Shared mobility devices are the latest transportation trend
Shared mobility devices (SMDs) have arrived in Arlington County and have been popping up all over Rosslyn. What is a shared mobility device? It's a pedal bike, an electric-assist bike (e-bike) or an electric-assist scooter (e-scooter) that can be parked and picked up anywhere (unlike Capital Bikeshare, whose bikes must be returned to permanent bikeshare stations).1 In October 2018, Arlington County launched a nine-month pilot demonstration project to "provide structure to the operation and use of SMDs within the County and to evaluate their impacts."
Three SMD operators—Bird, Lime and Lyft—are active in Arlington, and others may soon arrive. So far, all SMD operators have been providing only e-scooters in the County. Scooters provide another easy and convenient option for getting around our already well-connected neighborhood.
Douglas Plowman, the Rosslyn BID's urban planning and design manager, says he's snagged a scooter a few times when he's needed to get home from Rosslyn to his place in Glover Park. For Plowman, securing an e-scooter to ride up the hill is inexpensive and significantly reduces travel time.
"People who use SMDs tend to be individuals who might drive or use a ride-sharing service," Plowman says. "When they opt for an e-scooter, there's one less car on the road, and that's a good thing. Scooters can really help you maximize your time during the lunch hour if you're in a hurry. And anyone who's ridden a scooter will tell you that they're just plain fun—another reason they're worth trying out."
Securing your first ride
Our team scoots along Kent Street on a cold December Friday. Once we got the hang of it, we had a lot of fun!
New to SMDs? We had fun trying out e-scooters last Friday so we could give you some quick tips on using them.
Basic info you need before your first scooter experience:
- You don't need to set up an account to use a scooter. Download the app associated with the brand you want to use and complete the registration and payment information. You must be at least 18 and have a driver's license to rent one. Each app includes a map showing the scooters closest to your location.
- After everything's set up, scan the scooter's barcode with your smartphone to secure your ride. You typically pay by the minute. For instance, Bird charges $1 for the first minute and then 15 cents for each additional minute. Your credit card is charged at the end of your ride.
Once your scooter is secure, take it for a whirl! Some tips based on our experience:
- The maximum speed for most e-scooters is 10 mph. The rules of the road for SMDs are different for each type. E-scooters can be ridden on streets, but not on sidewalks or trails. E-bikes can be ridden on streets and sidewalks but not on trails. Pedal bikes can be ridden on streets, sidewalks and trails.
- Riding a scooter is fun, but it's also vulnerable to be zipping along on a motorized device close to the flow of traffic. We strongly recommend helmets. If you don't have one, buy one at a bike shop or check to see if the company provides free helmets to users (Bird offers free helmets to all active riders if you cover shipping).
- It can be hard to get a scooter started on an incline. Although you're supposed to kick off quickly, engage the throttle and then go, one of the scooters we rode wasn't having it. It's probably best to start off on a flat surface.
- When the throttle does engage, it's surprising (at least for a first-time rider) how quickly it engages and how fast you can go! For a first-time rider, going down Rosslyn's hills felt really fast and the handbrakes on some of our scooters didn't feel super grippy. One of our riders didn't feel confident she'd be able to stop suddenly and decisively on a downhill if need be.
- Some of our scooters didn't handle uneven pavement or potholes well. Avoid them or slow down if you must go through one.
- Be considerate of others when parking your scooter at the end of your ride. Use common sense! Don't block pedestrian or vehicular traffic. And don't park on private property unless the SMD company specifically allows it at a certain location. Conversely, if you are driving or walking and a parked scooter is blocking your path, don't be afraid to move it, even if it starts beeping!
The Rosslyn BID aims to be a good partner to Arlington County in stewarding the SMD demonstration project. Together with the County, the BID is working to develop "nests" where users can park their e-scooters at the end of a ride.
The County is seeking feedback on SMDs throughout the demonstration project period, which will end in May. Make your voice heard and submit your feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo at top: Urban Planning and Design Manager Douglas Plowman, Events Director Sophie Barral and Ambassador Team Manager Joshua Finnegan took some e-scooters for a test ride around Rosslyn