Tysons, VA

The Falls Church City Council clashed over whether or not to allow motorized scooters on city sidewalks.

Councilmembers voted unanimously on Tuesday (Nov. 12) to continue working on the plan that would allow motorized scooter companies to take a test drive in Falls Church. But the vote was split 4-3 when it came to banning people from using such mobility devices on sidewalks, with the exception of Routes 29 and 7.

The safety of scooter riders and pedestrians was the top concern for city councilmembers as they discussed the implications of banning scooter riders on sidewalks.

Councilmember Phil Duncan, who voted in favor of banning scooters from sidewalks, said that cars should be mindful of scooters on the road and that riders should use bike lanes whenever possible.

Duncan noted a finding from the staff report, which claimed that scooter riders ranked sidewalks as their least favorite place to ride.

The city council decided to allow exceptions on Routes 29 and 7 based on safety findings from a staff report.

Councilmembers Letty Hardi, Ross Litkenhous and Marybeth Connelly voted against the ordinance to ban scooters on sidewalks.

“Preventing people from riding where they feel safe would just make this mode of transportation a non-starter. It would make this pilot pointless,” Hardi said.

Councilmember Connelly echoed Hardi’s concerns, but pushed for a compromise.

“We are assuming we are protecting the walkers on the sidewalks by saying ‘no scooters,’ but not protecting the scooter riders, who are also our neighbors, by saying they must ride always in the street,” she said.

Instead, she suggested adding another ordinance into the plan that would require scooter riders to give pedestrians the right of way on sidewalks. The city attorney present at the meeting noted that this was a viable idea but would require further discussion.

The city attorney suggested staff could work on a more efficient plan that would take her concerns into consideration.

“We have to have some assumption that the people in Falls Church who are using the scooters are not idiots,” Connelly said. “We have to rely on the judgment of the people using the scooters.”

The Falls Church City Council will review a second reading of the ordinance at their upcoming meeting on Dec. 9.

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As the January deadline looms, the Falls Church City Council discussed proposals for e-scooters before state laws take effect and the city loses its chance to create regulations.

Concerns arose at both the Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 City Council meetings, including potential funding issues, underage use, parking and the upcoming pilot program. The pilot program would be limited to two scooter vendors, leaving companies to compete for a one-year trial period, Councilmember Ross Litkenhous said.

If implemented, the program would allow 14 scooters per 1,000 people into city limits. On average, the scooters would cost users $1 to unlock and a $0.25 per-minute fee, according to statistics gathered from Arlington and Alexandria.

On average 20% of e-scooter users ride them for social or entertainment purposes, while roughly 20% use them for shopping and errands. Another 20% use them to commute to the metro. Scooters could help to solve the first-to-last mile commuter problem, an expert brought in by the City Council and Councilmember Phil Duncan said.

There was some talk at the Oct. 21 meeting about using scooters to raise revenue for the city, by adding on taxes and unlocking fees. The city would charge each vendor an $8,000 permitting fee, regardless of fleet size, according to city documents. But no one seemed to have a concrete answer to the total profits.

“It would be interesting to see how much we can get out of it without impacting the demand,” Litkenhous said.

Councilmember Dave Snyder took another perspective, saying that it might cost the city more money. He said that police would be distracted by monitoring people, ensuring they are following laws and guidelines while riding the scooters.

Parking was yet another major focus of the conversations.

Several people suggested corrals, while others said that they encourage people to lean them against polls that are out of the way of pedestrians and cars. All of the councilmembers agreed that measures should be taken to ensure that they are not being left in the way of traffic or parked illegally in yards.

“Parking is going to be one of the major sources of complaints we will get, so we should prepare for that,” Councilmember Letty Hardi said.

Going forward, the Falls Church City Council will continue to discuss potential implementation plans before they make a final decision. At the next City Council meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 12), councilmembers are expected to discuss a first reading of the new ordinance regarding motorized scooters and shared mobility devices.

“I really think the success of this pilot is going to hinge on good communication,” Hardi said. “Lowering the bar to explain this won’t be perfect, [but] is important.”

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This week, two public hearings in the Town of Vienna aim to get public input on a proposed motorized scooter program and extending the moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue.

The Transportation Safety Commission is set to unveil the proposed shared mobility devices pilot program and solicit feedback from the community on Tuesday (Oct. 29).

People can also email comments to [email protected]

Then on Wednesday, Oct. 30, the town’s Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on extending the suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone.

The proposal would extend the moratorium to June 30.

The Vienna Town Council first put the moratorium in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines.

Both public hearings are set to start at 8 p.m. at Town Hall (127 S. Center Street).

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Plans to regulate motorized scooters are zooming ahead in Fairfax County ahead of the end of the year deadline for creating regulations.

Staff from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Department of Cable and Consumer Services presented the proposed ordinance during the Transportation Committee on Tuesday (Oct. 29).

The county has until Jan. 1, 2020 to implement regulations on motorized scooters, skateboards and bicycles. After that date, the scooter companies can zoom around however they please.

Scooters are an increasingly popular alternative transportation option and are already in use in the county. (The City of Falls Church and the Town of Vienna are also in the process of creating their own pilot programs.)

The proposed ordinance would create a new chapter in the code that would exclude Capital Bikeshare. The ordinance would allow for an initial fleet size of 300 shared mobility devices — and up to a maximum of 600 after the company’s meet certain requirements, according to the presentation.

Scooters would be allowed on highways and sidewalks — unless signs say otherwise, according to the presentation.

