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First e-scooters to hit Roanoke streets Friday

First e-scooters to hit Roanoke streets Friday

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The first dockless electric scooters to land in Roanoke will hit streets Friday.

Lime, a leader in the scooter market, is hosting a “First Ride” event at 11 a.m. at Lee Plaza on Church Avenue, across from the Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building.

After that, the company will launch a fleet of 100 scooters — the first wave in what ultimately will be 400 available by the following weekend, the company said in a news release.

The event will show riders how to safely operate and properly park the scooters. Riders will receive promotional codes to unlock scooters for free.

Lime was not the first “micromobility” company to apply to operate in the city, but it vaulted ahead of competitor Bolt Mobility in getting scooters on the street.

Roanoke Planning Director Chris Chittum said Lime applied in August and moved quickly with a target of launching ahead of this weekend’s popular Go Outside Festival at River’s Edge park.

It’s unclear where users will be able to find the scooters, but Chittum said geofencing is already in place that will slow the scooters to 3 mph in areas where use is forbidden, including city greenways and on Mill Mountain. One exception is the Roanoke River Greenway through Smith Park, because the geofencing couldn’t be tailored to block scooter use on the greenway but allow it on the adjacent one-way road. Scooters are, however, forbidden on the greenway, Chittum said.

The Roanoke City Council approved regulations and a permitting process for the scooters in June. The two-wheeled, battery-powered vehicles are in wide use in major cities and recently have begun to appear in smaller markets.

The scooters are typically activated by a smartphone app and users pay a fee. Riders just leave the scooters at their destination for another user to find and ride.

While popular, the scooters have come with controversy over users leaving them to litter city sidewalks and having accidents that land them in emergency rooms.

In July, Miami-based Bolt Mobility became the first applicant for a city scooter permit. The company plans to deploy 400 scooters of its own with an eye for making them available in all parts of the city and providing a source of last-mile transportation for people who use public transit.

Bolt is expected to launch its vehicles here soon, perhaps this month.

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