Harrisonburg City Council discusses regulations on Bird and Lime expansion

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (10:00 p.m.):

Harrisonburg City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt a permitting process for Shared Mobility Devices, or SMDs.

At Tuesday night's meeting, council discussed a proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for these SMD's which would put rules in place to regulate them.

Currently, Lime and Bird are the only two shared device companies in Harrisonburg; they each brought their electric scooters to the city last fall.

Under this new permitting process, companies are limited to 100 devices at a time unless it is proven through ridership data that more devices are needed. If proven, companies can increase their fleet in increments of 25.

Motorized scooter companies will pay an $8,000 fee to the City which will be used for software to provide real time data and reports on the scooters.

This permitting process prohibits scooters from being parked on sidewalks, and they are to be staged in places that are pre-approved by public works.

City Attorney Chris Brown said the city can pull the scooters at a ten days notice.

This pilot program will last for one year.

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At Tuesday night's meeting, the Harrisonburg City Council will discuss a proposed Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, with motorized scooter companies.

Bird and Lime first came to the Friendly City in the fall, and Harrisonburg City Council has been working to regulate the scooters since.

Electric scooters are defined as "Shared Mobility Devices," and that term also includes modes of transportation like electric bicycles, which may come to Harrisonburg as well.

The permits create parameters to ensure SMD's are being used enough.

"Council is receptive to scooters, we don't necessarily want a lot of scooters on the sidewalks, especially if they're not being ridden," said City Attorney Chris Brown. "Right now, a company will be starting off with 100 scooters."

If a company can prove through ridership data that more scooters are needed, it can increase its fleet by 25 every three weeks.

The data has to show the scooters are being used for four or more rides per day.

That 4+ number is the same as Charlottesville, while in Alexandria, the threshold is lower, at three rides per day.

Brown says the average ride in Harrisonburg is shorter than in large urban areas, possibly because of the student population.

"Those times when the students are not in town, the number of scooters go down," said Brown. "We anticipate that that's going to happen in the summer, and over Christmas breaks, and I think that the scooter companies anticipate that also."

Under this agreement, none of these devices can be parked blocking sidewalks or streets, and will have to be in pre-approved staging areas.

Both the Bird and Lime companies will pay an $8,000 fee to the city; that's a number Brown says is consistent with other Virginia locations. It will be used for monitoring and software by the city.