E-scooters to stay on Calgary streets with new rules
CALGARY -- Shared e-scooters will remain in Calgary after a city council transportation and transit committee gave unanimous approval to allow private companies to continue operating.
During a two-year pilot project, which ran from October 2018 to October 2020, some 200,000 unique users logged nearly two million rides in the city through a number of companies.
According to Andrew Sedor, a strategist with Calgary Transportation, one of those companies — Lime — operates in more than 130 cities globally and Calgary had the highest number of rides per device.
“They were really, really popular in Calgary and so through the pilot, we saw that they were popular and most Calgarians did like them,” said Sedor.
Arda Erturk, co-founder and chief communications officer of Roll E-Scooters, recognizes the significance of Calgary’s success in the micro-mobility market.
“Electric scooters played an important role during COVID-19 and once again Calgary is leading the micro-mobility movement in Canada,” Erturk said.
There were, however, issues around parking, user behaviour and other general safety measures addressed before approving the operation of scooters.
Christopher Gordon, who is partially sighted, says that the scooters can be startling not just for people with sight issues but also hearing loss.
“It startles you and it’s shocking and sometimes they come up, and yes they move to the side, but they kind of come by you just clipping you a little, or within your personal space, so it’s unnerving,” Gordon said.
Roll E-Scooters will have visual markers to help make it easier to report misuse or any other incidents with the devices.
“There will be visible numerical items identification numbers on the scooters to make it easier for riders and pedestrians to report bad behaviour, bad scooter behaviour,” said Erturk.
During the 2020 pilot, 2,800 scooters were permitted in the city, but that will be scaled back to 1,500 devices for full operation, the same as what was operating in 2019.
“We kept really good data on what was going on during the pilot period and so we saw parking complaints went way up in 2020," said Sedor.
“So, one of the reasons for that, through our investigation was just you just had more devices out there and then on top of that, we looked at how often people could find a scooter when they wanted one.
“It didn't significantly change from 2019 to 2020 and so we thought, well, let's keep them at the 2019 level."
Another aspect looked at was where the devices will be allowed to operate, which will expand into low-speed and low-volume roadways that don’t have traffic lines.
“It's probably better to operate on the roadway in a cul-de-sac than to operate on the sidewalk, and then you probably don't want people operating on a roadway, like Macleod Trail with an E-scooter that's top speed is 20 kilometers per hour,” said Sedor.
The city is giving companies the freedom to choose where they operate, with zones marked in areas that they’re not permitted.
“As for going into other communities, that’s up to the scooter companies, it needs to make financial sense for them,” Sedor said.
“This program is fully funded by the private scooter companies, so there’s not taxpayer dollars going into it.”
“If it’s being done mostly downtown you might be more used to it, if it starts happening in some of the residential areas if they start to expand their bubble it might catch even more people off guard, because you’re not as used to seeing them in the community areas,” said Gordon.
The city will see income from the presence of the scooters as companies will be required to pay a permit fee per-scooter that will cover parking costs and also adding a per-trip fee of 15 cents.
The city is charging $20 per scooter in parking fees, so with 1,500 devices set to be operational that will bring in an additional $30,000 a year, which Sedor says can be put toward parking infrastructure.
There are also hopes to implement a system where fines for improperly parked scooters can be passed onto the companies, who can then pass that along to the user.
2020 saw an uptick from 2019 in the number of late-night incidents and the data collected by the city showed that the age group most responsible for misuse or injuries were in their mid-30s.
Doctor Raj Bhardwaj, an emergency room doctor says that the majority of incidents and accidents occur during someone's first ride.
“That might be because their first ride is the one they’re going to wipe out on and then never go on another ride, but it also might be a bit of a learning curve, where your second ride is a bit safer, and your third ride is even a bit safer,” said Bhardwaj.
While there haven’t been DUI’s handed out to any scooter riders in Calgary, it is possible as you’re not allowed to drink and scoot.
“I think people need to be absolutely refraining from using scooters if they’ve alcohol to drink and absolutely no doubling up on scooters, those are the injuries that we see that get really out of hand,” said Bhardwaj.
With files from Ty Rothermal