Rebecca Makely, from the Department of Cable and Consumer Services, said that county staff knocked down the proposed speed limit from 15 to 10 miles per hour.

“We do believe that this is a conservative approach,” Makely said, adding that the county is considering pedestrian safety along with the proposal.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who has expressed concern about a 15 mph speed limit, said that Tysons Partnership wants to see higher speed limits and larger numbers of vehicles allowed.

Next Tuesday (Oct. 29), the Board of Supervisors is set to vote on whether or not to authorize a public hearing about the proposal on Nov. 19.

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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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The City of Falls Church is looking to implement a pilot program for scooters 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.

The City Council is set to discuss the proposed pilot program, which would allow the city to regulate bicycles and motorized skateboards, scooters and bicycles for hire, at a work session tonight (Tuesday).

The proposed program would allow the motorized vehicles and bicycles for hire to ride on the sidewalks and streets and would limit speeds to 20 miles per hour for bicycles and motorized bicycles and to 10 miles per hour for scooters and skateboards.

Additionally, the city would cap the maximum number of devices to 25 per company, allowing the company to increase the number with extra permit fees. Each company would have to pay a permit fee of $100 per device.

The proposed pilot program is set to go before the City Council for a review on Sept. 23 ahead of a planned adoption in October or November.

The City Council is also scheduled to discuss spot pedestrian improvements tonight.

“The ultimate goal is to provide an adequate and safe walkway system and for the city to ultimately achieve ‘Walk Friendly Community’ designation,” City Manager Wyatt Shields wrote in a memo to the mayor.

City staff chose several projects recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation totaling $100,000 — the amount set aside in the FY 2020 city budget for short-term spot improvements for pedestrian safety.

One project costing $45,000 would install a new sidewalk at S. Oak Street near Seaton Lane to close an 80-foot “missing link” along the busy corridor near TJ Elementary School.

The staff also recommended a $40,000 improvement that would install a new sidewalk at 304 S. Maple Avenue, closing a 60-foot gap in the sidewalk.

Finally, the staff plan to use $15,000 to install handicap-accessible ramps at locations that need them.

Some of the projects identified by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation didn’t fit the city’s budget, like removing utility pole obstacles.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is working to create a scooter program before scooter companies are allowed to zoom around however they please starting next year.

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 operate locally as they see fit.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said there is a “sense of urgency” to create scooter rules on the county level.

“[The county has] to have an ordinance in by the end of this year or it becomes the wild, wild west,” Foust said.

Scooters, an increasingly popular alternative transportation option, are already in use in the county.

Staff from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Department of Cable and Consumer Services presented a scooter program proposal to the county board during the Transportation Committee at yesterday’s meeting (Tuesday).

Chris Wells, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager for FCDOT, said that companies see scooters as an attractive form of alternative transportation.

“Fortune 500 companies are requesting this,” Wells said.

County staff suggested that proposed scooter program limit each company to 250 scooters, set the speed limit at 15 miles per hour and not restrict the devices to specific geographical areas of the county, according to the presentation.

Foust raised concerns about the 15 mph speed limit — “To me, it’s too fast” — and requested a demonstration.

The program would be regulated by the Department of Cable and Consumer Services.

When creating the proposal, county staff reviewed ordinances and pilot programs in nearby jurisdictions like Arlington, the City of Fairfax, the City of Alexandria and D.C., partly to possibly provide consistency around the area.

“The research is showing these are a type of transportation device used by a more diverse population,” Wells said, adding that “Tysons and Reston would be a great place for scooters to fit into the infrastructure.”

Overall, the board voiced support for the proposal.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay said he supports the program as a traffic calming tactic, although he said that “scooters are probably floating around somewhere” after major flash flooding earlier this week.

“It does send a message that we are a county that is trying to promote transportation,” McKay said.

While the scooter program is tentatively scheduled to go before the board during the December meeting, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said she wants to see the board vote sooner on a scooter program proposal.

“I’m supportive of what’s on the table,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said, adding that the board can always amend an ordinance. “I think what staff is proposing sounds like a good way to get us started.”

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The Vienna Town Council is entering the first stages of a process to bring electric scooters and dockless bicycles to town.

According to staff at a Town Council work session on Monday, June 10, a potentially shared mobility pilot would include both electric bicycles and scooters as “self-propelled vehicles,” but more still needs to be determined.

For starters, where will people ride electric scooters in Vienna? Council members expressed concerns about having them either on Maple Avenue or the adjoining sidewalks, which are typically only 5 feet wide and include planter boxes that narrow the sidewalks considerably. But elected officials seemed equally concerned about the prospect of having electric scooters complicating the already notoriously dangerous and congested Maple Avenue.

The discussion of a potential pilot program comes after a feasibility study for a regional bike-share network — commissioned by the City of Fairfax — was completed last fall. The Vienna process follows in the footsteps of the City of Fairfax, which Vienna staff said has launched a pilot program running from this June to next year.

Both staff and officials expressed some misgivings and frustrations with the prospect of bringing in electric scooters. Staff said that a story had come out this year that Lime Scooters would be coming to Fairfax City and Vienna, prompting a tense series of phone calls from Fairfax and Vienna staff advising Lime that they had not gone through the proper approval process.

Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough also referenced a Washington Post story that only 7 percent of regional residents reported using e-scooters as their preference for getting from one place to another.

The next step for the scooter approval process is a work session planned for sometime in the fall, which the Town Council said will likely include meeting with the Transportation Commission.

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