Post #474: 11/26/2019 Transportation Safety Commission meeting

I attended part of the TSC meeting last night.  There was a total of three people in the audience.

I brought the situation at the Chick-fil-A drive through to their attention (see just-prior post).  They seemed to understand that this might be hazardous and asked Department of Public Works to look into it.

Otherwise there were just a few things of note.

Rental electric scooters (Post #472 and earlier posts).  They made some small amendments to the “memorandum of understanding” that would govern any rental scooter agreements here in Vienna.  Mostly, they wanted language added that would specifically mention the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), in the sense of banning any scooter parking that would impede ADA-mandated access points.

They also had extensive discussion of the geofencing of Maple, Nutley and possible other streets to limit speeds, with the idea being that scooter users would likely be on the sidewalk on those streets.  There was some discussion of limiting speed to 6 MPH on those roads, but they stuck with the DPW recommendation of 10 MPH.

So, in a nutshell, if rental electric scooters are offered here in Vienna, the rules will look something like this, unless the Town Council changes them at their next meeting:

  • It is legal to ride on the sidewalk (but riding in the road is encouraged where it is safe to do so).
  • Speed limit of 20 MPH, except Maple and Nutley speed limit of 10 MPH (under the assumption that they’ll be most on the sidewalk on those street).
  • You can park them anywhere, but you can’t block any right of way (e.g., sidewalk) and in particular you can’t block any ADA access.  (And obviously, you can’t park them on private property without the property owner’s permission or acceptance.)
  • To enforce that, they are going to ask the vendor to require that each user send a picture of the parked scooter (or some equivalent technology).  Apparently, that system — you need to send a photo of the parked scooter in order to end your trip — is commonly used as a way to enforce reasonable parking of the scooters.

My opinion is that it’s probably wishful thinking to believe that a vendor would offer rental scooters here.  But you never know.  In particular, our Metro ridership (based on Census survey data) tends to be an older, high-income population.  I doubt that rental scooters are likely to generate many trips to Metro.  But again, you never know.

My (scant) observation in Fairfax City was that these were used by most college-age kids, and that the Fairfax City ban against using these on the sidewalks was routinely ignored.  (Per Fairfax City:  “City Code currently prohibits e-scooters, e-bikes, and other vehicles from sidewalks and trails (except on certain designated routes). “)  So even if you don’t like the idea of rental electric scooters on the sidewalks, my guess is, if they are going to be used here, there’s no practical way to keep them off the sidewalks.

One last tidbit:  Apparently, and news to me, electric scooters are allowed on the W&OD.  That was announced by DPW staff at this meeting.  I could find nothing on-line to validate this, not even on the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority website.  Their website notes that e-bikes are allowed, but as far as I can tell, there’s no mention of electric scooters.

Separately:  Unsafe conditions on Kingsley and Tapawingo.  DPW met with citizens regarding unsafe intersections on Kingsley and Tapawingo, on November 19 and 20.  The had a total of about 22 citizens show up to discuss potential changes to those roads and intersections to improve safety.

Post #472: CORRECTED: Rental electric scooters tonight

Correction:  I attended the meeting and found that my original draft of this was wrong.  Councilman Noble’s idea of geofencing some sidewalks for slower speeds is included in the Town’s plan for this.  As of last night, the idea was to limit scooters to 10 MPH on Maple and Nutley, with the idea that scooters were likely to use the sidewalk on those streets.  The concept was that other streets might be added if “scooters on the sidewalk” became an issue elsewhere in Vienna.

Tonight (11/26/2019), at 8 PM, the Transportation Safety Commission will discuss the Town’s proposed pilot program for rental electric scooters (and other issues).  As I see it, the two key unresolved issues are whether you want to allow rental electric scooters on the sidewalk, and whether you want to allow them to park anywhere (as long as they don’t block the right-of-way.) 

If you need to know the background, see Post #377.  Briefly, repeated from that post:

due to a change in Commonwealth law, the Town needs to have some sort of program in place to regulate the use of rental scooters and bikes.  If not, then on 1/1/2020, the rental and use of such devices is deemed legal, including, if not explicitly barred, use on the sidewalk.  We probably don’t want that …

So it’s not like the Town is going out of its way to attract rental electric scooters.  It’s more a matter of self-defense.  (Though, I must say, my interactions with scooters in the City of Fairfax has been positive so far — see Post #393).

The meeting materials on this topic may be found at this Town of Vienna web page.  The term of art here is SMD for shared mobility device.

After skimming the documents, near as I can tell, this is just a pro-forma adaptation of the same contract that most other jurisdictions are using.  More-or-less, this appears to be the same “cookie-cutter” draft that was presented to Town Council earlier.  It outlines the framework for contracting, and nothing else.

