The mid-sized City of Fairfax, VA recently announced a year-long pilot program that will allow residents and visitors to travel the streets using an electric scooter. The program was approved by the Fairfax City Council on May 14th of this year and went into effect last week. Three different scooter rental companies will deploy roughly 250 scooters across the city which can be rented for a reasonable price using an app on the rider’s smartphone.
“We are excited about the opportunity to provide a new mobility option in the City of Fairfax. We are encouraging users to proceed cautious in the use of the scooters but we’re excited about this new program,” Fairfax City Transportation Director Wendy Sanford told the local paper. This year’s decision to allow electric scooters on the streets of Fairfax was made after the Virginia General Assembly passed a law giving local governments regulatory authority over motorized skateboards and scooters. This authority also gives local municipalities the ability to negotiate with rental companies like Bird and Lime.
Bicycles and scooters which can be rented for a single trip are commonly referred to as shared mobility devices. These devices first popped up in the area within Washington, D.C. City limits in 2017. While shared mobility devices are now ubiquitous on the streets of the capital, they have not been seen in many of the surrounding suburbs. The move by the Fairfax City Council demonstrates that this is about to change, and that vehicles for rent may soon be commonplace outside D.C. city limits in Maryland and Northern Virginia as well.
The size of Fairfax City makes it an ideal location for scooters. “Scooters are good way to encourage people to travel those short lengths without necessarily getting into their cars. We’re hoping that scooters can be a good new alternative, one of many to utilize to get around the City of Fairfax,” Sanford was quoted as saying. Scooter companies will be required to share data that they collect on usage, trip length, and accidents with the City of Fairfax as part of the deal.
The shared mobility device program in Fairfax will limit speed of the scooters to 15 miles per hour. The city is also encouraging scooter riders to wear a helmet when operating the vehicles, although not required by law. The Fairfax County Police Department noted on its website that riders are not allowed on sidewalks or walking trails, but that scooters may be operated in bike lanes. The department also suggests that riders wear bright or reflective clothing, use extra caution at intersections and parking lot entrances, and keep both hands on the handlebars at all times. Whether or not operators will do so remains to be seen.
What do our readers in the area think? Will electric bikes and scooters catch on in the suburbs or will they be shunned by potential customers? Do you have any noteworthy experiences with shared mobility devices or people riding these methods of transportation? Please leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.
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