The County Board today approved an extension to Arlington’s demonstration project for e-scooters and e-bikes for six months, through Dec. 31, 2019, to allow continued public comment and sufficient time for analysis. More than 300,000 trips have been taken on the devices since Arlington launched the demonstration project in October 2018.
“Great transportation options are an important feature of life in Arlington County,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “On a day-to-day basis, we are learning a lot about what’s working and what isn’t working with dockless scooters and bikes. Before this Board considers how to permanently regulate these devices in Arlington, we need a complete analysis from staff of information from operators, staff experience, adopted plans and policies, and feedback from our community. We expect to get that within the next four to six months, and then we can make an informed decision on next steps based on analysis of real-world performance.”
The County Board voted unanimously to extend the demonstration project that it first approved in September 2018, for six months beyond its original end date of June 30, 2019. The project evaluates the impacts of dockless bikeshare bikes, both pedal and electric pedal-assist, and electric stand-up scooters. The six-month extension will allow staff to finish collecting a full data set that includes usage during warmer months, to prepare a full analysis of the data, and to develop and bring before the Board for consideration recommendations for any regulatory changes that may be needed for these services.
Informed response to new mobility options
The project seeks to develop an informed and thorough response to these new mobility options, to learn if and how the services help to advance the County’s transportation goals, and to determine to what extent they help make the community better, safer, and more sustainable. Seven companies are participating.
Under the pilot, each company must pay an $8,000 fee per mode to assist with the cost of program administration, each must observe a fleet cap of 350 devices per mode with opportunities for growth based on performance, and each must adhere to a 10 mile-per-hour and 20 mile-per-hour top speed for e-scooters and e-bikes respectively. Participating companies are required to report data for every month of operation within the demonstration period.
Between October 2018 and April 2019, riders in Arlington took 313,000 trips on these devices, traveling 307,000 miles with an average trip length of 1.03 miles. Most trips have been in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Route 1 corridors, but riders also have traveled to destinations along Columbia Pike and outside main commercial corridors, such as schools and community facilities.
In March 2019, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed state legislation that authorizes local governments such as Arlington to regulate these devices. The legislation better defines the devices, authorizes their use on roadways; and beginning in 2020, authorizes their use on sidewalks unless otherwise prohibited by ordinance.
The demonstration project has included extensive public engagement. Staff maintains a project webpage and printed materials; makes in-person presentations to community groups; posts messages on social media, and takes comments through a dedicated email address (email@example.com). Staff has presented to more than 20 County advisory commissions, committees and civic associations.
The County has received more than 600 emails about the pilot, containing both complaints and compliments. Complaints have mostly centered on four issues: users operating e-scooters on the sidewalk (prohibited under the demonstration project); improper parking of devices that obstruct pedestrians or vehicles; perceived unsafe or erratic rider behavior, and riders appearing to be under the required minimum age of 18. There have been 21 reported injuries during eight months of the pilot. The County is undertaking additional enforcement actions in these areas.
Through June 30, the County is conducting a formal public feedback process for the demonstration project. Those who live, work and visit in Arlington are invited to complete the online feedback form to help the County gauge interest, issues and concerns around dockless e-bikes and e-scooters. All feedback is welcome, even if you have never used shared mobility devices in Arlington. To date, more than 3,000 people have responded.
Visit the County website to read the staff report. Scroll to Item No. 35 on the agenda for the June 2018 Recessed County Board Meeting.