Arlington, VA

By the end of the month, Arlington County will start posting signs making it clear where e-scooters and e-bikes are not welcome.

The county today revealed that the sidewalks along nine different stretches of road, in six Arlington neighborhoods, will be off-limit to scooters and similar personal mobility devices. That follows the November passage of an ordinance allowing e-scooter and e-bike operation in the county, following a temporary pilot program.

The new no-go zone for scooters and the like, deemed “key sidewalk conflict areas,” are:

  • Ballston: North Quincy Street between North Glebe Road and 9th Street North, westbound Fairfax Drive between North Glebe Road and North Wakefield Street
  • Court House: North Veitch Street between Wilson Boulevard and Lee Highway
  • Crystal City: South Eads Street between 12th Street South and 22nd Street South, and between Fort Scott Drive and South Glebe Road
  • Lyon Park: North Pershing Drive between Washington Boulevard and North Barton Street
  • Pentagon City: Army Navy Drive between South Nash Street and South Joyce Street, South Hayes Street between 15th Street South and 18th Street South
  • Rosslyn: Westbound Wilson Boulevard between North Oak Street and North Courthouse Road

“Later this month, new signage prohibiting sidewalk-riding will be installed next to protected bicycle lanes, where people biking are separated from drivers with a parking lane or other physical barrier,” Arlington County said in a press release. “When a protected bike lane is available in the same direction of travel, shared e-scooter and e-bike riders must use it instead of the sidewalk.”

“Signage will be placed at the start of a sidewalk where sidewalk-riding is banned,” the press release said. “Initial enforcement of the new restrictions will focus on education and warnings.”

The county is now evaluating other stretches of sidewalk that are not next to protected bike lanes for possible scooter prohibition, “in the interest of public safety and welfare.”

Arlington has set up a website — ridedockless.com — that lists information about e-scooter and e-bike riding in the county, including rules, parking etiquette and info for businesses.

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Arlington County Police and medics are on scene of a crash involving an Arlington County school bus and an electric scooter.

The crash happened around 3:45 p.m. at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Oak Street in Rosslyn. Initial reports suggest the scooter rider has serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Students were on board at the time but no injuries were reported on the bus, according to scanner traffic. The students were loaded onto another bus to continue their journey home.

N. Oak Street and at least one lane of Wilson Blvd was blocked at the crash scene as of 4:15 p.m., as police investigate the crash.

Vernon Miles contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Thieves Hit Three Local Car Dealerships — A group of thieves stole a dozen cars from three car dealerships in Arlington. Some of the thefts were caught on surveillance video. In one instance, five vehicles were damaged as the thieves made their getaway. [WJLA, Arlington County]

Some Amazon Neighbors Wanted More — “Amazon.com Inc. easily won approval this weekend to start work on its first new HQ2 construction in Arlington, yet many of the company’s new neighbors remain exasperated over the benefits the community will receive… Though Amazon’s proposed investments may seem substantial, some people residing close Met Park feel that these benefits will inevitably fall short in mitigating the impacts of the construction.” [Washington Business Journal]

Spotted: Albino Squirrel — An albino squirrel was caught on video in Arlington’s Waverly Hills neighborhood. [Facebook]

Accounting Firm Touts ‘Zero-Waste’ Office in Rosslyn — “Grant Thornton LLP has consolidated its workforce in the Washington, D.C., area in the firm’s MetroDC office – its first zero-waste office in the country. The office, located at 1000 Wilson Blvd in Arlington, unites staff from other Washington-area locations and is the firm’s largest, by headcount, in the United States.” [Grant Thornton]

Nearby: Alexandria Bans Scooters from Sidewalk — The Alexandria City Council has voted to ban electronic scooters from sidewalks across the city. [ALXnow]

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Morning Notes

Scooters Can Officially Ride on Sidewalks, Trails — Details about the new, William Shatner-approved permanent e-scooter and e-bike regulations approved by the County Board over the weekend: “Motorized scooters and skateboards will have 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.” [Arlington County]

Progress on Second Ballston Metro Entrance Plan — “At long last, Arlington seems to be making real progress on building a western entrance to the Ballston Metro station — and that includes finding a path to fund the stalled project. County officials plan to set aside an extra $25 million for the Metro station entrance, then ask for $33.5 million in regional transportation funding for the project.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ballston Harris Teeter Development OKed — “A mixed-use redevelopment approved today by the County Board will replace the Harris Teeter and the American Service Center on N. Glebe Rd. with apartments, a new grocery store, other ground floor retail and a new public open space… community benefits will include a $4.1 million contribution to affordable housing; new public street connections; improvements to the traffic signals at Randolph Street and Glebe Road, and the replacement of a large water main under Glebe Road.” [Arlington County]

