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Currently, electric scooters are only allowed on city streets. While some say that rule makes sense for a place like Old Town, there has been discussion in city meetings recently that it might not be the best policy for the rest of the city.

At a Transportation Commission meeting last week, commissioners and city staff discussed giving the scooters-on-streets policy a second look.

“There are safety concerns on both sides,” said Hillary Orr, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “There are safety concerns for scooters riding on sidewalks and safety concerns for scooters not being allowed to ride on sidewalks. That’s something City Council included in a final plan and that’s in the city code.”

Whereas bicycles are allowed on sidewalks outside of certain areas, like King Street, electric scooters are prohibited from all sidewalks in Alexandria.

The area has seen multiple crashes in the region where scooter drivers were killed by car drivers. In Alexandria, a scooter driver was killed by a car driver in August. At the same time, a study from 2020 found that most scooter injuries occur on sidewalks.

“We did have a pretty robust discussion of whether scooters should be allowed to ride on sidewalks outside of Old Town,” said Commissioner Bruce Marsh. That’s something I think Council should revisit… whether it’s safer for scooters to ride on a street like Duke Street, where I’d argue it’s not safe [as compared to] a sidewalk.”

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A local nonprofit will leave a locked white “ghost scooter” at the corner of Sanger Avenue and North Beauregard Street this Sunday in memory of a 16-year-old killed at the intersection in August.

Miguel Ángel Rivera was riding an electric scooter when he was struck on August 27. He died four days later.

On Sunday (Nov. 20), the Alexandria chapter of Northern Virginia Families For Safe Streets will plant the white scooter and release its transportation improvement recommendations for the city and neighboring jurisdictions.

“The recommendations encourage drivers to slow down and go the posted speed limit,” said Mike Doyle, a founding member of the Northern Virginia Families For Safe Streets. “Doing simple things can save lives. There’s engineering changes, like traffic light changes, to slow drivers down.”

Doyle said that an electric scooter company deactivated the ghost scooter, and allowed for it to be used for this purpose providing that the company brand be removed. The scooter will be locked near the intersection and will stay up for an undetermined period of time.

Mayor Justin Wilson and representatives from the Alexandria Police Department and Alexandria City Public Schools will speak at the event, which will be held in the William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue) at 11:30 a.m. The event is part of series recognizing the annual World Day Of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. NoVAFSS will also conduct similar events in Arlington and Fairfax Counties.

Doyle came up with the idea for the nonprofit after recovering from being hit by a car in Old Town in 2016. He was walking home from work and a turning driver didn’t see him crossing.

“He turned left sharply and crashed into me, and he hit me with such force that my forehead put a dent in the hood of his car, which caused a fracture in my forehead and all sorts of issues,” Doyle said. “We have members of our group who are permanently crippled, but what gets me emotional is when I think about how it impacted my wife and the rest of my family and friends.”

In September, Old Town was deemed the most dangerous area for pedestrians in Virginia. There were 68 crashes and 75 injuries, throughout Old Town between 2015 and mid-2022, according to a a study.

There were also two pedestrian crashes last month in the West End.

“Speed kills and speed maims,” Doyle said. “So, if drivers slow down at a turn, there’s a greater chance that they can avoid crashing into somebody.”

Alexandria has a Vision Zero Action Plan to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2028. Part of the action plan went into effect last month with numerous speed limit reductions in the West End.

Those reductions include:

  • North Beauregard Street (Entire Length) — Reducing the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour (MPH), and the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 MPH
  • West Braddock Road (North Beauregard Street to Quaker Lane) — Reducing the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 MPH, and the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 MPH
  • North Howard Street (Lynn House Driveway to Braddock Road) — Reducing the school zone speed limit on North Howard Street from 25 to 15 MPH
  • Seminary Road (Kenmore Avenue to North Pickett Street) — Reducing the school zone speed limit from 25 to 15 MPH
  • King Street (Radford Street to Quincy Street) — Installing a new 15 MPH school zone speed limit

The City also recently approved the installation of speed cameras at five school zones. The cameras were approved after a child was struck and seriously injured at an intersection just outside of Jefferson Houston Elementary School (200 block of North West Street).

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Electronic scooters could become a permanent part of the city ordinance this Saturday (Nov. 13) even as they head into their seasonal decline.

