Nova Scotia

Advocate warns reckless e-scooter use could pose safety risk to riders, pedestrians

E-scooters might be a fast, fun way to zip around the city, but some people are concerned about the potential for injury for riders and pedestrians.

Operator of Halifax e-scooter rental company says awareness campaign in the works

E-scooters in Halifax can go about 20 km/h. With no regulation, they can legally be ridden on the sidewalk or street. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

E-scooters might be a fast, fun way to zip around the city, but some people are concerned about the potential for injury for riders and pedestrians.

Paul Vienneau, a disability and accessibility advocate in Halifax, said he's seen e-scooter riders without helmets going the wrong way down the street, and swerving to narrowly avoid hitting people on the sidewalk.

"I know as well as anybody else, a split second changes your life," said Vienneau, who uses a wheelchair after a mountain biking injury.

Without provincial regulation, e-scooters can be ridden on the road or on the sidewalk without breaking any laws.

Paul Vienneau is a disability and accessibility advocate in Halifax. (CBC)

The motorized scooters can travel up to 25 km/h, but those rented out by HFX e-Scooters top out at 20 km/h.

They're extremely quiet, something Vienneau says adds to the danger for pedestrians, especially elderly people, deaf people and people with disabilities.

"If I don't hear somebody coming up behind me at a high rate of speed on a silent vehicle, there's the real possibility that I'm going to get hit," he said.

Vienneau said he understands they're fun and doesn't think riders have a "malicious disregard" for safety, but they should be well-informed of the rules when it comes to riding e-scooters.

Rules for riders

Max Rastelli, the owner of HFX e-Scooters and Segway Nova Scotia, said he's working to develop an awareness campaign to remind riders about helmet safety and safe use of the scooters.

Max Rastelli is the owner of HFX e-Scooters and Segway Nova Scotia. His company has been renting e-scooters in Halifax since July 2019. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

"What we're trying to tell people is although you can go anywhere, try to use some common sense," Rastelli said. "Understand that you have to yield to pedestrians, always. And have a little courtesy, especially when it comes to speed."

E-scooters are rented by the minute through a smartphone app. More than 10,000 people in the city have downloaded the app.

Rastelli said only people age 18 and over can rent e-scooters from him.

Max Rastelli of HFX e-Scooters said they do offer helmets at no additional cost, but not everyone takes one. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Riders are required to wear a helmet, and can be fined for not doing so under the Motor Vehicle Act. Rastelli's waterfront e-scooter rental location has helmets for riders to borrow at no extra cost, but Rastelli said not everyone does.

"All I can do is tell people what the law is, and provide helmets as best we can as an operator. But people should know that they could get a ticket, that they could get injured. We have signs posted, we regularly post reminders on social media ... but at the end of the day, people choose for themselves," he said.

Rastelli said people are mostly using e-scooters for recreation, but he thinks that could change once they're regulated.

About 60 e-scooters are available to rent by the minute at a dozen pick up/drop off locations on the peninsula. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"But there's a much bigger picture here about people using them as an alternative mode of transportation instead of, let's say, short car trips," he said.

Traffic Safety Act to include e-scooters

Despite e-scooters being in Halifax for a little more than a year, they're not mentioned in Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act, which will soon be replaced by the Traffic Safety Act.

Lloyd Hines, Nova Scotia's transportation minister, said the century-old Motor Vehicle Act was "very archaic" and didn't recognize how methods of transportation evolve.

One of the most recent pick up/drop off locations is on the side of the old Oxford Theatre on Quinpool Rd. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"The issue of e-scooters is a timely one … keeping our roads safe is obviously our top priority," Hines said.

The department is planning to roll out draft regulations for the new Traffic Safety Act, which will include e-scooters, for public feedback later this summer.

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