently, the town is considering implementing a one-year-long pilot program instead of an ordinance before the January deadline. According to town documents, the program is based off the programs by Fairfax, Alexandria, Falls Church and Arlington County.
The proposed program would cap the maximum number of devices to 250 per company, allowing the company to increase the number up to 25 more e-scooters or e-bikes with “if they demonstrate at least three trips per device per day in the previous month.”
Each company would have to pay a one-time permit fee of $5,000 and a right-of-way use fee of $0.05 per trip.
While town staff suggested negotiating with Kimley-Horn, a consulting firm that focuses on transportation, planning and engineering, Councilmember Doug Noble balked at the idea of working with the firm because of its ties to private consulting. “They are not the only show in town,” Noble said.
Noble also urged the Town Council to look into investigations of scooters’ battery fires and inadvertent sudden stops.
Councilmember Pasha Majdi suggested that the Town Council implement “an extremely limited pilot program as a placeholder until a multi-modal plan with Kimely-Horn is created.”
Majdi adamantly said that he does not want to see motorized scooters on sidewalks — a sentiment he said scooter companies like Lyme and Bird share.
Getting data on how often the scooters go from Vienna to Tysons could give the Town Council insight into scooter demand in the area, Councilmember Nisha Patel said.
“I believe that will tell us a lot about how often these scooters will be used,” Patel said. “We are so close to Tysons and Tysons is the next major city in the area.”
In addition to the data, Patel said that parking hubs for scooters could help cut down on littered scooters around town. “It’s like dispositing your shopping cart in those metal racks,” Patel said.
Councilmember Howard Springsteen suggested forwarding the proposal to the Transportation Safety Commission — an idea that was supported by several councilmembers and the mayor.
The proposed pilot program is set to go before the Town Council on Dec. 9.
“We should get this done,” Springsteen said. “The clock is ticking.”
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