The approval comes after nearly two years of the program being in a pilot phase — even as scooter usage in Alexandria heads into its seasonal decline. Ridership typically falling to less than 10,000 trips city-wide between December and March. The chart also shows that scooter usage hasn’t come close to reaching its pre-pandemic highs in April and May 2019, though 2021 was still a stronger year for scooter usage than 2020 was. In spring 2020, scooter usage fell abysmally low, despite scooters being encouraged as a healthier alternative to riding the bus or carpooling.

Scooter usage by month and year, image via City of Alexandria

The city also included language in the pilot program that required companies to spread their scooters out more equitably to other parts of the city outside of the tourism hotspots like Del Ray and Old Town. Despite this, actual usage still is heavily weighted in favor of the southeast corner of the city. The requirement for companies to deploy at least 30% of their fleet inside “equity zones” across the city will be carried over into the city ordinance.

Heatmap of scooter parking, image via City of Alexandria

The ordinance includes a variety of requirements developed over the course of the program to alleviate concerns about scooter parking on private property or blocking the public right of way.

“Permit holders shall work to ensure that Micromobility Devices are parked in a manner that does not impede pedestrian access; does not obstruct access to fire hydrants and valves, street furniture, crosswalks, driveways, or private property; does not damage landscaping, street trees or other aesthetic features; and does not interfere with traffic or bus stop operations or operation and use of Capital Bikeshare stations,” the ordinance said. Failure to adhere to these parking requirements may result in the City removing the Micromobility Device, with the Permit holder responsible for all costs associated with removal and storage of Micromobility Devices so removed, in addition to any applicable fines or fees, or other penalties as appropriate under the law.”

The full ordinance and regulatory requirements are available on the city docket (item 33).

The Permanent Dockless Mobility Program is headed to City Council review tomorrow (Tuesday) before a final vote at a public hearing this Saturday.

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Police outside the McDonalds where a shooting occurred, staff photo by James Cullum

What a busy week in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was on a juvenile who was shot outside the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center on Tuesday, Sept. 21. There have also been a number of concerning incidents at Alexandria City Public Schools, including a juvenile who was arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School.

Meanwhile, while the COVID-19 transmission rate remains high, public events are still happening in Alexandria.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School
  2. Police dispatched three times for fighting at Alexandria City Public Schools in less than a month
  3. Police: Six hospitalized after overdoses on Alexandria-Fairfax border
  4. Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
  5. BREAKING: Flooding reported in Alexandria
  6. Interview: Port City Publius opens up about Alexandria
  7. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  8. Juvenile arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School
  9. Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
  10. Preserving Arlandria’s affordability against gentrification could cost upward of $100 million
  11. JUST IN: One person injured after shots fired in West End Tuesday afternoon

Have a safe weekend! 

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The city is looking to make its scooter pilot program permanent, but hopefully with some changes that make them less intrusive for local pedestrians and residents.

Victoria Caudullo, shared mobility planner for the City of Alexandria, spoke to the Waterfront Commission this week to discuss some of the ambitions and limitations of the scooter program moving forward.

Caudullo said that many of the elements of the existing program, like the requirement for 30% of the scooters deployed to be in designated “equity zones”, will remain intact going forward. Restrictions on riding on the waterfront and city parks will also remain in place.

One of the biggest goals of the plan moving forward, Caudullo said, is adding more parking corrals for the scooters. So far, corrals have not edged into on-street parking, but Caudullo said that’s a possibility being considered.

“We want to increase the number of scooter corrals, but there might be a time where the only option is to install them in on-street parking,” Caudullo said.

If the city wants to replace some on-street parking with scooter corrals, Caudullo said that would go through the Traffic and Parking Board.

The city is also hoping to increase “education and public engagement” in the future — polite city-speak for getting people to stop dumping their scooters on the sidewalk or private property.

“We’re encouraging companies to require users and deployment teams to take a photo after use,” Caudullo said, “specifically to reach people who are parking incorrectly every time.”

For local residents, some on the Waterfront Commission said the big frustration is not knowing what to do about scooters that are obstacles in the public right of way and park spaces. Some on the Waterfront Commission suggested potentially dropping the speed on scooters to zero in prohibited zones, but Caudullo explained that there’s concern this could further incentivize abandoning vehicles.

“That could lead to a potential build up, even more so than we see now, at the edge of the waterfront,” Caudullo said.

