E-scooters are now available in Montreal. Here's what to expect

The new service is part of a pilot project by the City of Montreal that will provide 430 free-sharing electric scooters in Ville-Marie, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Villeray-Saint-Michel- Parc-Extension and the City of Westmount.

The two-wheeled, app-controlled service comes with a range of restrictions

Lime General Manager, Michael Markevich, rides a Lime e-scooter on launch day in Montreal, Tuesday. The City of Montreal has accepted to be part of a pilot project testing the scooters' use in three boroughs as well as in Westmount. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Montrealers are able to add Lime's hop-on, hop-off scooters — powered by batteries, activated by an app and able to hit speeds of up to 20 km/h — to their transportation cocktail starting Tuesday.

The pilot project will provide 430 electric scooters in Ville-Marie, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension and the City of Westmount.

While the service is expected to expand into the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie in the coming weeks, other boroughs have turned down the project for now.

An alternative to 'sweating my butt off'

Candice Ciesla just moved to Montreal and she said "the first thing I looked for were those scooters."

Ciesla, who has been travelling throughout the Western Hemisphere for more than a year, says she settled on Bixi bikes to get around.

She was riding one when CBC News spoke with her Tuesday. 

Candice Ciesla, who recently moved to Montreal, used e-scooters in several different cities while travelling abroad and said she looked for them when she first arrived in the city. (CBC)

"The bikes are cool, but the scooters are real fun," she said, while on one of the city's shared bicycles.

"Sweating my butt off, but it's all good!"

Ciesla said she had used e-scooters in several cities in Argentina, Chile and California.

She said she finds the Bixi bikes are heavy, while e-scooters are light and could be parked anywhere — in other cities, at least.

Ciesla already has a Lime account, so said she would probably be giving them a try in Montreal, though that will require buying a helmet first. 

Helmets are one of the rules the City of Montreal made conditional on the e-scooters' presence in the city. 

Another potential rider, Kalu Baldera, said the helmet rule won't deter him from trying the scooters. 

He said he was excited to see them on the streets. 

Kalu Baldera said the e-scooters will look good to people visiting the city. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

"I've never seen that before in Montreal," Baldera said. "So I was like, 'Oh wow, something new, I want to try it,' just because it's new … it's the future."

Baldera added that he believes accepting the e-scooters will make the city look good to tourists. 

"It's better to see the city has new stuff; there's always new stuff in Montreal."

How it works

Licensed adult riders can rent them by the minute. They'll have to return them to one of the 239 designated parking areas, and helmets are mandatory.

The e-scooters, green-lit by the Quebec government in June, were initially expected to roll out in July, but it took Montreal officials several weeks to process the permit application made by Lime.

"It's a new form of mobility in Montreal," said Coun. Éric Alan Caldwell. "We'll be vigilant, we're testing it and we ask for all Montrealers to check it out and give us their feedback."

Borough inspectors will be out monitoring the situation. If the rules are respected or problems arise, Caldwell said rejecting Lime's permit isn't out of the question.

"We have very strict regulations," he said. "We empower the operators. If it does not work to our taste, we will readjust."

Uber, the company behind JUMP e-bikes that is also a backer of Lime, has only been warned rather than fined for poorly parked bikes, Caldwell told Radio-Canada.

But communication between the city and the companies is improving, he added, and users may face fines as well for failing to comply with municipal or provincial rules.

Montreal has already painted white markings in the specific areas that Lime e-scooter users are allowed to park the two-wheeled vehicles. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Some think the scooters will cause headaches for other road and sidewalk users.

"We will see more conflict because [of] the e-scooter," said Suzanne Lareau, CEO of Vélo Québec. "They ride on the sidewalk. It's not permitted, but they do it."

Unless a municipality says otherwise, Quebec's Highway Safety Code restricts people from riding an e-scooter on the road and no passengers are allowed. 

The e-scooters, which cost $10 for 30 minutes, work by moving a throttle with your right hand, and braking with your left. Users pay $1 to "unlock" the bike and 30 cents per minute after that.

Heavy restrictions in Montreal

The conditions Montreal has set for the company to operate an e-scooter service are among the most strict in the world.

Users must leave the scooters in one of the designated parking zones which are painted on streets and only four scooters per spot are allowed.

The mandatory helmets aren't a requirement in most other cities, either. 

After the ride, users must photograph their e-scooter in the spot — proving they've followed the rules.

Scooters will be limited to a top speed of 20 km/h and will be prohibited on sidewalks and on roads where the speed limit exceeds 50 km/h.

Users will also have to take a short online training course when they first activate the mobile application. Both Lime and JUMP bikes can only be used between April 15 and Nov. 15.

Lime General Manager Michael Markevich was at the product's launch in Westmount Park Tuesday. 

He said an operations team run by Lime will be surveying the scooters' use in the city and make sure they are parked properly. 

As for cycling advocates' apprehension of them, Markevich said, "We've been able to co-exist [in other cities] and we'll continue to work with groups if they feel that's a problem.

"But we're excited to offer more selection and choice for the people of Montreal."

Rough start in other Canadian cities

Montreal is not the first Canadian city to allow app-activated e-scooters. The service can already be found in Calgary, Alta. and Waterloo, Ont.

However, Lime announced last week that it is nixing its pilot project in Waterloo until Ontario lifts restrictions on e-scooters, including a ban on public streets.

The company is more interested in expanding in Montreal and Calgary.

But in Calgary, it hasn't been smooth sailing for new users. In the first two weeks of the service's launch this summer, dozens of Calgarians were injured riding the vehicles. 

Calgary emergency rooms received some 60 patients with e-scooter-related injuries. About a third of them were fractures.

With files from Simon Nakonechny and Radio-Canada