Manitoba

Winnipeg to study electric bike and scooter regulation

The City of Winnipeg is studying how to make room on its streets for electric bikes and scooters, the low-speed vehicles that have been praised for augmenting public transit but also criticized for cluttering boulevards.

U.S. firm Lime wants to rent its dockless electric vehicles in Winnipeg

The city will study the regulation of electric scooter and bike-share companies such as Lime (Submitted by Lime)

The City of Winnipeg is studying how to make room on its streets for electric bikes and scooters, the low-speed vehicles that have been praised for augmenting public transit but also criticized for cluttering boulevards.

City council's public works committee voted Tuesday to direct city staff to spend six months determining how scooter-share and bike-share companies such as Lime can operate in Winnipeg.

Lime, which operates in dozens of U.S. cities as well as in Calgary and Waterloo, Ont., makes electric scooters and electric bikes available to people who download their app.

Their customers pick up the vehicles wherever they happen to be, finding a scooter or bike near them using the GPS-enabled app.

The app unlocks the bike or scooter, which is typically used for a trip of about a kilometre and then left on a boulevard for another user — or to be recharged by the company or its customers. The intention is for the vehicle to augment the use of public transit.

"You use it for really the first kilometre, last kilometre sort of need," said Chris Schafer, senior director strategic development for Lime.

Public works officials say they want to get ahead of e-scooter regulation before the vehicles appear here in numbers. (Lime)

Lime sets the speed limit on both its electric scooters and electric bicycles at 23.8 kilometres per hour.

In some U.S. cities, the introduction of electric scooters has led to congested sidewalks and temporary bans of companies such as Lime or its U.S. rival, Bird.

There have also been reports of the scooters getting discarded in waterways. 

Schafer said problems associated with electric scooters stem from the fact the technology is new.

He also said he's not worried about the challenges posed by operating in Winnipeg, where potholes and property crime are common. Theft in particular is not a concern, he said.

"It's negligible. The reason being is the vehicles are locked. Unless you use the app to unlock it, it makes the vehicle not useful to you," he said.

Bird is a rival U.S. scooter-share company. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Public works committee voted to give city staff six months to determine what regulations need to be changed to allow electric scooters and electric bikes to be used on Winnipeg streets.

"We know the devices are readily available for someone to purchase them," committee chair Matt Allard (St. Boniface) said.

The city will study what U.S. cities, including Portland, Ore. have done, public works officials told the committee, adding they anticipated the request for the study. 

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) told the committee he was interested in companies such as Lime because their product would not require the city to make an investment in bike-rental infrastructure of its own. Cities such as Montreal have experienced mixed success with bike rentals from fixed locations.

Allard said he hopes the service will be revenue-neutral for Winnipeg.

The City of Winnipeg is studying how to make room on its streets for electric bikes and scooters. 2:03

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