Arlington will soon see even more dockless electric scooters cropping up on its streets, but officials remain a bit vexed about the best way to keep underage riders off the vehicles.
While county transportation officials say they haven’t seen any major safety issues with the scooters beyond a handful of accidents, they also told the County Board Tuesday that the community response to the pilot program expanding the number of dockless vehicles in Arlington has been far from unanimously positive. In all, county commuter services bureau chief Jim Larsen told the Board that his department has received 550 scooter-related complaints from Oct. 1 through Nov. 19.
Most of those have centered around people riding scooters on county sidewalks or trails, a practice banned by the county’s pilot program, or teenagers riding scooters in violation of company rules. Both of the scooter companies currently operating in Arlington — Bird and Lime — ban anyone under the age of 18 from riding the vehicles, and require users to submit a photo of a driver’s license before riding.
Nevertheless, Larsen says the county isn’t quite sure how to tackle the latter issue, in particular.
The whole point of the pilot program, which is set to run through July, is to test out the best policies for the county to adopt surrounding the scooters. And nearly two months in, after the scooters recorded nearly 69,200 rides in the month of October alone, Larsen says there are still more questions than answers.
“Education is the key,” Larsen said. “But there are still challenges.”
Larsen noted that his staff is working with the dockless companies, county police, school officials and parents on educating kids that they should stay off scooters. Even still, he foresees it being a tough issue to fully resolve — he theorizes that parents are either unaware of the ban on young riders, and could be giving kids permission to use the scooters, or that teens have simply figured out ways to “hack the apps.”
“We fine people if they’re driving a car when they’re not supposed be,” said County Board member Libby Garvey. “Is there a way to fine somebody for this?”
But even when a police officer or teacher catches an underage rider on a scooter, Larsen noted that there’s not much they can do about it. After all, he points out that state law actually allows anyone 14 or over to ride a motorized scooter, though the definition of what constitutes a scooter has certainly changed drastically since the law was written.
“The commonwealth has a lot of work to do to bring their regulatory scheme forward a number of years,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “I won’t say what century it’s in.”
Yet, with so little of the pilot completed, county officials are hesitant to ask Arlington’s General Assembly delegation for too many changes just yet. They’re also wary of a repeat of the way the state chose to regulate ride-sharing companies, removing control from localities in favor of a light-touch regulatory scheme managed by state officials.
“Our goal is to craft common sense regulations coordinated across localities, but ones that preserve that ability to maintain that regulation on the local level,” said county transportation chief Dennis Leach.
Larsen would caution, however, that Bird and Lime have already both hired lobbyists in Richmond to make their case to lawmakers, so the county will need to have some answers by the time the legislature reconvenes in January. To that end, he suggested convening interested county staffers, including Arlington’s legislative liaisons, in a working group to focus on the issue.
There will certainly be plenty of pressure to act fast — Larsen says Lyft is nearly finished with the application process to offer its scooters in the county, and a dockless electric bike company could offer its wares on Arlington streets by January.
But policymakers do have one factor working in their favor as they work to craft solutions; it’s no longer the ideal temperature for scooter-riding.
“In winter months, as things get slow, we expect they won’t keep them all out there,” Larsen said. “Especially if we get bad weather, as we’re expecting.”
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Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool for children 16 months and older. Rooted in a play-based philosophy, we focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Located in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a flexible parents’ day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school daily. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences–including enrichment programming such as science and movement.
CWP has been an integral part of the community for over 50 years and last year was recognized by Northern Virginia Magazine for the fourth time as the Best Preschool.
The Potomac Roasting Company is a local micro-roaster specializing in artisan coffee. We precision roast high-quality specialty beans sourced from small farms in Latin America that are owned and operated by women. Your coffee will be roasted the way you want it and delivered fresh.
As two former Peace Corps volunteers who served in Guatemala, we founded Potomac Roasting to pursue our passion for great coffee and purpose-driven work. In addition to ethically sourcing our beans, we also donate a portion of our profits to Laila’s Legacy Animal Rescue, a DC-based nonprofit that finds homes for homeless dogs and cats.
Our current roasts come from prime coffee-producing regions of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. We will be adding new roasts soon. If you are local, there’s a good chance we can deliver to your door. Look for us at local farmers’ markets beginning this spring. In the meantime, check us out now for better coffee and good karma in a cup. You can use the code Community and save 10%.
Whenever we feel indecisive, it’s usually because different parts of ourselves see things differently and are motivated by different priorities and concerns. In fact, it’s usually the friction between these different “camps” that makes us feel stuck.
We can mediate