Dockless bikes and scooters could soon be allowed on county trails under a proposal from the county Parks Department.
In late April, the Montgomery County Planning Board will consider a six-month pilot program to allow e-bikes and e-scooters on county park trails, using for the first time a law established in 2017 that allows the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission to test rules in one of the two counties it oversees.
Previously, any park regulations had to apply to both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, but the motorized e-bike and e-scooter proposal will be the first to apply only to Montgomery.
The trial, if approved by the Planning Board would coincide with a countywide expansion of bike-share programs. The proposal would allow residents to ride the devices on both paved and surface trails. The program’s start date has yet to be determined.
After a one-year trial in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, the county’s Department of Transportation expanded its bike-share program to North Bethesda in December, and in February added e-scooters to the mix.
“We’re very excited about this and think this is cutting-edge technology that will rapidly grow in Montgomery County,” said Program Manager Chuck Kines.
Customers use a GPS cellphone app to locate the nearest e-bike or e-scooter, renting them out through vendors such as LimeBike, currently supplying North Bethesda.
Costs vary, but are typically around $1 to unlock the vehicle with an additional fee of about 15 cents per minute of ride time. There are usually penalty fees for leaving the e-bike or e-scooter outside of the operational zone.
The goal of the program is to encourage county residents to use the e-bikes and e-scooters as an alternative to cars to reduce traffic and environmental impact.
About 18,000 people used the bikes during a six-month portion of the first program, according to a county report.
The Parks Department will solicit feedback during the six-month pilot program and modify the regulations if needed, Kines said. Project leaders anticipate some pushback from people concerned about the speeds the vehicles travel, typically up to 20 mph.
Generally, though, Kines said he thinks people will find the dockless bikes and scooters to be widely accepted by people who think they are “fun” and are traveling via the park trail system to major county destinations like transit, work and parks.
If a person is caught using a motorized e-bike or scooter on park trails now, they would receive a warning from Park Police, Kines said.
“Really, the scooters are pretty fun,” Kines said. “This program will allow people to choose where they want to go on them.”
The Fairfax County (Virginia) Park Authority began a similar pilot program last summer that “strongly encourages” riders to only operate e-bikes in areas where traditional bikes are allowed and said its goal is to provide “inclusive riding opportunities for the less fit and mobility impaired, providing an opportunity to address health equity issues; thus, improving parks and communities,” according to a media release.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org