E-scooters coming to Waterloo to tap tech sector commuters in Canadian first

A new pilot project in Waterloo will track the use of electric scooters to study mobility patterns.

Project will run on trails and in David Johnston Research and Technology Park

A California-based company called Lime will be conducting a pilot project in Waterloo using electric scooters. (Lime)

Residents will see more electric scooters in Waterloo this fall and next summer as part of a pilot project, which is the first of its kind in Canada.

City council approved an e-scooter pilot project with the California-based company Lime.

The project will see people use the scooters in and around the area of David Johnston Research and Technology Park (R and T Park) and along the Laurel Trail to the uptown promenade.

The project will examine mobility patterns, including the "last mile" of a person's commute, which is the final part of a person's trip to work or a destination, which can include stops at coffee shops or corner store.

Ryan Mounsey is a senior economic development advisor with the City of Waterloo and said once they started talking to Lime, things quickly fell into place.

"We understood immediately what that means for this community, having a bit of fun but [researching] transportation as well, that missing mile," he said.

Mounsey said the cost to the city will be around $10,000 for temporary signage "because being on the route is so important with this pilot," and the time of staff.

Pilot project now underway

Nico Probst does government relations with Lime and appeared before city council Monday night.

He told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition they were first in talks with other Canadian cities, including Toronto, but then they visited Waterloo.

"When I first visited here, what sort of stood out to me immediately is the ingrained tech environment that is built within Waterloo makes it an immediate city that would naturally be approached to these products," Probst said.

The pilot project started Tuesday and will go until the end of November or until there's snow. Then it will start back up again next April and go throughout the summer.

Each of the scooters will have a GPS on it to track it and to help users locate them.

As part of the project, "havens" or parking areas will be set up for the scooters in uptown Waterloo, on the Boardwalk and in the R and T Park.

"We're trying to anticipate the trip generation and end points and see if we can work towards having some grouped parking areas and then evaluate it," Mounsey said.

The scooters will have GPS on them to track usage and allow people to find them. In Waterloo, the city is setting up parking areas or "havens" for the scooters. (Lime)

Trails, bike lines but not sidewalks

Critics of e-scooters have said they are a menace on sidewalks and dangerous to pedestrians, with some able to go 23 km/h.

Cities like San Francisco have had problems with people abandoning scooters in the middle of sidewalks or not wearing helmets. There, hundreds of scooters were seized by the city. 

But Probst says they want cities to ban their use on sidewalks.

"We really feel like these should be operated in bike lanes and trails and the right-side shoulder of the road," he said, adding their app also explains to people how to use the scooters appropriately.

Probst says Lime hopes this is a way for people to view transportation as being more than getting places by car.

"This product, along with bikes and I think other mobility solutions down the road, are really taking off and changing what the trajectory of transportation looks like," he said.

Listen to the interview with Ryan Mounsey and Nico Probst on The Morning Edition with host Craig Norris: