Wednesday, August 10, 2022

E-scooters in downtown Williamsburg? Maybe

The City of Williamsburg is preparing a draft for a pilot program that addresses micro mobility, said Lee Ann Hartmann, spokeswoman for the City of Williamsburg. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Pixabay)
The city of Williamsburg is preparing a draft for a pilot program that addresses micro mobility, said Lee Ann Hartmann, spokeswoman for the City of Williamsburg. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Pixabay)

As those in Virginia Beach zip around scooters, Williamsburg locals will have to keep waiting for a micro mobility share program.

Earlier in July, the company Lime Electric Scooter Rentals, which provides e-scooters to various locations internationally, announced it would deploy 500 scooters in Virginia Beach. The topic sparked controversy in the area as Virginia Beach Police expressed concerns about scooters from Bird, another e-scooter company, on the Oceanfront. 

However, with Virginia Beach attracting so many tourists to the area, Laura Miller Brooks, government relations manager for Virginia Beach, said the local government was excited for the new scooters because it would provide a new market for the area’s cultural and natural landmarks.

Williamsburg, which has a downtown that thrives off of tourism with historic sites that are centuries old, doesn’t have any e-scooters to attract more visitors.

That could change in the future.

“Bird has no expansion plans to announce at this time, but we believe Williamsburg would be a great place to provide our accessible, environmentally friendly transportation option,” said Mackenzie Long, a spokeswoman with Bird. 

Lee Ann Hartmann, spokeswoman for the city of Williamsburg, said city staff is currently evaluating the potential of a pilot program and is working on a draft regulation for the consideration of the City Council, which would have to be considered before the Jan. 1 deadline.

The deadline comes as a result of a bill that was adopted during the 2019 Virginia General Assembly that provided operating standards for micro mobility features, which includes electric skateboards, bikes and scooters. 

In addition to those standards, the bill stated that for localities where there were no regulations for micro mobility adopted by Jan. 1, 2020, independent providers could implement their devices without regulation.

RELATED STORY: Greater Williamsburg gets wheels in motion for bike share program

“Given this ability to regulate and consequence if we do not, the city must consider regulations for such device,” Hartmann said.

To test the waters, the bill allows localities to implement a pilot program using licensee-style approvals. 

But that’s not the first time the city has considered micro mobility options in the downtown area. 

RELATED STORY: After a year, a bike share program still being considered for Williamsburg

In February 2018, the city debated bringing in a consultant to look at the economic impact of a bike share program. Since then, the study has not been conducted but the program has become a part of 2019-2020 Biennial Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes project, according to documents from the city.

But it doesn’t seem as though the program will move forward in the immediate future — it’s on hold while the local regulations on micro mobility are being evaluated, Hartmann said.

Lime Electric Scooter Rentals did not immediately respond for comment.

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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