A plan to bring electric scooters back to Virginia Beach this summer has hit a snag.
Four companies that were supposed to launch their fleets last week are now asking the city to go easier on them.
For starters, they want more leeway to address violations before the city kicks them out.
“They’re looking for due process,” said Brian Solis, assistant to the city manager for special projects.
Last year, Virginia Beach struggled with regulating scooters and eventually banned them by requiring companies to obtain franchise licenses. In January, the city put out a request for proposals for scooter providers to operate in the city. Each company would only be allowed to rent a maximum 250 scooters.
The request included a summary of the franchise agreement terms, including start-up and use fees to be paid to the city as well as safety obligations that must be met.
Four companies — Bird, Lime, Spin and Veo — wanted a piece of the action.
“We didn’t receive a lot of push back,” Solis said.
In May, Virginia Beach awarded one-year licenses to all four companies with the intention of giving them the green light when some of the coronavirus restrictions were lifted. Solis had announced to a resort advisory group earlier this month that the scooters would arrive the week of July 20.
But the scooter providers have since taken issue with some of the contract’s constraints and haven’t signed it.
Among their concerns, Solis said, is the city’s requirement that if a citizen reports scooters knocked over on a sidewalk at any time during the day or night that the scooter company must respond within 30 minutes or be fined. The contract could be terminated after multiple violations.
“They’re asking for some flexibility on that,” Solis said.
Another requirement is that the companies maintain geofencing technology, which would slow down the scooters in certain areas of the city — like the Boardwalk. If scooters are being operated in those areas, the providers want to be able to address the issue before racking up too many violations and seeing the city terminate their contracts, he said.
Virginia Beach’s new Shared Mobility Services Task Force is vetting the safety and legal concerns. It plans to make recommendation to the city manager.
The City Council could vote on changes to the franchise agreement within a couple of weeks, Solis said.
Lime redeployed its fleet of 250 scooters in Norfolk June 17 under a franchise agreement with that city. Six designated scooter parking corrals have been established in downtown Norfolk with more to come in Ghent and on Old Dominion University’s campus, according to Lime spokesman Russell Murphy.
New signage will educate users on e-scooter rules and discourage sidewalk riding. The company will soon launch an incentive program for riders to encourage parking in designated zones. Incentives will include a weekly raffle to win three free rides for those who consistently park in the preferred zones and submit a photo of their parked scooter via the Lime app.
Murphy said similar programs will likely be initiated in Virginia Beach. Ideas include a request form that residents can fill out to report scooters parked improperly and a “Lime Patrol” whose members would monitor high use areas.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, firstname.lastname@example.org
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