Ottawa proposes 3rd year of e-scooter pilot project, but not everyone's on board

E-scooters could once again zip down some Ottawa streets this year, but some in the accessibility community are still questioning the plan — despite proposed stricter regulations.

City plans to whittle down number of companies, scooters on the roads

E-scooters proved popular last year, with around 127,000 people taking at least one trip. (Andrew Lee/CBC)


  • Council approved a third year of the e-scooter pilot in a 16-to-7 vote on March 23, 2022.

UPDATE | The city's transportation committee approved a third year of the e-scooter pilot project on March 3. Council will cast the final vote March 9.

E-scooters could once again zip down some Ottawa streets this year, but some in the accessibility community are still questioning the plan — despite proposed stricter regulations.

This would be the third season of the city's pilot program. It's proved very popular the past two years, with 127,000 riders taking nearly half a million trips in the urban core.

But critics have worried about the dangers the e-scooters pose to pedestrians, especially those with visual or mobility impairments. Their concerns include everything from tripping over improperly parked scooters to not hearing them whiz by at speeds up to 20 kilometres per hour.

The city is trying to address some of those concerns, with rules ensuring scooters emit a standardized noise and come with improved geofencing technology, which uses GPS data to slow down the scooter if it's somewhere it shouldn't be.

Companies would also have a tighter 15-minute window to rectify misparked vehicles, down from the hour they had before.

"I'm very skeptical of this," said Wayne Antle, president of the Otttawa-Gatineau chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

Antle said he doesn't believe the geofencing technology will be up to par.

"My concern is they're sort of trumpeting this technology and it's not tried and true. And they're using vulnerable pedestrians as guinea pigs, basically, to test this out. And that's really not acceptable." 

Kate Riccomini is visually impaired and uses a walking stick to help her navigate the city's streets. She's still not convinced the tougher rules being proposed for a third e-scooter season will be enough. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

The new 15-minute rule is a welcome improvement but it doesn't eliminate misparked scooters altogether, said Kate Riccomini, program lead for advocacy and accessible community engagement at CNIB, the national organization that supports Canadians who are blind or visually impaired.

"If I encounter [an e-scooter] and trip over it on my way to run my errand, I've already tripped over it. That doesn't really help me that it's no longer there on my way home," Riccomini said.

Riccomini did welcome the standardized scooter noise — which will be chosen by the city —  but questioned its adequacy.

The city's own accessibility advisory committee has also recommended against the pilot's renewal.

Chris Schafer, vice-president of government affairs with scooter company Bird Canada, said that was unfortunate since at least one other advisory committee recommended the program go ahead — with similar proposed changes.

"We want to ultimately have a program that is beneficial not only to our riders, but to the larger public in Ottawa," he said.

This map shows the area where e-scooters were allowed to travel in Ottawa's urban core in 2021. Coun. Tim Tierney doesn't believe the geographic area will be expanded until companies prove they can operate successfully with what they already have. (City of Ottawa)

Of 633 complaints logged between last May and November, most were for badly parked scooters, accessibility concerns and poor rider behaviour.

Bird Canada had 89 complaints about parking, while Lime had 215 and Neuron had 1,139. But an end-of-season survey showed most people never reported their concerns.

Transportation Committee chair Coun. Tim Tierney said the city plans to streamline the complaint process and increase most fees — including a $100,000 application fee for interested companies — while also limiting the number of scooters to 900, from a maximum of two companies.

He said those companies will have to prove their scooters meet safety requirements.

"We do run a Hunger Games-style of approach where, if they don't deliver on picking up in time and doing all the good things that they should be doing, you're not going to be able to do business in the city," he said.

City staff are also recommending a maximum of two e-scooter companies operating in Ottawa in 2022. Last year, there were three: Bird, Lime and Neuron. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

He also said there's no guarantee the program would run past this year.

"I know the ride companies would love nothing more than to be a permanent fixture in the city. But we're still not satisfied yet."

The report goes to transportation committee Wednesday.


Kimberley Molina is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. She can be reached at