For others, making it easier for residents to report scooters parked errantly could fix the feeling of helplessness from some residents.

“When I walk outside and open my door on Saturday morning and there’s two Uber-line scooters laying across the sidewalk: literally, what do I do next?” said Waterfront commissioner Beth Gross. “There’s no phone number on there to call. Is the proper thing to do Alex311? I think there’s a missing piece that’s the actual step people are supposed to do… I think you’d get more support from people who don’t use them who find them a nuisance if there was a simpler way to address that concern.”

Caudullo said scooters should have contact information visible, but the city would be pushing to make that more visible.

“People are welcome to try and fix it themselves,” Caudullo said. “I know that’s not an ideal request. Barring that it would go to the company. I’m concerned to hear there was no phone number on the devices. There should be on the devices. That’s concerning to hear and I’ll look into that, but the idea is to reach out to the company using their phone number or their app. It’s not a perfect system. We’re trying to find a better way of doing this.”

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Electric scooter company LINK has been issued an operating permit in Alexandria, and 200 of its e-scooters have been spread out across the city.

LINK, which is owned by Massachusetts-based Superpedestrian, is offered in nearby Arlington and more than a dozen cities around the world, including Madrid, Spain, and Rome, Italy.

“We are thrilled to offer our LINK scooters to Alexandria residents during this challenging time,” William Knapp, vice president of operations at LINK, said in a statement. “As we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, safe, sustainable, and accessible modes of transport are increasingly important. We look forward to serving the city of Alexandria with our LINK scooters, engineered to increase rider safety and offer convenient individualized transport.”

LINK e-scooters cost $1 to unlock and 35 cents a minute. The company says that no injuries have been reported on its e-scooters around the world, there have been zero equipment recalls and that the scooters are geofenced to keep them from being ridden on sidewalks or restricted areas.

While LINK is not listed on the city’s Dockless Mobility page, operating permits have been issued to:

According to LINK:

The LINK scooter is the industry’s first and only e-scooter with on-board Artificial Intelligence that performs vehicle maintenance. Each vehicle has five computers that work together as an A.I. Mechanic, monitoring every component thousands of times per second, instantly self-repairing electronic systems, and flagging mechanical components for maintenance if needed.

Image via LINK

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Just as the scooter program was starting to take off in Alexandria and the electric vehicles became ubiquitous on Old Town streets, new data shows the pandemic tanked scooter usage in the city throughout 2020.

A report going to the City Council tomorrow (Tuesday) showed that while scooter usage exceeded 2019 levels in January and February of 2020, by March the pandemic had started to hit scooter usage. In April and May — during the stay-at-home order, ridership tanked to near non-existence in the months that had been the peak of ridership in 2019.

Ridership slowly started increasing again through June and July, peaking for the year in August.

The Alexandria Ad Hoc Scooter Task Force met for the first time in September to consider whether to move into the next phase of the program — which it was determined would be no different given time constraints — or let the pilot program expire later this year.

In light of the unusual circumstances of 2020, the Alexandria Ad Hoc Scooter Task Force is requesting that the pilot being extend to December 31, 2021, by the City Council. The extension would grant staff more time to develop strategy and gather feedback for the third phase of the program.

Graph via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer Denounces Trump’s Sunday Drive-By — “Why did they approve it? What precautions were taken? Who else did they interact with? The continuing lack of transparency from the White House is unsustainable and dangerous.” [Twitter]

Mayor Congratulates After Successful Flu Clinic — “Thanks to our Health Dept, @AlexandriaVAPD @AlexandriaVAFD @AlexVASheriff & our Medical Reserve Corps volunteers for administering another 962 flu vaccines today (1,802 at 2 clinics) in an extremely well-organized operation. Get vaccinated, Alexandria!” [Twitter]

Second Virtual Read-In on T.C. Williams’ Racist Past This Thursday — “Who was T.C. Williams and what was his impact on our students decades ago? What does T.C. Williams the high school represent today? See the highlights from our first Community Read-In: T.C. Williams the Superintendent.” [Facebook]

Councilwoman Jackson Shares Mom’s Breast Cancer Story — “My mother received her breast cancer diagnosis during my sophomore year of high school – she was 46 years old. Young. Very young. My world, as an only child of a single mother, collapsed. I was devastated.” [Zebra]

