BLACKSBURG — The use of electric scooters would not be allowed downtown under the town’s most recently proposed regulations.
That condition is found in the latest draft ordinance for electric scooters and bicycles.
Another change is the abandonment of some previously proposed speed limits for both electric power-assisted bikes and motorized scooters and skateboards. An earlier draft called for general speed limits of 20 and 25 miles per hour for electric scooters and bikes, respectively.
Town Attorney Larry Spencer said he realized that such limits were impractical. He said he couldn’t imagine police officers operating radar just for scooters and bikes.
The devices, Spencer said, would instead need to follow the speed limits already in place for motor vehicles.
For off-street bicycle paths such as the Huckleberry Trail, users of the devices would still face a speed limit of 15 miles per hour, according to the draft.
Spencer said he initially included speed limits because he had noticed that capable speeds were part of the state’s definition for electric bikes and scooters. He said he knows electric bikes are capable of traveling at speeds that exceed the limits he placed in the earlier draft.
Blacksburg’s proposed ordinance for electric transportation devices comes as e-scooters from Spin, a Ford Motor Company subsidiary, recently launched at Virginia Tech as part of an 18-month study conducted by the university’s Transportation Institute (VTTI).
The ordinance is also being written amid the recent arrival of another e-scooter service in Roanoke. That service is operated by scooter market leader Lime, which launched in Roanoke with a fleet of 100 scooters and made plans to quickly grow that network of devices to 400.
“I think it’s important we’re going forward cautiously,” Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith said. “I think it was wise of Tech to go through a probationary period. They’re watching how it plays out.”
Spencer told council in a previous meeting that the absence of local e-scooter regulations opened the door for operators to launch services unchecked.
He said an ordinance also aims to prevent potential nuisances such as the negligent piling of scooters at various spots in town — not an uncommon issue in other cities.
A geofencing function is currently in place at Tech as a prevention to the Spin scooters leaving the campus.
The revision to Blacksburg’s proposed ordinance also includes other conditions for an e-scooter operation, which would need a town permit before launching.
Among those is a requirement that operators apply geofencing functions to keep e-scooters and other similar devices out of specified areas of town.
“Geofencing shall also be used to restrict motorized skateboards and scooters from being operated on streets or highways where they cannot be safely operated,” the draft ordinance reads.
Additionally, devices found to be in violation of the ordinance’s “safe riding and parking” section would be subject to removal by a town-contracted towing service.
“The permittee will then be responsible for paying the towing service a reasonable fee for each device removed, as well as any storage fees,” the draft ordinance reads. “The town shall provide notice of removal within 24 hours of removal.”
The town council may discuss the proposal at a meeting on Nov. 12.