City Council during a work session Tuesday discussed the possibility of e-scooters in the area — it was discussed at length with multiple council members giving their opinions.
The entire discussion lasted nearly an hour.
“Micromobility has become much more affordable,” said City Manager Andrew Trivette. “Certainly a viable option for people driving their car.”
During the General Assembly’s 2019 session, an amendment to the Virginia Code granted localities the option to regulate motorized skateboards, scooters, bicycles and other related items. However, the locality is required to have those regulations in place by Jan. 1, 2020.
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The presentation by the city manager included slides of other cities allowing scooter use and noted the devices, if approved in Williamsburg, would be considered shared use.
“This is something that we wanted to talk about and try to give you some context about it,” he told council members.
Trivette noted if Williamsburg does not take action, then the vendors can “deploy” their e-scooters with no rules.
The city has these options: enter into a contract with a select vendor(s), establish permit with general rules and regulations for multiple vendors, allow all vendors to use the e-scooters with no rules or ban the devices completely.
Staff recommended council consider a shared use, three-year pilot program with one vendor with some suggested rules.
If approved, the vendor would have four rider educational workshops each year, get scooter usage data, provide insurance to riders as well as pay for licensing and fees for each scooter and each ride.
In addition, the e-scooters could have top speeds of 15 mph, only be able to park in certain zones — not the historic area — and the vendor would have to provide a solar docking station.
Another suggestion is to establish a low income program with discounted rides and have the vendor operate a facility in Williamsburg. See the full presentation here.
The city is also working with the College of William & Mary to have the same vendor for e-scooters.
“I just don’t think banning is a good solution,” said Vice Mayor Doug Pons, adding if the city could create a program with the college it could be a viable solution.
Pons said he would prefer an upright type of unit for more visibility.
Here are some key points from council members:
- Councilman Benny Zhang: if e-scooters users would be considered pedestrians if they are using the sidewalks and crosswalks.
- Councilwoman Barbara Ramsey :if there are vendors who have alternative ways to “find” the e-scooters besides a smartphone app.
Trivette said yes.
“I think this is great way to link different areas,” said Councilman Ted Maslin.
Maslin said he feels this would help those going to work get around, adding WATA is currently looking into whether the scooters can be allowed on the bus.
Burns explained how the e-scooter GPS worked, noting while the scooter cannot understand the difference between the street and the sidewalk, the company can help the city establish “slow ride zones,” where the scooter automatically slows down.
Mayor Paul Frieling was less enthusiastic about e-scooters on sidewalks.
“I’m not a big fan right now, unless someone else can convince me otherwise, of seeing e-scooters on the sidewalks,” Frieling said.
While he does not advocate for a ban on e-scooters, he, like other council members, had questions about how the code applies to Williamsburg.
“There is no guarantee any vendor will respond..,” he said.
City Council will again meet in December to see a new pilot program proposal from the city manager.
If approved, the program would start in May 2020.