Talento Not Seeking Reelection — “I have decided not to seek reelection to my School Board seat. Fulfilling my duties as a public servant take first priority for me and, while it is an honor to serve on the School Board, running a campaign while simultaneously fulfilling these responsibilities is not the best way for me to ensure our students have the future they deserve.” [Blue Virginia]

Jennie Dean Park Project Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $15.5 million contract with MCN Build, Inc. to begin Jennie Dean Park’s long-awaited transformation.” [Arlington County]

Caps Host TAPS Families at Iceplex — “Late Thursday afternoon, family members of fallen soldiers got a chance to skate with Capitals players in Arlington, Virginia. The Capitals hosted the event with an organization called TAPS – the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.” [WJLA]

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Morning Notes

Residents Want Second Pentagon City Metro Entrance — “Some longtime residents have spent years agitating for just such a study of their roads and public transit options, seeing a need long before HQ2 was a twinkle in Jeff Bezos’ eye. They’re eager to see an evaluation of how much new density the area can bear, and what solutions could make it easier for Pentagon City residents to get around — perhaps most notably, they’re pressing to see a second entrance for the neighborhood’s Metro station.” [Washington Business Journal]

Pentagon City Mall Seeking Sidewalk Cafe Upgrades — Simon, owner of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, is seeking to make some additions to the sidewalk cafes in front of the mall on S. Hayes Street. Proposed upgrades, to be considered by the Arlington County Board this weekend, include: “light poles, light strings and fencing with tray tops.” [Arlington County]

No, Crystal City Is Not Named for a Chandelier — “According to Robert P. Kogod, the former co-CEO of the Charles E. Smith Companies — which developed Crystal City — the name for the neighborhood’s first building, Crystal House, came first, and the chandelier came afterward.” [Washingtonian]

County Board to Consider Incentives to Keep PBS HQ — “Arlington County Board is considering offering up to $500,000 to retain the Public Broadcasting Service, nearly a year after PBS already committed to doing just that. The Arlington County Board is expected to consider the Economic Development Incentive grant at its meeting Saturday, along with a $450,000 grant to the Incentive Technology Group, which is also staying in Crystal City under a new lease.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Pike Affordable Housing Building Opens — “A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of Gilliam Place, a former church, and its 173 affordable housing units in Arlington Thursday morning. The complex is aimed at helping lower income and special needs families, and… it’s already home for a nonverbal woman living with autism.” [NBC 4, WJLA]

New Scooter Corral in Rosslyn — “Yee-haw!! New ‘Shared Mobility Device’ corral for Rosslyn’s North Moore Street.” [Twitter/@ArlingtonDES]

Live Action ‘Clue’ Planned in Arlington — “Time to solve a murder mystery while taking part in an incredible game and Scavenger Hunt as we bring the game of CLUE® – without a board – to our own backyard!” [Facebook]

Reminder: I-395 HOV Becoming Express Lanes — “The time has come for big change for local commuters: after two years of work, the I-395 HOV lanes inside the Beltway are becoming express toll lanes… The switch over is slated to take place on Sunday, Nov. 17.” [ARLnow]

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Arlington may soon be making electric scooters a more or less permanent fixture of the county’s streets and sidewalks.

The County Board will vote on an ordinance change during its meeting this Saturday, November 16 to allow e-scooter companies to operate in Arlington — provided companies fulfill the requirements of a new permitting system starting next year.

The code change would make the pilot program for “micro-mobility devices” a permanent part of Arlington’s transit system after officials originally approved a nine-month pilot program in September 2018 — and extended it ever since.

If Board members approve the proposed code changes on Saturday, it would allow scooter companies in Arlington to continue operating as long as they fulfill the requirements of the new permit application and pay the still-to-be-determined application fees by January 1, 2020. Much like the pilot program, the County Manager’s office would also be allow to cap the number of devices permitted per company, demand equitable deployment, and levy penalties.

The program will also specify some “community and information sharing requirement” according to a staff report to the Board — a similar requirement to the one in Los Angeles that Uber refused to fulfill, and which led city officials to rescind the company’s permits over Uber’s objections.

But moving forward on the scooter program in Arlington isn’t a surprise considering a recent Mobility Lab report encouraging county leaders to make the scooter program permanent.

