City council approves e-scooters in Newport News. Here’s what that entails

Just two days before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, the Newport News City Council unanimously approved the use of e-scooters and amended the city’s municipal code regarding such devices.

E-scooters and other devices are considered shared mobility devices and would be allowed on the streets with maximum speeds of 25 mph, according to a news release from the city.

In addition, the devices would only be allowed to be used between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

“The regulations also require owners to obtain a license from the city to operate shared mobility devices,” the statement continued.

Newport News is the latest locality to discuss the implementation e-scooters. In Williamsburg, the City Council discussed at length the possibility of implementing such devices.

Cynthia Rolf, the Newport News city manager, recommended approval of the use of e-scooters in the city in a letter addressed to City Council on Nov. 20.

“Localities that desire to regulate the operation of motorized skateboard or scooters, bicycles, or power-assisted bicycles for hire within their locality must have a local ordinance in place by January, 1, 2020, according to state law,” she said. “Upon adoption of this proposed ordinances, staff will implement a set of guidelines and license application to regulate the day-to-day operation of shared mobility devices.”

Scooter rules

E-scooters would be equipped with a horn or bell with handlebars at or below shoulder level and riders 14 years and younger are required to wear helmets to avoid the $25 fine.

The ordinance states that a person 14 and older who uses the e-scooters can’t use the sidewalk unless it is 8 feet wide and is designated as a bike path.

E-scooters cannot be used in city parks with the exception of park rangers and law enforcement and violators get charged $50.

E-scooters can be parked on sidewalks in an “upright position” but cannot “create a hazard or interfere with public use and travel.”

Other rules include yielding to pedestrians and not being allowed to park near a fire hydrant or obstruct pedestrian traffic on sidewalks.

Vendor responsibilities

In order to apply for a city license, vendors must have the capability of geo-fencing, which would create boundaries and limit or slow down the speed of scooters in certain areas — GPS technology can be used to report trip information, such as origin and destination, to city officials for data purposes

City officials can ask vendors or license holders to share information like data reports to “determine the allocation of city resources to carry out the requirements” of the ordinance.

Vendors are required to have a city license, valid for one year, and must pay a licensing fee of $1,250, an annual fee of $10 per device and pay the city 5 cents per trip.

Each vendor is limited to 200 devices per license and cannot apply for more than one license in the same year.

As of Nov. 20, the city does not have any vendor applications.

Other responsibilities include providing insurance for $1 million for bodily injury, death and property damage. If the city license is revoked or not renewed, the vendor is responsible for taking away scooters within 10 days.

In addition, the city manager or designee can “from time to time modify rules, regulations or guidelines” regarding the licenses.

“Such rules, regulations, and guidelines, and any and all modifications thereto, must be approved as to form by the city attorney or the designee thereof prior to issuance,” according to Sec. 10-31 of the city’s municipal code.

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