The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday approved a pilot program that will allow motorized bikes and scooters on some park trails.
Beginning June 1, the so-called e-bikes and e-scooters can be used on hard-surface park trails throughout the county, following a one-year trial of a similar program in Silver Spring and Takoma Park.
In the first phase of the program, only personally owned e-bikes and e-scooters will be permitted on trails. It is not clear when a second phase allowing commercial motorized vehicles, such as those available for rent by vendors, will start.
“It is Parks’ intention to tailor the Phase 2 portion of Parks’ pilot to match that of the County as much as possible, and it is anticipated that Parks will enter into an arrangement with the same vendors as the County,” Planning Department staff wrote in documents provided to the Planning Board.
Trails included in the six-month pilot program are: Rock Creek Trail, Sligo Creek Trail, Matthew Henson Trail, Long Branch Trail and paved sections of the Northwest Branch Trail.
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 a program that was expanded this year to include 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 a defined operational zone.
About 18,000 people used the bikes during a six-month portion of the first program, according to a county report.
During the department’s pilot period, data will be collected to study safety issues, violations and theft observed by park police, differences between personal and commercial users and public input on other items.
Planning Board documents say “with accurate data on actual usage and the impact of e-bikes and e-scooters on existing users and park operations, Parks and the Planning Board can make informed decisions about whether” the e-bikes and e-scooters should be allowed, not allowed or studied further before a permanent decision is made.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com