The recent report drew support from bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and also recommended that the county roll out some changes next year, including:

  • Adding more safe infrastructure like protected bike lanes for scooters and cyclists, as outlined in the county’s recently updated Master Transportation Plan.
  • Addressing parking complaints by creating a map of approved parking spots as well as “no-go” areas.
  • Eliminating barriers to lower-income users by waiving company’s requirements that users need credit cards

Users traveled just over 400,000 miles on scooters in Arlington between Oct. 2018 and June 2019, per a staff report, but some crashes and blocked sidewalks have prompted discussions about age restrictions and designated parking spaces as well as allowing scooters on some trails.

“Staff proposes that it be permissible to use County sidewalks (with limitations), trails, and on-street bicycle facilities for micro-mobility travel, unless specifically signed/marked otherwise,” wrote county staff in a report to the Board for Saturday’s meeting. “One of the first steps in implementation of the new ordinance would be to sign/mark as prohibited for riding those key sidewalk conflict areas identified during the Pilot program.”

The question of whether scooter riders should be allowed on sidewalks has been a topic of debate among some local groups. Staff is recommending allowing sidewalk use in areas of the county where bike lanes are not a viable option.

“Key stakeholder groups including the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Commission on Aging expressed concern that irresponsible sidewalk-riding could be a danger to pedestrians of any age, however they also expressed support for allowing responsible sidewalk-riding where it was not inconsistent with volumes of pedestrians using the facility, and where safe in-road options are not present,” the staff report says.

The Commission on Aging also expressed concerns that “scooter parking would create an obstruction to safe pedestrian circulation, especially near public transit stops and stations.” County staff seeks to address those concerns with restrictions that specify that scooters should be parked upright and off to the side on sidewalks, if not in a designated scooter dock.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Richmond passed legislation requiring localities to create their own regulations for where users could ride, and park, the devices.

The new ordinance would not, however, preclude future changes to the scooter program.

“Staff commits to a review of the program and consideration of potential refinements to the ordinance at or about one year after ordinance changes go into effect,” a county staff report states.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On November 16th the County Board will hold a public hearing on the “micromobility ordinance.”

In addition to providing a permanent framework for “for-hire” micromobility companies like Bird and Lime to offer e-scooters and e-bikes on Arlington streets, the ordinance tries to finally make some sense of Arlington’s vague and conflicting rules and regulations around bicycles, e-bikes, scooters, e-scooters, motorized skateboard and a whole range of other weird and unique ways to get a person around without a car.

Unfortunately, the ordinance still needs some work and time is short – if Arlington does not regulate these devices before the first of the year, state law will take over and the window of opportunity will have closed.

The Good

The draft ordinance gets several things right. First off, it creates clear regulations on where it is and is not appropriate to park micromobility devices. They must not be parked:

  1. Where they would obstruct curb ramps, pedestrian access within bus stops or fire access
  2. On private property without permission
  3. On public property other than streets and sidewalks except where designated.

Finally, it requires them to be “parked upright, in such a manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrians and vehicular traffic.” The fine for violation is set at $50.

Second, the ordinance brings much needed clarity and consistency around who can ride where. All micro-mobility devices would be allowed on streets, in bike lanes, on trails, and on most sidewalks.

Finally, the ordinance transitions the framework of “for-hire” micromobility devices from pilot to permanent and adds a requirement for geographic dispersion to help ensure that this new mobility option is available across Arlington.

Giving “for-hire” micromobility a permanent home on Arlington’s mobility menu is an important milestone given micromobility devices’ potential role in replacing cars for short trips. Half of all trips taken in the U.S. are 3 miles or less. If we don’t regulate them into oblivion, these devices can be extremely attractive and competitive at providing a short distance mobility option to driving alone.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of this in the pilot – micromobility devices were used for 70,000 trips per month during the pilot (despite much of the pilot being during the winter) and about one third of scooter trips replaced what would have otherwise been a car trip.

The Bad

Unfortunately, some not-so-good, nasty provisions have made their way into the ordinance and there’s not much time to get them fixed. The ordinance provides the County Manager the option to unilaterally ban micromobility devices (remember that’s not just scooters, it’s also bikes, e-bikes and e-skateboards) from certain sidewalks while defining no clear process for how such a determination would be made.

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(Updated at 6:50 p.m.) A woman was struck by a vehicle on N. Glebe Road in Ballston during the Wednesday evening rush hour.

The crash happened around 5 p.m., at the intersection of Glebe and 11th Street N.

