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Albemarle fast-tracks policy for e-scooters

Albemarle County wants to have regulations for electric scooters in place by the beginning of 2020.

Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors discussed how Charlottesville and the University of Virginia already had enacted policies, and that a handful of scooters have migrated into the county. But count regulations were never put in place.

If the county does not set its own local rules by Jan. 1, new state laws will apply, which allow motorized skateboards, scooters or bicycles to operate on sidewalks and allows companies that rent out e-scooters to operate without a license.

On Dec. 18, the Board of Supervisors will have a public hearing on a proposed ordinance and/or pilot program for e-scooters and e-bicycles.

“This isn’t a speak now or forever hold your peace moment … the board is not precluded from adopting an ordinance after January 1, it would just create a window of time during which there would be some of these activities that were not locally regulated,” Deputy County Attorney Andy Herrick told the board last week.

Charlottesville’s City Council is in the process of adopting an ordinance regulating e-scooters and e-bikes, as well as a program for companies to receive permits for an e-bike or e-scooter operation. A pilot program started in late 2018 and was extended to mid December.

The city’s proposed ordinance would prohibit scooters from on sidewalks or the Downtown Mall, specify where they can be parked, set speed limits and prohibit riding with headphones.

UVa also has established requirements for the riding, parking and storing of e-scooters and e-bicycles on university property, but only vendors that have been successfully permitted through Charlottesville are allowed to operate on UVa property.

Kevin McDermott, a county transportation planner, said that according to e-scooter company data provided to the city, fewer than 10% of all operations started or ended in the county.

“I would consider that although scooters have dangers, so do vehicles, and if we can try and get people to maybe take scooters for short trips, I think that’s a great thing,” he said.

Supervisors said they want to see something similar to the city and UVa policies.

“If we could use [the city’s policy] for our default right now, then we have something to come back to at a later date … I’m just trying to think about staff and staff time,” Supervisor Diantha McKeel said.

Supervisor Rick Randolph had many suggestions, including requiring the operator to wear a Consumer Product Safety Commission-compliant helmet and to be at least 16 years of age and have a driver’s license.

He also said the county should require a shared mobility devices license for those who don’t have a driver’s license, and that the police would train people quarterly on how to operate the e-scooters.

“Now truly, this shouldn’t belong to the Albemarle County Police Department; this should be a function of the state,” Randolph said. “But let’s recognize that the state will be slow to adopt this, and so if we really want to protect our local residents, we’re going to need to step up and do that, first and foremost.”

The companies currently operating in the city, Lime and VeoRide, both require e-scooter and e-bike operators to be at least 18 years old. State law does not require e-scooter operators to wear helmets and only cyclists 14 and younger are required to wear helmets in Albemarle and Charlottesville.

Supervisor Liz Palmer said she would like to keep the policy as simple as possible to make it easier in the future to have a joint policy with the city and UVa.

“That’s my concern — if we get too specific now, it might take more of your time now and more of it later to go back and change it,” she said.


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