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City Boards and Commissions Divided on Issue of Scooters on Sidewalks

As the City Council considers approving Alexandria’s e-scooter pilot program for another year, several of the city’s boards and commissions have written letters asking that scooters be prohibited from city sidewalks in one form or another.

A draft recommendation being presented to the City Council tomorrow (Tuesday) includes banning sidewalk riding in Old Town and along Mount Vernon Avenue, which runs through Arlandria and Del Ray.

Earlier versions of the Phase II Dockless Mobility Pilot Program would have allowed scooters to ride on sidewalks except in areas where bicycles are also not allowed to ride — like King Street east of West Street and Union Street between Cameron and Prince streets.

In a letter from the Waterfront Commission, chair Steve Thayer said the group was divided over whether to continue the pilot program at all.

“Some members noted the value the scooters provide as an additional transportation mode, while others emphasized the safety and parking issues as significant reasons to ban scooters in the City,” Thayer said. “The commission cannot support a program allowing scooters on public sidewalks within historic Old Town.”

The strongest condemnation of scooters on sidewalks came from the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities. According to a letter from chair Jeffrey Pool:

Regarding the proposal to permit scooters on sidewalks except where explicitly banned, it is the opinion of the [Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities] that, in light of the inherent safety risks to people with sensory or mobility impairment posed by the use of dockless scooters on sidewalks, such use should be strictly prohibited. Recognizing the vulnerability of scooter riders who share the roadway with automobiles, the [commission] recommends that scooters be required to utilize bike lanes wherever they exist in the City of Alexandria and to share the roadway where they do not.

The Transportation Commission was more conflicted on the issue of scooters on sidewalks. A letter from acting chair Melissa McMahon said there was a proposal for the commission to recommend prohibiting scooters on all sidewalks. Ultimately, the commission did not support the proposal, noting that there are several streets that would be dangerous for a scooter rider and neighborhoods where pedestrian activity is sparse. The commission agreed with staff to prohibit scooters where bicycles are prohibited.

The Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee recommended not only prohibiting motorized scooters from high pedestrian traffic sidewalks but also said the city should require scooter companies to financially incentivize parking in designated corrals, according to a letter from chair Jim Durham. The committee also pushed for Alexandria to offer income-based discount programs and encourage wider geographic distribution, topics raised earlier by members of the City Council.

Nearby Arlington, meanwhile, voted on Nov. 16 to permanently codify its previously temporary scooter program, allowing scooters on most sidewalks where a protected bike line is not present, albeit at a reduced 6 mph top speed.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the second phase of the plan at a Saturday, Dec. 14 hearing.

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