Nova Scotia

Cheap, zippy and unregulated: E-scooters in Halifax operate in legal grey zone

Electric scooters are popping up around downtown Halifax, but there isn't much in the way of regulation covering how and where you can ride them. In fact, Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act doesn't mention them.

Electric scooters, available to rent by the hour, are now available in the city

Electric scooters are shown by the Garden Food Bar & Lounge in downtown Halifax. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Electric scooters are popping up around downtown Halifax, but there isn't much in the way of regulation covering how and where you can ride them.

In fact, Nova Scotia's Motor Vehicle Act doesn't mention them.

"Innovation is happening faster and faster," said Max Rastelli, owner of Segway Nova Scotia, a company that rents out e-scooters.

"Months at a time, one year at a time, you get new innovative products. And the regulators, the folks that make up the rules and bylaws for cities and jurisdictions, they struggle to keep up."

The lack of clear rules means you can currently ride them with impunity on both sidewalks or on streets. 

The scooters can travel up to 25 kilometres per hour, with a range of 40 kilometres, and can be rented with a smart phone and a credit card for 25 cents per minute. That would be about $3 from the waterfront to the Public Gardens.

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Department of Transportation said traffic laws will be updated to account for e-scooters, but added it's too early to say what the rules will be or when they will be in place.

Max Rastelli is the owner of Segway Nova Scotia, a company that rents out e-scooters in Halifax. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Rastelli has 32 scooters available for rent. He said it's "kind of a small fleet as we do this soft introduction to the city."

Currently, scooters can be picked up and dropped off only at Rastelli's waterfront rental location, and next to the patio of the Worthington Boutique Hotel and Suites at the corner of Queen and Clyde streets. 

A third location is planned at The Maple, an apartment building on Hollis Street.

Rastelli said he hopes to create new drop-off points at university campuses and other locations. 

He's taking this conservative approach to avoid problems experienced in other cities, where e-scooter companies have launched fleets of hundreds of e-scooters, causing complaints of overcrowding and "scooter litter."

"This is what we want to try to avoid in Halifax," Rastelli said. "And this is what the city is trying to avoid. Let's educate people. Let everybody understand what the technology is about. And let's figure out where people should park them."

Samuel Rad is the owner of Worthington Hotels. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Samuel Rad, owner of Worthington Hotels and the Garden Food Bar & Lounge, said he approached Rastelli to request a scooter parking depot.

"They are very comfortable, they are very convenient, they're very reasonably priced.... Overall, scooting around the city, I don't think there could be any device better than e-scooters," Rad said.

E-scooter companies in other cities use a different system: Download an app to locate and unlock a scooter nearby, ride it to your destination, and then it leave it wherever you get off.

Rastelli said that may be the model for Halifax eventually, but only with full backing of the city and an educated ridership that knows how to park the e-scooters "respectfully."

The scooters are available to rent in Waterloo, Ont., Montreal and Calgary.

However, e-scooter company Lime announced earlier this month that it is nixing its pilot project in Waterloo until Ontario lifts restrictions on e-scooters, including a ban on public streets.

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 Jack Julian

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.