County Board Set to Loosen Regulations on E-Scooters

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, October 19, 2019

I am speaking on my own behalf as a long-time bike commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

The proposed Ordinance Revisions that Regulate the Use and Rental of Micro-Mobility Devices–read e-scooters–are a sop to group of self-interested entrepreneurs and their mostly young, male, thrill seeking clientele and a hazard to the public at large.

When the Shared Mobility Device (SMD) Pilot Project was implemented last year, it excluded SMDs from sidewalks and bike trails and banned users under 16. These regulations proved to be meaningless due to lack of enforcement.

The result was a public outcry against the inconvenience and hazard to pedestrians and bikers by SMDs travelling on and obstructing sidewalks and multi-use trails.

Instead of responding to these concerns by developing the means to enforce existing regulations, the County proposes to essentially eliminate them. Thus SMDs will now be permitted on both sidewalks and multi-use trails, with a speed limit of 6 mph on sidewalks and 15 mph on trails. While non-enforcement of a lax regulation is irresponsible, loosening lax regulations further constitutes reckless endangerment.

As an example I point to an experience related to me by my physical therapist on October 3 shortly before the Transportation Commission recommended these revisions to Chapter 14.2 of County Code.

Several months ago, the therapist was biking on the Mount Vernon trail near Gravelly Point, when he approached a helmetless 10 year-old travelling in the same direction on an e-scooter. Since the e-scooter was moving erratically, the therapist attempted to pass him from the left. As he did so, the e-scooter swerved into his path, causing the biker to wipe out.

The biker, a young physically fit, adult male, was not seriously injured. Nevertheless I ask you to consider the likely outcome if the e-scooter had collided with a woman walking a stroller or a person in a wheel chair at 15 mph on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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