Witnesses told ARLnow that the woman was struck by the driver of a pickup truck, who may have run a red light, though that account and other details could not be immediately confirmed.

The woman was conscious and breathing but bleeding from the head, according to scanner traffic. A Fairfax County ambulance crew that happened to be driving by was the first on scene to start rendering aid.

“The pedestrian, an adult female, was transported to an area hospital with injuries that are considered non-life threatening,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

Police tell ARLnow that the driver remained on scene and the investigation into the crash is continuing. So far there’s no word of any charges being filed.

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(Update at 12:20 p.m.) Dockless e-scooter company Spin is adding more designated parking spaces and discounts around Arlington.

The San Francisco-based company said it has nearly a dozen “Spin Hub” charging stands for parking — mostly around Crystal City and Pentago City, near Amazon’s new headquarters — and is now testing out financial incentives for users to stow scooters there.

Parking at one of the charging stations (or one of Arlington’s eight scooter parking corrals) will now net riders 50% off their next unlock fee, bring the fee from $1 down to 50 cents. It’s a move the company says will make charging and parking more efficient, and it comes as the county is about to review regulations for its scooter pilot program.

The company began installing the charging hubs in Arlington last month to address the safety and parking complaints long-levied at the county’s scooter program.

Spin’s D.C. area General Manager Josh Bear said in an email to ARLnow:

We realize that in order to be a good partner to cities, we need to play a role in helping them manage the consumer demand for sustainable transportation that we’ve unlocked. With the proper financial incentives and rider guidelines, we can potentially influence the behavior of people who use dockless electric vehicles and create more orderly scooter-share programs. We’re excited to test this parking incentivization pilot in Arlington County and Alexandria, with the goal of keeping the public ROW [Right of Way] clear and helping city governments better manage micromobility operators.

Spin issued a statement last week that the new docks and incentives could help curb the traffic some worry Amazon could bring to the region by enhancing the “transit connectivity between the three neighborhoods — Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — that comprise National Landing.”

The Ford-owned company noted that it partnered on the project with the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

The new hubs are located at the following locations, among others:

  • 1102 S. Eads Street
  • 2611 Richmond Hwy
  • 251 18th Street S.
  • 220 20th Street S.
  • 520 12th Street S.
  • 1901 S. Bell Street
  • 2231 Crystal Drive
  • 2600 Crystal Drive
  • 2711 Richmond highway

A Spin spokeswoman told ARLnow that the parking incentives will also apply to the 13 scooter parking corrals in Alexandria — another jurisdiction weighing updates to its scooter regulations while also grappling with parking complaints.

Spin currently has 200 scooters deployed in Arlington after first rolling out the orange-banded devices back in February.

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Morning Notes

Scooters May Be Allowed on Arlington Sidewalks — “The Board voted unanimously to advertise a public hearing at the Nov. 16, 2019 County Board Meeting to consider proposed regulations of shared mobility devices. The proposed revisions include allowing the [scooters] to be used on County streets, sidewalks and multi-use trails and putting in place a permit fee structure for private companies offering the devices. During the pilot program, the devices have been prohibited on County sidewalks.” [Arlington County]

Clarendon Cafe Rebrands as ‘Three Whistles’ — “CoworkCafe founder Ramzy Azar rebranded the space this week. In addition to a new name, Three Whistles (2719 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia) has a new look and a new menu. Azar expects to roll out a menu full of Mediterranean small plates in the next few weeks. He says sharable dishes help create the feeling of a gathering place.” [Eater]

Arlington Man Sentenced for Gun Smuggling — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for his role in the trafficking of firearms to his native country of Honduras. According to court documents, in October 2018, Chris Rodriguez, 57, attempted to smuggle a firearm and 247 rounds of ammunition out of the United States, concealed in a bucket of roofing tar destined for Honduras.” [U.S. DOJ]

‘Verizon Site’ Building OKed — “Crystal City’s Verizon site will be redeveloped with a 19-story apartment tower within walking distance of Metro that will include 12 affordable housing units… The [County] Board voted unanimously to approve the vacation of a portion of the right-of-way for Old South Eads Street, a rezoning and site plan amendment for the proposed redevelopment.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Avoids Donating to Arlington Pols — “Amazon.com Inc. just sent $23,000 in campaign contributions to a total of 26 Virginia lawmakers, resuming its political giving in the state for the first time in months as a crucial statehouse election draws near… it only sent checks to six lawmakers in Northern Virginia (and did not send money to a single politician representing Arlington).” [Washington Business Journal]