City Holding Public Hearing on Mobility Plan —  “The Alexandria Mobility Plan (AMP), a strategic update to the City’s 2008 Transportation Master Plan, will guide decision-making and outline priority strategies to ensure that transportation in the City continues to serve the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors as the region grows and new technology adds to the ways we get around. The City will hold a virtual town hall presentation, including Q&A, on Thursday, October 15 at 6 p.m.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Sunshine along with some cloudy intervals (during the day). High around 70F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Clear skies (at night). Low 47F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Property Manager — “Full Time Property Manager needed for a 160 unit apartment community. This position requires a take charge, reliable individual with strong management skills and excellent verbal and written communication. Qualification requires at least 2-5 years of property management experience managing the site staff and day to day operations” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Mayor Reports COVID-19 Cases Increase by 14 — “Positive tests up 14 to 2,749 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate up to 5.9% 0 new hospitalizations Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]

Beyer Asks U.S. Park Police Chief to Implement Body Cameras After Lafayette Square Incident — “Beyer seeks commitment to body cam program funded/authorized by Congress from acting Chief Monahan given USPP’s transparency failures in the killing of Bijan Ghaisar. Monahan: USPP not ‘in a position to successfully implement, manage, and sustain a body-worn camera program.'” [Twitter]

New Deli Opening in Old Town North — “The Chewish Deli announced they will be opening a location at 807 Pendleton St. in the next few weeks. According to the business’s website, founder Greg Linzey is known for his hand rolled, NY-style water bagels. In addition to bagels, The Chewish Deli offers coffee as well as breakfast and lunch sandwiches.” [Alexandria Living]

The Irish Walk is Closing Today — “The last day is tomorrow for this wonderful Irish Store in Old Town Alexandria. Stop in and visit and get the last of the remaining treasures. @AlexandriaNow #OldTownAlexandria #Irish – The Irish Walk has been such a treasure and it will be missed.” [Twitter]

Photos Show Flooding From Last Week’s Storm — “Photographer Alex Snyder shared photos of the Thursday flooding with Patch to demonstrate that the city has ‘stormwater runoff problems that is costing taxpayers thousands.’ The photos show ‘waist-high’ flooding at Ashby Street and Glebe Road in the Del Ray area.” [Patch]

City Advises on Hurricane Preparedness — “Today the city advised residents to prepare for hurricane season through November. And they know the  pandemic makes doing so a challenge. Officials though stress it is important to be ready. Their recommendations follow.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — It will be mostly sunny with a high temperature of 93 degrees. [Weather.com]

New Job: Scooter Collector — “As a Scooter Collector, you’ll be responsible for collecting scooters from the street and dropping them off at the Spin warehouse. This is a night-time role in which you will be using your personal vehicle to transport scooters.” [Indeed]

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After a launch delayed by the pandemic, mobility company Helbiz has started putting scooters onto Arlington and Alexandria streets.

The company announced yesterday that it would immediately move forward with bringing 100 new scooters to locations in Arlington and 200 to Alexandria. Like other scooter companies, like Lime or Bird, Helbiz scooters are unlocked by scanning a code in an app, riding with cost determined by distance, and parking.

“The vehicles will also be able to operate between these cities’ for riders’ convenience,” the company said in a press release. “These fleets follow the company’s successful launch of e-bikes in neighboring Washington, DC, highlighting Helbiz’s continued growth in the area and its commitment to offering eco-friendly micro-mobility solutions to the community.”

Helbiz — an Italian-American transportation company founded in 2015 — also brought scooters and e-bikes to Washington D.C., according to DCist. While Helbiz was approved for e-bike use in Alexandria, the company said those plans have hit a snag.

“We plan to launch a fleet of 200 e-bikes in Alexandria in Q4 of this year,” said Gian Luca Spriano, Director of International Business Development. “Unfortunately, our bike manufacturer experienced delays due to COVID, and we’re working closely with them to get our bikes in Alexandria as soon as possible.”

The distribution and access to scooters have faced some concerns at the Alexandria City Council that the programs disproportionately favored wealthy, predominately white Old Town at the exclusion of lower-income communities. In response, Helbiz said in a press release that it has launched the Helbiz Access Program to provide discounts on rides for low-income residents.

Photo via Helbiz/Facebook

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