Arlington to Regulate e-Scooters

The Arlington County Board today adopted regulations for e-scooters and other shared micro-mobility devices that will allow their use on sidewalks (with limitations), trails, and bike lanes, unless specifically signed or marked otherwise. In operation and user requirements, the devices will be treated largely like bicycles.

Devices will be required to have speedometers. Motorized scooters and skateboards will be restricted to a top speed of 15 miles per hour, and e-bicycles will have a top speed of 20 miles per hour on streets and trails. When operating on public sidewalks, the top speed of all the devices is restricted to six miles per hour. The devices will not be allowed to operate on sidewalks where a protected bicycle lane is available and may be prohibited from other sidewalks at the Manager’s discretion.

“Arlington is all about transportation options,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “Based on the evidence gathered during our pilot program, scooters and other micro-mobility devices are a viable transportation alternative for many. They will add another layer to the County’s multi-layered transportation network, in keeping with our goal of encouraging those who live and work in Arlington to choose an alternative to driving alone in a car. These regulations are meant to ensure that the devices are deployed and used in a safe and responsible way.”

The Board voted unanimously to approve the regulations and permitting process.

Parking restrictions

The Board also approved a permit system to regulate the private companies renting the devices in the County. The Board’s actions came after staff collected extensive data on how, where and by whom the devices are being used in Arlington and analyzed hundreds of comments from residents through a pilot program the County launched in October 2018.

Recent state legislation requires localities that want to prohibit motorized skateboards or scooters on sidewalks to adopt an ordinance by January 1, 2020. Localities do not have the legal authority in Virginia to ban micro-mobility devices. The County’s adopted ordinance goes into effect on December 31, 2019.

One of the first steps the County will take under the adopted regulations will be to open the permit program to vendors and evaluate those applications. Another initial step will be to determine, based on pilot feedback and evaluation data, which sidewalks should be excluded from sidewalk riding and to prepare for the installation of any necessary sidewalk signage and markings.

The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will be one of the first areas considered for sidewalk-riding prohibition signage and markings. During the pilot program, this corridor was the most heavily used by riders on micro-mobility devices, but also one that has several stretches of protected and regular bicycle lanes and many pedestrians.

The regulations prohibit parking the devices on sidewalks other than in a rack, against the curb, or against street signs or light posts or at the curb at the back edge of the sidewalk, where they will not obstruct pedestrians. They cannot be parked on streets, other than against a curb or in a corral marked and designated for the purpose. Neither can they obstruct curb ramps, pedestrian access within bus stops or fire access, or on private property without the owner’s permission, among other restrictions.

A violation of these newly established restrictions on parking will be subject to a $50 civil penalty if the company fails to remedy within two hours of it being reported. The Manager also has the authority, under the ordinance, to suspend or revoke permits and remove devices from the County right-of-way to maintain compliance with the parking requirements. To facilitate enforcement, devices are required to be marked with unique identifying numbers, owner contact information, and contact information in Braille.

Staff is identifying areas to install corrals and will continue to encourage riders and companies to deploy and park the devices in corrals in the street wherever possible, rather than on the sidewalk.

The new permit program will include an application process, fee structure, performance requirements communication and information sharing requirements insurance and other features. The program gives the County Manager discretion to determine allowable fleet sizes, fleet cap, scoping education and equity expectations, penalties and enforcement. Fees collected through the program may be used to administer and evaluate the program, as well as build corrals, install bicycle racks and make other infrastructure improvements to support the program. The ordinance also establishes equity expectations for providers, requiring that at least 15 percent of each permit holder’s vehicles in service must be deployed each morning outside the Rosslyn-Ballston and Richmond Highway Metro corridors.

The program offers an incentive to include accessible vehicles for persons with differing physical abilities, and a requirement that permit-holders provide discounts to encourage use by lower-income community members.

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