DMV Select Staff Fights Fraud  — “Three members of [the Commissioner of Revenue’s DMV Select office] staff (Isaac Kateregga, Ahmad Abdalla and supervisor Michelle Neves) recently were honored by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles in Richmond. They were presented with ‘Fraud Busters’ awards for their work in disrupting efforts to commit misdeeds… [involving] title fraud.” [InsideNova]

Reminder: Arlington Restaurant Week Kicking Off — “Arlington Restaurant Week, organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, will run from October 21-28. Diners can visit a number of Arlington restaurants offering special menu items at discounted prices.” [ARLnow, Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington’s Mobility Lab released a recent report on the county’s e-scooter and e-bike pilot program, providing an extra boost to arguments for allowing the devices permanently.

The Arlington County Board voted in June to extend the end date of the pilot program through December, prior to which the Board will need to make another decision on the future of so-called “shared mobility devices.”

The 102page report says that scooters and e-bikes are a “viable complement to the County’s transportation ecosystem that increases mobility options and provides potential sustainability benefits.” However, it also lists eight recommendations to improve the program, including making sure scooters and e-bikes are more evenly deployed in upper as well as lower income areas.

The authors of the report noted that mapping neighborhood income levels over trip origin locations indicate that many people started scooter trips while in neighborhoods with incomes below the Arlington County’s median household income, “suggesting that [scooters and e-bikes] could be appealing to lower-income residents and promoting equity.”

Other improvement recommendations in the report included:

  • Adding more infrastructure for cyclists and scooters, including protected bike lanes along the county’s main travel corridors — a plan outlined in the county’s recently updated Master Transportation Plan.
  • Addressing complaints about improper parking by creating maps with approved spots as well as “no-go” areas.
  • Addressing accessibility for lower-income scooter riders. The report notes the requirement users have a credit card can be burdensome.

“The pilot showed that shared scooters can significantly decrease car trips, which makes streets safer, our community happier and our air cleaner,” Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Gillian Burgess told ARLnow of the report.

“But we’ve also learned that people are just not comfortable scooting on sidewalks or even our current non-protected bike lanes,” she said. “We want to leave sidewalks to people on two feet and those who are slow rolling.”

The county’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) wrote a letter in September saying they were “generally supportive” of continuing the program, but remained “concerned about the impact these devices have on the pedestrian environment when they are ridden or parked on the clear zone of the sidewalk.”

The PAC wrote that more bike lanes would remove pedestrian-scooter conflicts, but other measures like barring e-bikes from some trails and capping the hours they can ridden (as one D.C. Councilmember attempted) are “unnecessary.”

The Arlington County Board is due to discuss the future of the pilot program at the end of December.

In April, a staff presentation to the County Board indicated riders tooks 313,166 trips on scooters since the program began with an unsanctioned deployment of Bird scooters last year. Between June 2018 and April 2019, users travelled 307,243 miles with an average length of 1 mile per trip.

And after the county signed off on a pilot program to study their effects, more scooter companies have joined the fray to roll out a combined 2,600 scooters to the county’s streets.

But with more scooters came a flood of safety and littering complaints — which the report notes decreased over time as perhaps riders followed rules better, or because of officials responding to complaints by capping scooters’ speeds, installing parking corrals, and restricting users’ ability to ride on some public lands.

Data from the Arlington County Police Department indicated an increase in the number of reported crashes involving scooters from four in 2018 to eight this year so far. However, measuring the actual number of crashes is difficult as data from the ACPD only captures the incidents reported to the police, and the Dept. of Motor Vehicles did not yet have codes for tracking scooter-related incidents.

The new report also notes that scooters and e-bikes merit more short-term and long-term analysis from county planners. Examples of topics county staff want to study further include:

  • Analyzing demographics of users and where they ride (especially late at night), as well as where complaints most often occur.
  • Learning whether the parking corrals installed for scooters reduced complaints, and whether they created any problems for users.
  • Measuring the impact that sharing sidewalks with scooters has on people with disabilities (for example, when illicitly-parked scooters block the way for people in wheelchairs)

Overall, the report’s recommendations mirror those recently issued in Alexandria, where City Councilmembers urged companies to deploy more scooters outside of the Old Town and Del Ray neighborhoods.

“I look forward to the County Board adopting a permanent shared micro-mobility program before the January deadline,” said Burgess. “I also am hopeful that the Board will fix some of their ableist policies that discriminate against e-bikes and will update their bike lane policies to be inclusive and current.”

Map and graph via Arlington County

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