Edmonton

E-scooter service springs up early in Edmonton

Edmontonians have a new way to get around town — electric scooters — but it's too early to say whether the service in Edmonton will be popular and safe.

Bird e-Scooters dotted Whyte Avenue and downtown streets Friday

E-scooters are allowed on bike lanes, roads and shared-use paths in Edmonton. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Edmontonians have a new way to get around town — electric scooters — but it's too early to say whether the service in Edmonton will be popular and safe.

The Bird Canada e-scooters appeared in central areas of the city on Friday morning, three days before the company and the city were set to launch the pay-what-you-use program. 

Riders must be 18 years old and are allowed to use the e-scooters on city roads with a speed limit of 50km/h or less, bike lanes and paved shared-use paths. 

The e-scooters aren't allowed on sidewalks, even though that's where many of them are set up for people to access. 

City councillor Andrew Knack has pushed the city to support the program in a bid to encourage more active transportation. 

"I'm a fan of more options for people to move around the city and this is just one more in that list of options." 

The rental program in Edmonton comes a few weeks after Lime Technology Inc. set up a similar service in Calgary. 

The first two weeks of that business resulted in dozens of injuries and trips to the hospital. 

But that doesn't deter Knack from supporting the initiative.

"There's not going to be a situation where there's no accidents," Knack told CBC News Friday. "But I feel that Edmontonians are fairly a talented group here and that they're going to be willing to take it a little bit easier having heard what's happened in some other cities when it first rolled out." 

Lime also has a permit to operate in Edmonton but their scooters haven't appeared yet. 

Bike lane benefits

Marcel Huculak, a transportation engineer in Edmonton and a member of the group Paths for People, supports the service and the 20 km/h maximum the scooters are allowed to go.

"I think that's important though to regulate the speed," Huculak said. "The speed itself becomes a bit of a safety issue when you're mixing in with other slower-moving cyclists and even pedestrians."

Huculak, a long-time cyclist, also thinks the city should build on its bike lanes, where it's safer for everyone to ride. 

"Even myself, I feel much more comfortable in the separated bike lane," he said. 
Several e-scooters were placed along Whyte Avenue Friday, the first day Bird eScooters offered the pay-per-minute service. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

The e-scooters do not have docking stations. The scooters are locked and unlocked with a phone app. After agreeing to the rules, users can reserve a machine and pay for it by credit card. 

It costs $1.15 to start and then 35 cents for every minute.  

Dozens were placed along Whyte Avenue, around Old Strathcona and in central neighbourhoods.

Many people on Friday afternoon noticed the new scooters. Several passersby told CBC News they weren't familiar with how they work but welcomed the project.

A gaggle of teenagers stopped by to check out the Bird bikes on Whyte Avenue. 
Three teenagers stop to check out the e-scooters available for rent on Whyte Avenue Friday. (Natasha Riebe/CBC)

Avran Sanders, a student at Strathcona High School who's too young to use the e-scooters yet, said he's interested in trying it.

"I think it's a really good way to get people to go out on the streets and not drive around."

Upon seeing an e-scooter on Whyte Avenue, Nolan Beck said he supports the idea. 

"I like it, we'll see if it catches on," Beck said.  "Hopefully they don't get stolen off Whyte Ave." 

The e-scooters contain global positioning systems, which allow the companies to keep track of the vehicles, collect and redistribute their fleet.

Privately owned e-scooters are not allowed on bike lanes, shared paths and roads, as provincial rules have permitted only e-scooters operated by share services. 

Councillors also support a bike share program but the city hasn't released a plan for that service yet.

@natashariebe
 

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