VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The resort city appears poised to get a taste of Lime, whether they are ready or not.
Thursday afternoon, Lime announced plans to distribute 500 e-scooters to the streets of Virginia Beach on Friday.
“We’re so excited to partner with the City of Virginia Beach, and we’re thrilled to be welcomed by such a supportive community,” said Laura Miller Brooks, Lime’s Government Relations Manager, in a release. “We look forward to building a longstanding partnership with the City and contributing to the continued success of Virginia Beach.”
The problem is, top city leadership had no idea about this agreement.
“You said what is happening now?” said Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer when reached by phone. “I never got any heads up on this.”
The news comes less than 48 hours after Virginia Beach City Council heard from a Captain with the Virginia Beach Police Department about the need to possibly scale back on the number of e-scooters in the city.
“That is my hope moving forward…to be able to limit the amount of scooters,” Second Precinct Capt. Shannon Wichtendahl during a city council briefing Tuesday. “I don’t know how many I have out there.”
Bird Scooters originally arrived in the resort city last year unannounced.
They operate under the same business model as Lime. Anyone can find and “unlock” a scooter through a mobile app and start riding for a fee. They are considered dockless and are supposed to be parked on sidewalks in the resort area, without blocking the public right of way.
While they are extremely popular, Oceanfront residents and business owners have raised concerns about safety.
Police have observed scooter riders driving reckless, minors riding, more than two people riding one scooter and many scooters disregarded where they aren’t supposed to be.
“Scooters, the riders, are responsible for a phenomenal number of crashes,” Wichtendahl said. “I can not give you the exact data because it is not a vehicle under the law … unless there is a vehicle involved, we cannot capture it.”
A 5-year-old recently had their skull fractured after being hit by a scooter on the boardwalk according to Wichtendahl.
Within a 10 day timeframe, officers stopped an estimated 2,000 scooter riders during daytime hours for riding were they are not supposed to, Wichtendahl said. She said officers have begun to ticket for non-compliance.
“Bird did me a solid by geo-fencing the boardwalk and bike path,” Wichtendahl said.
Bird scooters will now slow down to 3 miles per hour when they enter the area. Bird also agreed to lower the overall speed limit of the devices to 15 miles per hour.
In an effort to keep the scooters off the sidewalk on Atlantic Avenue, Council voted Tuesday to allow travel in the lanes designated for HRT trolleys for the next six months.
Vice-Mayor Wood voted against the plan yet siting additional safety risks.
“I just don’t think it is safe to have those scooters in the lanes with the trolleys,” Wood said.
Harmony Salaam who manages pizza shops at the resort, learned there are still dangers.
Tuesday evening she said she was riding her bike like normal in the trolley lane at Atlantic Ave and 22nd street.
“A kid on a Bird was coming through, wasn’t paying attention, he was looking off to his right and as soon as he saw me he slammed right into me,” Salaam said. “I flew off my bike, had a bloody nose….it’s a very scary situation.”
To make matters worse, Salaam who is left with an unrideable bike said she can’t even press for damages.
Bird’s terms and conditions said the rider is responsible for any damages caused while on the scooter. But Salaam said the scooter and rider took off and police wouldn’t file a hit & run report.
“[Scooters] aren’t considered a motorized vehicle. and I can’t do anything about it,” Salaam said.
She wasn’t keen on news that Lime could bring even more scooters to the area.
“Oh no—here?,” Salaam said. “That just made my heard race—there are already so many birds and we don’t need anymore.”
Neither City Manager Dave Hansen, the police captain or any member of council brought up Lime adding more scooters into the mix. In fact nearly the opposite happened.
Several members supported the police’s call for fewer scooters.
“I believe that we do have to move to franchises and we have to have compliance,” City Manager Dave Hansen said on Tuesday. “I think we want to be a progressive city and we want to figure out how to co-exist.”
Lime’s release goes on to say that they have worked with the city on creating “proper zoning to ensure safe and proper usage.” Scooters will not be able to ride and park on the boardwalk.
Lime was the company Norfolk chose to partner with for a pilot program for the new transportation device.
Under their agreement, Lime is the only scooter operator allowed in Norfolk. They will pay a one time $15,000 permit fee to operate 500 of them in city limits, and 5 cents per scooter trip.