There are a couple of localities in Northern Virginia where scooters are running rampant, and soon Fairfax County will be included in that unofficial club. Recently 600 e-scooters were approved to operate in Fairfax County and will soon hit local pavement. Like bicycles, e-scooters can be used on a highway, sidewalk, shared-use path, roadway, or crosswalk, but cannot operate above 10 mph, the county said.
Scooters actually fall under an ordinance regulating shared mobility devices, to include motorized scooters, that was approved in 2019 and went
into effect Jan. 1, 2020. Operators are allowed an initial maximum fleet of 300 devices per operator permit that can be increased to 600 devices per operator based on usage, so the 600 in this first program are divided between two companies, Link and BIRD.
Scooters are a common site in Arlington, the City of Alexandria, and on George Mason University campus, and scooter parking in these locations has become somewhat of an issue. The rules seem to be bending in many cases in these locations. In Fairfax County, once riders reach their destination, they should leave the device parked in an area that does not impede normal car or foot traffic. If an e-scooter is parked in an inappropriate place or left on private property, it falls upon the random resident to contact the device operator listed on the e-scooter and the operator must move it.
Some residents chimed in on social media about this when the county announced it. “Most riders just abandon scooters on sidewalks or park trails... So annoying...,” a Facebook user posted.
“Do you have to take a safety and awareness test to rent these?” asked suzrejo.
“City of Fairfax has scooters left all over the sidewalks and a lack of safety toward pedestrians,” said another comment.
Fairfax County staff will create a process for complaints about e-scooters and shared mobility devices related to improper use or abandonment. Staff will coordinate implementation of the complaint process with bordering jurisdictions and present a summary in the first year of SMDs in early 2021.
In order to report any issues related to scooters and other shared devices, emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
does take some balance, skill and a set of nerves. A helmet is recommended when riding a scooter, but it’s only a recommendation. The helmets may seem like a no-brainer but "Fairfax County does not have the authority to regulate helmets although many companies do that voluntarily," they state on the website.
Bird is an international scooter company that claims the “Bird 3” is “the world’s most eco-conscious scooter,” but on the website, it takes a lot of digging to find out the details, like how to pay for it? An app and a credit card, of course.
The Washington Area Bicyclists Association has chimed in, supporting this mode of transportation, saying “scooters provide a low-emission, affordable and on-demand travel option and an alternative to private or shared cars.” They also state that users “must not use any cellular telephone, text messaging device, portable music player, or other device that may distract you from operating the vehicle safely.”
According to the Bird rules, riders must be at least 18, physically fit to ride it, assume all risks for injuries, and obey all helmet laws. At GMU, their rules are posted at several scooter parking spots around campus, but any helmet rules are not stated on the posted sign.
Payment to use a Bird scooter is through "credit card, debit card, or another agreed payment method," which limits the use to only card holders. This could limit county scooter users as well.
Over at Link, it's much of the same although Link scooters go up to 15 miles per hour, and the rule in Fairfax County is 10 miles per hour.
According to Rebecca L. Makely, Consumer Services Division Director at Fairfax County Department of Cable and Consumer Services "permittees are encouraged to provide a cash-based or non-smartphone mechanism to access Shared Mobility Devices," although it is not clear if Link or Bird have other payment methods.
For any issues related to scooters and other shared devices email email@example.com.