Due to low participation, a pilot program allowing electric scooters and bikes on Montgomery County trails is expected to be extended a year.
In May, the Montgomery County Planning Board authorized a six-month trial of allowing e-bikes and e-scooters on hard-surface park trails throughout the county. The pilot was expected to come to an end this month. However, the Planning Board on Thursday is scheduled to extend the pilot for another year to solicit more feedback.
Planning Board meeting materials say there was a delay in signing memoranda of understanding with e-bike and e-scooter companies, causing a “slower-than-expected deployment” of the devices. The two MOUs were not signed until Sept. 17 and Oct. 17.
E-scooters and e-bikes have been used on park trails, though, because they are available throughout the county as part of a larger-scale test of the machines.
The county’s program, under the jurisdiction of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), has MOUs with three companies — Lyft, Lime and Bird — that say each is supposed to deploy 200 to 500 e-scooters throughout the county. None have met the requirements, according to Planning Board documents.
Gary Erenrich, special assistant to the director of MCDOT said in an interview on Friday that the companies indicated early in the process it would be difficult to meet the 200-scooter minimum and “wanted to ramp up to that number.”
“It’s not really critical. It was a number we felt was important because we wanted to have a sufficient supply available,” Erenrich said. “We picked a number and obviously the business plans of these companies are such that, for whatever reason, and I don’t know the reason, they’ve been able to deploy less.”
The county’s e-scooter and e-bike program is in North Bethesda, Silver Spring and Takoma Park.
Before recommending whether e-vehicles should be allowed on park trails permanently, the county Parks Departments wants to collect more data about user experience and safety.
“Parks staff believe that our ability to assess the impacts of e-vehicles on park trails during the six-month time period is incomplete,” the Planning Board staff report says.
There have been no reports of serious incidents involving e-bikes or e-scooters.
Feedback collected in an online forum showed about half of responders like the program and half don’t.
The pilot program, if the Planning Board extends it on Thursday, will end on Dec. 1, 2020.
The pilot program uses 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, without the other.
Previously, any park regulations had to apply to both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The motorized e-bike and e-scooter proposal will be the first to apply only to Montgomery.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org