In particular, I’m still uncertain about two key details, sidewalk use and location of “corrals” for parking scooters.   As I recall, these are both issues that the Town Council needed to resolve.

The “corrals” don’t appear to be mentioned in the legal documents.  In fact, the only mention of parking of these scooters, in general, appears to be this:

Defined response times for removing devices for critical issues designated by the Town

I think that means that the Town will ask this company to pick up scooters that are reported as blocking a sidewalk or entrance.  And, based on these documents, it’s up to the company to determine the standard for quickly they plan to pick those “mis-parked” scooters up.  But otherwise, there’s no indication that there are any parking rules at all (beyond what is specified in the Commonwealth statute above).

The sidewalk issue is, I think, critical, because as I understand it, the default under Commonwealth law is that these things are legal on the sidewalk And certain Town Council members (Majdi, at least) really objected to that.  So if the Town wants to keep them off the sidewalk, I think Town Council has to pass an amendment to Town Code to do that?  I’m not a lawyer, but that’s how I read it.

Commonwealth of Virginia law says this, emphasis mine:

The governing body of any ... town may by ordinance prohibit the use of ... personal delivery devices ... on designated sidewalks or crosswalks ... Unless otherwise prohibited, electric personal delivery devices may be operated on the sidewalks ... of any locality of the Commonwealth. ...No person shall park a ... scooter in a manner that impedes the normal movement of pedestrian or other traffic or where such parking is prohibited by official traffic control devices.

So I think that if Town Council wants to keep these off the sidewalks, they must actively say so.  And (from a part of that statute that I omitted), they are required to post signs saying so.  So this isn’t trivial.

Near as I can tell, the only mention of “mobility devices” in Town of Vienna code is section Sec. 21-8. – Prohibited or restricted activities.  That prohibits certain activities (e.g., riding two abreast in the roadway) and requires riders 14 and under to wear helmets.

To be clear, then unless the Town passes ordinances to the contrary, as it stands, rental electric scooters can be used on the sidewalk, and can be left anywhere that does not literally block the use of the sidewalk or road.

I certainly hope that the TSC is preparing to make recommendations to the Town on these key issues.  It’s a tough call.  On sidewalks:  Without sidewalk use, you pretty much can’t get to Metro or use Maple Avenue.  Councilman Noble’s suggestion of geofencing those streets to enforce lower speed limits (while allowing sidewalk use) appears to have fallen by the wayside.   So somebody needs to make the call here, otherwise the defaults (in red above) apply.  On parking:  If the Town designates a handful of areas for legal scooter parking, that pretty much negates the use of the scooter as a disseminated transportation modality.  (Or, in English, then you can get to where you want to go.)  But no rules means that these might be parked anywhere as long as they literally don’t block the sidewalk right-of-way.

Aside:  This 8 PM meeting will be preceded by separate meetings of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees, starting at 7 PM.  Having attended the last one of those, I can state that if you are thinking of attending those, just realize that they don’t expect or make accommodations for citizens to attend.  Typically, there’s no agenda posted in advance (which is true for tonight’s meeting).  The last BAC meeting consisted of Committee members standing around a table in the front of the room, commenting on a paper copy of a proposed bike map.  There was literally no use in attending the meeting as a citizen.

 

Post #378: Town Council work session 9/9/2019, Part 1

My wife and I attended last night’s Town Council work session, along with about (best guess) 40 other audience members.  I’m going to break my review of that into two separate posts:  This post will be a timely overview.  Other posts may go into more detail.

It’s almost not worth posting my audio file, because microphone discipline was poor.  FWIW:  Download the audio (.mp3) at this Google Drive link, and download the corresponding .xls index file (my notes at to what was said when) at this Google Drive link.

The work session covered four topics.  You can find the meeting materials at this location.  Click links below to get to a brief writeup of the four topics.

I didn’t stay for the last one, so I have little to say for that one until I listen to the Town’s audio recording.  An overview of the others follows.


Continue reading Post #378: Town Council work session 9/9/2019, Part 1

Post #377: Rental scooters, the Town begins to get ready.

For background on the rental scooter issue, see these posts:  Post #338, Post #330.

In a nutshell, due to a change in Commonwealth law, the Town needs to have some sort of program in place to regulate the use of rental scooters and bikes.  If not, then on 1/1/2020, the rental and use of such devices is deemed legal, including, if not explicitly barred, use on the sidewalk.  We probably don’t want that, based on the problems reported in cities that underwent unregulated use of rental “shared mobility devices” (see examples in Post #289).

The Town will begin discussion of this issue at the 9/9/2019 Town Council work session.  You can find the relevant meeting materials on this web page.

To cut to the chase:  My best guess is that the Town is developing a pro-forma way to satisfy Virginia statute.  We may or may not attract any dockless scooter or ebike rental operators to Vienna.

Continue reading Post #377: Rental scooters, the Town begins to get ready.