Sunday, December 3, 2023

Virginia Beach city officials want to address the e-scooter issue — now

Bird electric scooters were also near the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach. (Rami Yoakum/Southside Daily)
Bird electric scooters were also near the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach. (Rami Yoakum/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Brian Solis, assistant to the city manager for special projects, addressed City Council in their informal meeting Tuesday with an update about the initiative to regulate e-scooters in the city.

Solis said the team is pushing out a public input survey focusing on four questions:

  1. Where do you think motorized scooters should be prohibited?
  2. Where do you think motorized scooters could and should be permitted?
  3. What other measures can motorized scooter companies do to ensure safe rider behavior?
  4. What other regulations should the city consider adopting to ensure safer motorized scooter use?

The survey will run for about 10 days so residents and stakeholders can chime in.

Solis is part of the recently formed Shared Mobility Services Task Force — its first action is to license qualified e-scooter vendors through a franchise licensing public procurement process by Dec. 31.

Vice Mayor Jim Wood said the “biggest complaint” he receives in his district is related to e-scooters.

“I don’t think we should wait until the end of the year, we have to do something about it as soon as possible,” he said.

Mayor Bobby Dyer shared the same concern, saying “my only request is we somehow get this expedited and it be a high priority for safety reasons.”

RELATED STORY: Virginia Beach may require e-scooter vendors to apply to operate in the city

Councilman Aaron Rouse pointed out the tourist season is coming to an end and, without proper signage, accidents in shared bike lanes isn’t a new issue.

“I run and cycle at the Oceanfront and have seen numerous accidents from people walking on the bike path,” he said. “The little blue signs that’s like 4 feet tall and hiding behind a bush, that’s something I think we can do better on.”

With the new process, the task force is hoping to revise the city code and require e-scooter vendor companies to create resolutions for issues like improved signage, underage riding, stranded scooters on sidewalks and at business entrances, and riders not following traffic laws.

Bird and Lime are the only e-scooter companies currently operating in Virginia Beach and have been working with the city to implement interventions like geofencing in restricted areas at Town Center, the Oceanfront boardwalk, and Mount Trashmore.

Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said she knows geofencing isn’t working because she stops people riding on the boardwalk and parallel bike lane daily.

“They don’t follow the rules — it’s a toy for them,” she said.

Solis said the team is focused on advice from other cities including Alexandria, Richmond, Norfolk, and Arlington — these cities have also revised their codes and have piloted e-scooter programs for shared mobility.

“All of those are denser and more urban cities but there are certainly processes that we can learn from them with their spectrum of differences and the number of vendors they permit to operate in their city,” he said.

Sharing data is another advantage for collaborating with other cities. Solis said there were 128,340 Bird rides in July and 11,000 rides and 21,000 miles from Lime in two weeks.

“The next time I come to you I want to provide some context to those numbers in relation to other modes of transportation in the city or other like-localities in the country,” he said.

Solis is working with the city’s communication department to finalize the survey.

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