E-scooters aren't for keeps: Thefts but no injuries mark first weekend in Edmonton

During the first weekend of stand-up powered scooters in Edmonton, the company that owns the fleet says there were about 2,000 rides, no injuries and 10 that temporarily grew legs.

Bird CEO says they retrieved about 10 e-scooters stolen over the weekend

A Bird electric scooter being ridden in Salt Lake City in June 2018. (The Associated Press)

During the first weekend of stand-up powered scooters in Edmonton, the company that owns the fleet says there were about 2,000 rides, no injuries and 10 that temporarily grew legs.

Bird e-scooters, so named because of the long neck and handlebars, had a trial launch over the weekend with 150 scooters out on city streets. Monday marked the company's official launch in Edmonton, Stewart Lyons, CEO for Bird Canada, told CBC News.

"Edmontonians seem to be really into the scooters and riding them a lot, which is great," Lyons said. "It's a little chilly but it's still good riding weather."

For a few eager riders, enthusiasm strayed a little outside the normal terms of use.

"People take them inside their house or [they're] covering them up. Someone actually went so far as take a scooter, scrape off the logo and put their own logo on it," said Lyons, who retrieved a stolen e-scooter from a business on Monday morning. 

"I don't know what they're planning on ... starting their own scooter company with our scooters?"

Bird officials have discussed the scooter thefts with Edmonton police and will meet with them later Monday to outline how the company will handle the problem.

The Bird app can detect when a e-scooter has not been returned, Lyons said.

"If you take a scooter, we know you have it. We show up and say 'Hey, can we have the scooter back?' and if they don't [return it], we have to call the police,"  he said.

"Typically, people are pretty nice about it."

The app accepts reports about careless riding and also provides the company with information about whether various regulations, including parking, are being followed. Accounts can be suspended if users are chronically causing problems.

No scooter injuries reported

Lyons said there had been no reports of scooter injuries as of Monday morning. He said the injury rate is similar, or lower, to that seen with bicycles.

"We don't like accidents at all but when they do occur, it's around 37, 38 injuries per one million miles ridden," he said.

No visits due to e-scooters were reported at the University of Alberta and Royal Alexandra hospitals, said Alberta Health Services spokesperson Kerry Williamson.

The Bird app instructs users to wear a helmet.

CEO of Bird Canada Stewart Lyons says the e-scooters are a success in Edmonton and they have had only a few thefts. (Scott Neufeld/CBC News)

Bird encourages users to do their due diligence and look up riding bylaws, which include a minimum age requirement of 18. Riders are allowed to use e-scooters on bike lanes, paved shared-use paths and city roads with a speed limit of 50 km/h or lower.

Regulating E-scooters

No tickets or warnings were given to e-scooter users on the weekends, a city spokesperson said Monday. Information on complaints to 311 was not available.

Mayor Don Iveson told reporters the city is monitoring potential issues.

"It's important that people make themselves aware of the rules," Iveson said. "There have been issues already with people improperly using them on sidewalks so that's one of the things we will be monitoring but at the end of the day it's got to self-enforce."

Iveson says if there are too many issues, the city may have to revisit the idea of having e-scooters in the city.

"It's just not realistic for the city to be out there ticketing every street corner with people violating the rules."

According to the city's bylaw on e-scooters, "if an e-bike or e-scooter is involved in an offence under the bylaw, the owner of that e-bike or e-scooter, is guilty of that offence." 

A city spokesperson said its peace officers will enforce the rules governing the use of e-scooters on sidewalks, parkland and shared use paths as part of their regular duties. Most on-street enforcement would be done by the Edmonton Police Service.

Coun. Scott McKeen said he's still hesitant.

"I see bikes as a legitimate form of active transportation, I think e-scooters are more in the realm of play or fun, that's why I voted against it," McKeen told CBC.

"Especially if people being able to hop on an e-scooter after they've maybe had a few beers downtown or on Whyte Avenue, that's what concerns me.

"My hipster cred is dropping considerably on this issue," McKeen added. "I think there will be broken bones ahead."


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