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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Changes to e-scooter city codes need to happen soon, but VB City Council is ‘not there yet’

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 — Nearly two months after e-scooters were banned from most of the Oceanfront and on streets with speed limits exceeding 25 mph, Brian Solis, assistant to the city manager for special projects, delivered recommended city code changes to City Council Tuesday.

RELATED STORY: Better watch it – Virginia Beach begins enforcing e-scooter ban at the Oceanfront

Solis said the council should work toward passing the city code requiring scooter vendors to have a license to operate sooner than later and before the General Assembly’s amendment to Title 46.2 becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2020.

The Assembly’s new section would allow vendors to offer scooter rentals without a franchise license unless the city code required one prior to the effective date.

Other city code changes proposed would direct scooters stay off roads with speed limits over 25 mph, limiting one rider per scooter, and allowing the vehicles on Atlantic Avenue as long as they travel at speeds less than 10 mph.

After discussing the shared mobility service in focus groups of more than 315 residents and survey with more than 5,800 respondents, Solis said the task force got a pulse on issues that were important to stakeholders and showed 84 percent supported the ban on roadways over 25 mph.

RELATED STORY: If you have something to say about those e-scooters in town, you might want to take part in this

Solis presented a timeline with dates for the franchise request for proposal running from late October through late November with the city granting no more than four vendor franchise license agreements by January 2020.

The question of when the agreements and code would take effect arose as an issue with Bird and Lime already operating in the city.

“In theory, the two companies that operate in Virginia Beach would have to pull their scooter from the ability to be rented in the city until and unless they received a franchise license sometime early next year,” Solis said.

Terms of the proposed franchise agreement require companies limit the number of scooters deployed as to not exceed more than 1,000 total in the city and no more that 40 percent on the Oceanfront.

Companies would also be required to pay a start-up fee of $10,000 if they want to operate in the resort area and $5,000 for anywhere else in the city with 50 cents per scooter, per day monthly franchise use fee.

“It would help reimburse the city for the new signage, parking corrals, and the other program management startup costs we would experience,” Solis said.

Another $100 per scooter annual license fee would go toward an account to reimburse police, public works, and other city departments for managing shared mobility services that operate on public property Solis said.

Last summer, the City Manager’s office joined forces with the City Attorney and other officials to regulate e-scooters that had seemed to appear overnight and without notice.

After lengthy discussions about how different districts in the city have responded to and use the scooters, City Council isn’t yet set on agreeing to any catch-all scooter regulations and is expected to talk more about it in their next informal meeting Oct. 29.

“We’re not there as far as knowing exactly what we want to do after the license issue is concerned,” Councilman Louis Jones.

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