Calgary

1-in-3 Calgary e-scooter trips replaced a trip with a car: report

Calgary's e-scooter pilot project is hibernating for the winter but according to a city report in just four months it's already had a big impact in reducing car trips.

There's also an economic benefit, the city report found

A report on Calgary's e-scooter pilot project will go before city council's transportation committee on Wednesday. (Lime)

Calgary's e-scooter pilot project is hibernating for the winter, but according to a city report in just four months it's already had a big impact in reducing car trips.

City administration is set to present a report to council on Wednesday on data collected on the project so far.

Lime's e-bikes hit the streets on Oct. 31, 2018. Lime e-scooters were rolled out on July 12 of this year, and Bird e-scooters a few weeks later on July 26. 

In the first year of e-bikes being made available and first four months of e-scooters, 206,000 riders recorded a total of 918,000 trips, travelling 1.6 million kilometres. Of those, 750,000 trips were on e-scooters and 168,000 on e-bikes.

250,000 fewer car trips

And, according to a city survey, one-in-three e-scooter riders would have driven had an e-scooter not been available. 

Those 250,000 fewer car trips equal roughly 470,000 kilometres — or, according to numbers provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 306 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions saved, the equivalent of taking 67 cars off the road for one year.

Bird CEO Stewart Lyons said he thinks e-scooters are helping to fill a hole in Calgary's market that was created by Car2Go's exit this fall.

"I think it's important from a congestion perspective. Every city's got congestion, Calgary's no exception," he said.

"If you look at the distance most scooter trips are, they're in the two-to-five kilometre range which is where a lot of the short-distance trips for some of the Car2Go type traffic was … obviously, we don't help for people that have packages and are using it to carry things. But those vehicles are pretty small, presumably most of those trips are single occupancy or double occupancy and that's where scooters can actually play a role filling that void."

There's also an economic benefit, the city report found. More than half of trips ended in a business improvement area or business revitalization zone, the city's survey found.

Complaints, safety concerns

The pilot project hasn't been without its detractors. Between July and October, the city said 281 calls were made to 311 to complain about the program. The most common concerns were reports of riders on the sidewalk, inconsiderate or unsafe behaviour and parking.

The city also used fees collected from the two companies to fund a study on safety in collaboration with the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine — one of the first studies of its kind in Canada.

The study found between July and October, there were 33 e-scooter injuries that required ambulances. One person was admitted to hospital for every 100,000 rides.

During the same time period, there were 197 bicycle injuries in the city that required an ambulance, and 463 motor vehicle injuries that required an ambulance.

However, the city said those numbers don't factor in the rate of injuries by mode of travel, as there are significantly more bicycle or car trips than e-scooter trips.

Lyons said while he was happy to see the rate of injuries in the city is low, the goal is to get it even lower.

"I think when we start next year with, again, more education, more experienced ridership, we'll start out at a much better place," he said.

The city is recommending changes for the second half of the pilot program next year, like low-speed zones and designated parking in high-demand areas, as well as new bylaws to allow for better enforcement. 

About the Author

Sarah Rieger

Reporter

Sarah Rieger joined CBC Calgary as an online journalist in 2017. You can reach her by email at sarah.rieger@cbc.ca.

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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