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City Council to consider finalizing scooter regulations

Charlottesville officials will consider finalizing regulations for electric scooter ride-booking ahead of an upcoming state deadline.

The City Council will review an ordinance regulating the service, which includes both e-scooters and e-bikes, and a program for companies to receive permits during its meeting on Monday.

The two-wheeled service has expanded throughout the country in the past two years as companies drop their scooters in cities. Riders pay a fee to check out the scooters through an app on their phone and then leave them for the next person to pick up.

In November 2018, the council approved a temporary pilot program to establish regulations and determine if the city would allow the service.

Since the program was established, 30,000 users have made more than 200,000 trips for a total of 200,000 miles, according to the city.

However, while the city was giving the service a try, legislators in the General Assembly passed a law requiring localities to create regulations by Jan. 1 or the companies could operate free from local ordinances.

“The initial intent of this program was to decide whether [the scooters] should have a place within the city’s transportation context,” a staff report states. “[T]he 2019 General Assembly actions require staff to reframe the question and ask how these devices can fit within the city.”

Under the new state law, it appears that scooters could be introduced in Albemarle County under loose state regulations on Jan. 1 if the county, which currently does not have any local ordinances on the books, does not take specific action to curb them.

California-based Lime and Bird brought 100 scooters each to the city at the start of 2019, plus 40 electric Lime bikes.

Bird pulled out of the area in June, about the same time that the council voted to extend the pilot program through the end of the year. Lime has removed its bikes, but the scooters remain.

The city has received inquiries from Spin, Gotcha, Jump and VeoRide, according to the staff report, and approved 150 scooters and e-bikes for VeoRide earlier this month.

City staff is recommending an ordinance that would regulate the use and permitting of the service.

The ordinance would focus primarily on safe riding and parking.

It would prohibit scooters from riding on sidewalks or the Downtown Mall, specify where they can be parked, set speed limits and prohibit riding with headphones.

The ordinance would set a $50 fine for parking and riding violations.

City staff also recommends using money from the permit program to hire a part-time staff member who would monitor compliance. The permit fees are expected to bring in about $72,000 by year’s end.

Despite the program’s rules curbing travel on the sidewalk or Downtown Mall, scooter traffic in those places remains an issue.

A spring study found that about 30% of users ride on the sidewalk and some scooters travel on the Downtown Mall.

City staff is working with the scooter companies to emphasize areas that aren’t meant for travel. They also are adding signs to warn riders.

The permit program would be administered by the city manager, who can set the total fleet size for the city.

Companies would be required to share usage data with the city to obtain a permit, which could be revoked if regulations are violated.

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 605 E. Main St.


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