Brook Road bike lane, scooter startups get vote of support from council

The planned 3.5-mile bike lane along Brook Road drew impassioned response from neighborhood residents, both in favor of and against the lane. (Photos by Mike Platania)

Alternative transportation was a big theme at City Hall Monday night as City Council voted on two long-delayed ordinances that will change how some Richmonders can get around.

In a nearly five-hour session, council voted to kill an ordinance that would have banned bike lanes from being installed along a 3.5-mile stretch of Brook Road, and approved an ordinance that clears the way for dockless electric scooter companies to operate in Richmond.

Nearly 100 citizens spoke against the bike lane ban and 15 spoke in favor of it before a 6-3 vote to strike down the proposed ban.

The bike lane will run from Brook Road’s intersections with Azalea Avenue and West Charity Street, and the project will turn one motor traffic lane into a floating parking lane.

Council members Parker Agelasto, Cynthia Newbille, Andreas Addison, Michael Jones, Kristen Larson and Ellen Robertson voted against the ban. Kim Gray, Chris Hilbert and Reva Trammell voted for it.

Work on the project is expected to begin this summer, with funds from a state grant.

Next up was the vote to allow dockless scooter and bike companies such as Bird, Lime and Jump the ability to launch in Richmond.

A Bird electric scooter parked outside City Hall.

A 6-3 vote approved an ordinance requiring such companies pay an annual permit fee based on the amount of devices they have in the city, ranging from $20,000 to $45,000.

That vote was a role reversal of the bike lane vote, with Jones, Robertson, Agelasto, Addison, Larson and Newbille voting for it, and Gray, Hilbert and Trammell voting against it.

There were no public speakers against the scooter ordinance. Maggie Gendron, Lime’s regional development director, was the lone speaker in attendance in favor of it. The new law will take effect in mid-March.

The meeting marked the end of months-long journeys for each ordinance.

Gray and Hilbert penned the Brook Road bike lane ban last June, and the scooter ordinance was introduced by Mayor Levar Stoney last September.

Before the transit ordinances were heard, discussions grew tense over an ordinance that would expand VCU Police’s jurisdiction to include most of downtown, Jackson Ward and Monroe Ward, roughly doubling its current jurisdiction.

Many of those who spoke against the expansion mentioned intimidating behavior by local police officers and tense racial relations between police and people of color.

Trammell made a comment in defense of the expansion of jurisdiction, and questioned whether many of those who publicly spoke against it were homeowners, stating she didn’t appreciate race being brought into the discussion. Trammell’s remarks drew the ire of some audience members, prompting Newbille to send the meeting into recess.

Council ultimately voted 7-2 to approve the jurisdiction expansion. Councilmen Michael Jones and Parker Agelasto were the only members to vote against it.

Council’s next meeting will be Feb. 11, at which it will vote on renaming Boulevard to honor Arthur Ashe.

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