Scooters To Be Added to Bike-Share Rental Program

County continues campaign to reduce car traffic for short trips

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Via LimeBike

Dockless rental bikes that have been available in parts of Montgomery County will soon be joined by dockless e-scooters.

The county’s Department of Transportation announced plans this week to expand its alternative transportation programs and is reaching out to vendors for letters of interest to provide scooters and bikes as part of a six-month trial.

The county recently expanded its bike-share program into North Bethesda after a year-long test run in Silver Spring and Takoma Park was deemed largely successful.

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. LimeBike offers discounts for its Lime Access members, 50 cents to unlock vehicles and 7 cents per minute of ride time.

There have been problems in major cities with bikes and scooters left in inconvenient places, but the county has added “numerous safeguards” to its proposed agreements with companies in order to guarantee “successful, safe and sustainable operation of dockless vehicle-sharing services,” according to a county statement.

The department holds open houses and public forums to discuss the program, addressing volume and user education issues in the first few months of the initiative and gauging adequacy through surveys and an evaluation by a consultant.

“In general, it was very positive, all of the responses,” said Gary Erenrich, a special assistant to the director of the county transportation department. “People wanted the program to continue.”

The program will be offered across the county, except for areas in the county’s rural Agricultural Reserve and a handful of jurisdictions that haven’t agreed to participate, including Kensington, Battery Park and parts of Chevy Chase.

Erenrich said there are 11 to 12 bike-share companies in the region and he expects ample interest in the project. The county will select up to four companies to provide e-scooter and e-bike services, and entities that offer both will be given priority consideration.

Customers struggled initially to use the bikes and properly park them once they were finished, and there was a perception in the community that there were too many to go around, Erenrich said.

The county stepped in with a regulation to limit the number of bikes the companies could have on each block and held town halls to educate users on proper methods.

As the program expands, these issues could crop up again, Erenrich said, but the county is prepared to offer additional education.

The objective of the program is to get a “good segment of community” using the e-bikes and e-scooters as an alternative to cars, said Sandra Brecher, chief of commuter services for the transportation department.

This would in turn reduce traffic, parking demand and environmental impact, Brecher said. About 18,000 people used the bikes during a six-month portion of the first program, according to a county report.

Brecher said a substantial amount of car rides are only a few miles in duration.

“These kinds of trips really lend themselves to the use of e-bikes and e-scooters,” Brecher said. “That’s one of our key goals, to have it be adopted by a significant portion of the community and see a reduction in auto trip-making.”

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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