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Richmond Scooter Ordinance Faces Industry Pushback

bird scooters on sidewalk

The city of Richmond is still trying to come up with an agreement with e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime.

A revised ordinance from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney was referred out of committee Tuesday without a recommendation from council members after city engineer M. Khara provided an update about changes since last month: including a tier-based fee structure, sunrise to sunset hours of operation and a 10 mph speed limit.

“Even though we encourage everyone to ride on the street, we know that there will be people there riding on the sidewalk, so we think that speed is more safe for the pedestrian,” Khara said.

Khara said e-scooter companies should be able to program the scooters with speed limits. Lime spokesperson John O’Toole expressed concern about that.

“The vast majority of cities worldwide either do not have speed limits for bicycles, electric bicycles or electric scooters,” O’Toole said. “Or they set them at a more typical speed of 15 or 20 miles per hour.”

That concern was also expressed by Bird’s spokesperson Randy Pearson. He said speed controls would make the scooters more dangerous, not safer.

“E-scooters share the road with both automobiles and man-powered and motorized bicycles which are capable of going well over 10 mph,” Pearson said.

He also voiced concerns about the hours of operation – pointing out that bikes and motorcycles can operate in the dark. He said the ordinance’s requirements of front and rear lighting contradicts the hours of operation caveat.

“Richmond residents will be unable to rely on e-scooters for a consistent mode of transportation,” Pearson said.

Both companies complained about a maximum annual fee of $60,000 for operation of up to 500 scooters – saying the cost burden would fall on consumers.

“Simply put, it would be extremely burdensome for operators to hire full-time local staff, operate and maintain a fleet of devices and warehouses and then pay an additional $60,000 flat fee,” Pearson said.

Lime instead suggested a $10,000 annual fee and a cost to consumers of 10 cents per ride. As for the cap on 500 scooters per company in the first year: Bird seemed ok with it, as long as the city is willing to adjust the cap after an initial six month period to reflect demand.

Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.
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