Sunday, December 10, 2023

Richmond and Norfolk have e-scooter advice for Virginia Beach

Bird scooters in front of the Virginia Beach Convention Center. (Southside Daily file)
Bird scooters in front of the Virginia Beach Convention Center. (Southside Daily file)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city’s Shared Mobility Task Force is working on its first initiative to require licensing for e-scooter vendors to operate in accordance with updated city codes by the end of this year.

In their meeting Tuesday, Brian Solis, assistant to the city manager for special projects, addressed City Council and said the team plans to collaborate with other localities including Richmond, Norfolk, Alexandria, and Arlington who have revised their city codes or piloted programs for motorized scooters for shared mobility.

“There are certainly processes we can learn from them with their spectrum of differences and the number of vendors they permit to operate in their city,” Solis said.

One of the complaints Vice Mayor Jim Wood said he hears about e-scooters in his district is residents encountering them stranded in front of businesses and walkways.

“There was one parked right on the sidewalk of the 7-Eleven and the owner asked ‘how do I get rid of that thing?'” Wood said. “He had called the police but they wouldn’t come take it away and it had been sitting there for two days.”

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James Nolan, a spokesman for the city of Richmond, said regulations enforcing scooter parking and expedient vendor pick-up for stranded scooters have been successful.

A Richmond city ordinance categorized e-scooters as motor vehicles and are vulnerable to being towed by the city if parking laws are violated — if a rider leaves a scooter in a prohibited area, the e-scooter company will be fined.

“Motorized dockless scooters/bicycles parking on a city sidewalk are considered ‘unattended motor vehicles’ and may be removed from the city’s right-of-way,” it reads.

Richmond also charges e-scooter vendors an application fee with initial and annual permit fees before they can operate in the city with no permit issued for more than 500 “shared mobility devices.”

And, the more e-scooters a vendor wants to bring in, the more they’ll pay for their permit — for 201 to 500 scooters, companies pay $60,000 per year.

After Bird scooters suddenly appeared in Norfolk last summer, the city impounded all of the devices almost immediately.

This June, Norfolk announced they would enter into a contract agreement for Lime to operate in the city.

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Part of that agreement includes requiring the vendor to enforce proper parking after a ride, said Amy Inman, director for Norfolk’s Department of Transit.

“The app requires riders to end their session by taking a photo of a properly parked scooter,” she said.

Inman also said the city bases the number of scooters they’ll allow Lime to phase-in is based on “performance and data.”

“Lime initially deployed 500 scooters and before we would consider approving more, each scooter had to have at least three trips a day,” Inman said.

With seven trips per day, Norfolk approved for 400 more scooters to be operated which “is a good number and a good balance,” she said.

Both cities — Richmond and Norfolk — maintain the motorized devices are an alternate mode for transportation valuable in relieving the impact of city traffic and not recreational.

In the ordinance, officials in Richmond wrote “due to the increasing demand for alternative mobility option to reduce traffic congestion, parking problems, and carbon emissions the City of Richmond will create a Motorized Dockless Scooter/Bicycle Share Program Permit.”

“Riders on e-scooters should follow the rules of the road but drivers should also be respectful and share the road because those are ‘trips,'” Inman said.

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