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.
- Connection Newspapers managing editor Kemal Kurspahic dies
- City Council approves new plastic bag tax for local grocery and convenience stores
- Electric scooter docks could replace some on-street parking in Alexandria
- City looks to state funding for Holmes Run Trail improvement and West End Transitway
- MacArthur Elementary shut down by water damage
- New Indian restaurant in Old Town eyes late October opening
- School Board to vote on transgender revisions in Alexandria City Public Schools
- ‘Fences’ is a triumph at The Little Theatre of Alexandria
- What’s the difference between Alexandria’s co-living policy and regular apartments?
- Government contractor in Alexandria under fire from Department of Labor for systemic racism in hiring practices
- Police: Juvenile shot at shopping center near Alexandria City High School
- Police dispatched three times for fighting at Alexandria City Public Schools in less than a month
- Police: Six hospitalized after overdoses on Alexandria-Fairfax border
- Poll: What do you think of Metro’s proposed Blue Line crossing to National Harbor?
- BREAKING: Flooding reported in Alexandria
- Interview: Port City Publius opens up about Alexandria
- BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
- Juvenile arrested for trespassing and assault and battery at Alexandria City High School
- Multiple violent charges dropped against Fairfax County man held without bond for assaulting police during arrest
- Preserving Arlandria’s affordability against gentrification could cost upward of $100 million
- JUST IN: One person injured after shots fired in West End Tuesday afternoon
Have a safe weekend!
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.”
“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
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
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]
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]
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
The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.
Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest
Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:
- Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
- Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
- New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
- Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
- Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
- Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
- New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
- Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
- City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
- Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect
Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.
Staff photo by James Cullum
Electric scooter companies have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and the city says the transportation option “can be an alternate mode of travel while distancing.”
The city said it is also working with e-scooter companies on their disinfecting practices.
“Spin, Bird, and Razor devices are available to the community to access essentials (grocery stores, medicine, etc.), and Lime has paused its service in the City,” according to the city’s dockless mobility program page. “Shared mobility can be an alternative mode of travel while social distancing. To reduce risk to users and the community, the City is coordinating with each company on their disinfecting practices.”
The city also recommends that riders wash their hands before and after trips, or wear gloves, in addition to disinfecting the handlebars and other points of contact.
For months, Spin scooters were barely in Alexandria and their competition was even more scarce to be found. Permits in the city were issued to Lime, Bird, Razor, Spin, and Helbiz. Lime reportedly laid off 13% of its employees around the world, Bird laid off a third of its workforce and Uber and Lyft have laid off hundreds of employees, according to the Washington Post.
Matt Harris, the president of the Colecroft Community Homeowners Association, which is made up of 135 homes near the Braddock Road Metro Station, has been against the scooters in the city since day one, but now thinks they can actually be useful.
“I actually see a place for scooters in our COVID environment, as people remain reluctant to take mass transit,” Harris told ALXnow. “Maybe it will be seem more widely as a true transportation option and less as a form of recreation.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Micro-mobility company Helbiz is poised to be the first company in Alexandria offering both e-scooters and e-bikes in Alexandria.
“Helbiz… has been awarded a permit to operate both its innovative e-bikes and e-scooters in Alexandria, Virginia, making it the only company to offer both transportation solutions in the market,” the company said in a press release. “This permit follows the launch of the company’s fleet of e-bikes in neighboring Washington, D.C. and highlights Helbiz’s continued commitment to offering eco-friendly micro-mobility solutions in the area.”
Gian Luca Spriano, a spokesperson for the Italian-American company, said it would be partnering with Alexandria’s Department of Transportation to ensure safety is prioritized and the company has met all the regulatory standards.
The press release noted that the company plans to operate 200 e-scooters and 200 e-bikes in Alexandria, deployed at some point “in the coming weeks.”
The e-scooters and e-bikes are accessible through the Helbiz app, in which users can locate, rent, and unlock the devices.
Photo via Helbiz/Twitter