British Columbia

Vancouver council to consider shared e-scooter proposal

A Vancouver city councillor is proposing a motion to start an e-scooter sharing program as a transit alternative during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillor says e-scooters are an easy, accessible commuting option during COVID-19

People ride e-scooters in Washington, D.C., in 2019. The U.S. capital has agreements with seven different dockless e-scooter rental companies. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

A motion to start an e-scooter sharing program as a transit alternative during the pandemic will be before Vancouver city councillors this week.

The councillor behind the proposal says electric scooters would give people an easy and accessible commuting option rather than going back to driving.

"We know that with COVID-19, people are nervous about getting back on to transit," said Sarah Kirby-Yung. "It's a green transportation option and I'm hoping to give people a choice to get out and about and stay out of their cars."

The Non-Partisan Association councillor's motion proposes that city staff come with a plan for a shared e-scooter pilot program that could start in the fall. The program wouldn't cost the city because private operators would have to pay municipal fees to implement their shared e-scooter service.

E-scooters aren't allowed in B.C. under current legislation, but last November, the province changed the Motor Vehicle Act to allow municipalities to pilot micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters and e-bikes. 

Vancouver submitted a pilot project proposal for privately owned e-scooters earlier this year, but Kirby-Yung is worried that with the current timeline, Vancouver would not have shared scooters until the summer of 2021 or 2022. 

She says the post-pandemic recovery is the perfect time to pilot different forms of transportation like e-scooters and e-bikes, especially as the city is already moving forward on rolling out a network of "slow streets" with vehicle speeds reduced to 30 km/h.

A Lime scooter left on the road in downtown Montreal. The city has banned shared e-scooters because riders rarely parked them in designated spaces when finished. (Kristy Snell/CBC)

While Kirby-Yung sees e-scooters as an accessible option for people who might not otherwise choose active transportation like bikes, other cities have faced challenges implementing shared scooter programs.

In February, Montreal announced it was banning shared e-scooters after users started leaving them littered across city sidewalks instead of at their designated parking spots. The municipality had previously fined Lime and Jump, the private companies operating the scooters, for not ensuring that users followed parking rules. 

"I think other cities have gone before us and we have the benefit of learning from some of the initial challenges that they've had in getting started and I think Vancouver can have a very safe and responsible pilot as a result," said Kirby-Yung.

The motion doesn't recommend any particular shared service although there are several available in Canada.

She says Vancouver can follow the lead of cities like Calgary where 300 e-scooters have remained available throughout the pandemic.

Safety concerns

E-scooters have raised safety concerns over whether riders should be required to wear helmets and whether they are a risk to pedestrians if riders use sidewalks.

A 2019 memo from Vancouver municipal staff noted that other cities have reported injury rates on scooters up to 10 times higher than bicycles.

However, Kirby-Yung cites a 2020 report about an e-scooter pilot project in Portland, Ore., that found while scooter-related injuries increased, most of them were not serious enough to require emergency care.

The Portland report also found that 34 per cent of scooter riders replaced car trips with e-scooter trips, which scooter supporters believe could reduce serious car-related accidents and fatalities.

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