City committee punts decisions on scooters, Boulevard renaming and Brook Road bike lane

A City Council committee on Tuesday delayed voting on a trio of ordinances that would allow dockless, electric scooters to operate in Richmond, rename the Boulevard for Arthur Ashe and create a bike lane on Brook Road.

A Bird electric scooter parked outside City Hall. (Mike Platania)

The scheduled scooter vote by the Land Use, Housing and Transportation Standing Committee came about a month after Mayor Levar Stoney introduced an ordinance that would allow scooter companies such as Bird and Lime to operate in Richmond, provided they pay fees and limit the number of vehicles they drop in town.

At Tuesday’s meeting, officials with the Department of Public Works announced a number of amendments to the mayor’s ordinance, including limiting the total number of scooters in town to 1,500 and prohibiting scooters from being left on multi-use trails such as the Virginia Capital Trail.

The amendments, which DPW officials said were just finalized by the city attorney on Monday, had been presented to the committee only verbally.

The committee, which is made up of Councilwomen Kim Gray, Ellen Robertson and Kristen Larson, said it wasn’t comfortable moving the ordinance out of committee without seeing the amendments on paper. They voted unanimously to continue the matter to the committee’s Nov. 20 meeting.

A Lime scooter. (Courtesy of Lime)

Bird launched in Richmond unannounced in August, only to have the city collect and impound dozens of its scooters. The company has continued to sporadically drop fleets of scooters throughout the city, only to have them impounded.

Lime has yet to launch here, but Maggie Gendron, its director of strategic development, spoke in favor of the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting. She added that Lime is concerned about the cap on the number of scooters each company can have in the city and that the operating fees Richmond would levy are far higher than other localities in which Lime does business.

“We are committed to working alongside City Council and mayor’s office,” Gendron said from the dais.

Ben McMicken, a Richmond local who’s been working for Bird by charging the company’s scooters, also spoke in favor of the ordinance and raised concerns about the limits on the number of scooters.

Arthur Ashe Boulevard proposed

The city is considering renaming the Boulevard to honor Arthur Ashe. (Mike Platania)

The committee also decided to delay sending an ordinance that would rename the Boulevard to Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

Gray, who patroned the ordinance on behalf of Ashe’s nephew, David Harris, hosted a meeting last week to receive public comment on the proposal at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which is one of several groups voicing support for the name change.

More than two dozen attendees spoke at that meeting. Advocates said it would honor Ashe’s legacy and show Richmond as a progressive city, while opponents said Ashe already had been honored with a statue on Monument Avenue and suggested other roads that could be renamed instead.

Among those who spoke in favor of the renaming was Fred Plaisted, a real estate broker with Commonwealth Commercial who resides in the Cookie Factory Lofts along the Boulevard. Other speakers included Ed Lacy, who owns several properties along the Boulevard and opposes renaming it.

Arthur Ashe is currently honored with a statue on Monument Ave. at the intersection of Roseneath Road. (Mike Platania)

Harris is pushing this latest proposal after two previous attempts that failed to gain traction. He described the name change as “a great opportunity to show Richmond is growing.” Others said the city can grow without renaming established streets, arguing that such changes should be proposed from within the neighborhood.

In addition to VMFA, other groups supporting the change include the Scott’s Addition Boulevard Association, the West Grace Street Association and the Monument Avenue Preservation Society. Representatives for the Museum District Association and the Fan District Association said they had not yet taken a position.

Gray, at Tuesday’s committee meeting, requested a 60-day delay to vote on the matter.

Bike lane proposal is discussed

Last month, Gray and Hilbert held a community meeting to discuss the proposed bike lane. (Charlotte Woods)

Also delayed was the planned vote on an ordinance that would prohibit, for now, the building of a 3.5-mile bike lane on Brook Road that would run from Brook’s intersections with Azalea Avenue and Charity Street.

Gray is also behind that ordinance, along with City Council President Chris Hilbert.

The lane would feature a floating parking lane to separate cyclists from traffic along Brook Road, an approach used along the Franklin Street bike lane that runs 15 blocks from Monroe Park to the State Capitol.

Last month, Gray and Hilbert held a community meeting to discuss the bike lane that drew an impassioned response from those both for and against the idea, and its current design.

The bike lane ordinance is now set to be heard at the committee’s Nov. 20 meeting.

BizSense reporter Jonathan Spiers contributed to this report.

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Frank Smith
Frank Smith
3 years ago

Wow, what a mess. Let’s bring new business into Richmond, by delaying a decision. I think the original prediction for passage was November, and we are squarely on track for that. Sad.

Then there’s “Arthur Ashe Boulevard,” which, after it’s renaming – will continue to be called “The Boulevard.” Net result, a few people will be happy, and a few more will be irritated.

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
3 years ago
Reply to  Frank Smith

Those of us that replied to the original article on Aug 17 said this very thing was going to happen.

Color me shocked that the City fails to act!!!

Brett A Hunnicutt
Brett A Hunnicutt
3 years ago

I lost all respect for Gray when she showed up completely unprepared for the bike lane meeting, a meeting that was basically created because of her opposition. If you want to oppose something that’s fine, but come with facts, figures, evidence, names and a good argument in order to convince the other side. She should not toss out nonsensical hearsay in an effort to scare and misinform citizens of what Richmond seems to hate most, change. A true leader or visionary would not take part in such embarrassing actions. She cited the possibility of high speed rail coming through the… Read more »