E-scooters proving popular — but they're not without their critics

Ottawa's e-scooter pilot project has proven popular since launching early this summer, but it's also led to complaints about where those scooters are being cruised and then cast off.

More than 116K trips since pilot launched July 16, but also a few dozen complaints

Bird is one of the three companies that's providing e-scooters to Ottawa residents as part of a recently launched pilot program. They've been signed out for tens of thousands of rides, but there have also been dozens of official complaints. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Ottawa's e-scooter experiment has proven popular, but it's also led to complaints about where those scooters are being cruised and then cast off.

E-scooters from three different companies — Bird, Lime, and Roll — began hitting the streets July 16 for the three-and-a-half month pilot project.

The scooters can't be driven on sidewalks and must be parked in the "sidewalk furniture zone" closest to the curb, near benches, bike racks and trees. The companies have an hour to move any scooters which aren't parked correctly.

Diana Mayer considers that timing a problem.

She's filed complaints with the City of Ottawa and Bird about scooters blocking sidewalks and even the driveway of her rental property.

Diana Mayer submitted this photo to the City of Ottawa in August showing three Bird e-scooters both blocking a sidewalk and a driveway. (Submitted by Diana Mayer)

"How is that fair, for people that have strollers or kids or are in a wheelchair, [having to] wait for an hour for somebody to kind of clear the site? That to me just didn't ring right," Mayer said.

Mayer isn't the only one who's complained: people have also taken to social media to point out bad parking jobs.

Official complaints low

Despite those concerns, e-scooters are proving popular. As of Wednesday, there had been 116,088 trips taken by 39,894 people, according to Vivi Chi, the City of Ottawa's director of transportation planning.

Since the start of the pilot, there have been 40 official complaints to the city about improperly parked scooters and people riding on the sidewalks, Chi wrote in an email to CBC News.

The three companies, which also track requests for re-parking, have received 63 such notifications, Chi said — although it's not clear if the requests made to Bird, Lime and Roll overlapped with those the city received.

Here’s how you can rent an e-scooter in Ottawa

2 years ago
Duration 0:49
Gaby Gonzalez-Sirois, a spokesperson for Bird Canada, explains how much it will cost to rent one of their scooters and where in Ottawa you’ll be able to find them.

Both Bird and Lime have said their main focus is educating riders. Since the beginning of August, the companies have had teams on the streets to target problem hotspots.

They also require users take photos of their parking jobs at the end of their trip.

"I think people take sidewalk access for granted at times, and we need to realize there's a lot of people who rely [on it]," said Michael Markevitch, general manager for Lime Canada.

"I don't think [scooter users] want to be intentionally malicious. They want to park properly." 

An e-scooter is left on a sidewalk near Ottawa City Hall in July 2020. The city says it's received 40 official notifications about poorly parked scooters or people riding on sidewalks since the pilot project launched. (Stephen Hoff/CBC)

'They will be permanently banned'

The companies can also take action if someone is a habitual bad parker or flouts the rules.

"I'm very happy to get rid of bad apples off of our service permanently," said Austin Spademan, assistant general manager of Bird Canada in Ottawa.

"Those people that are egregiously parking get a one-time warning from me. And it would be a personal email ... if I ever catch them again, they will be permanently banned from the app."

So far, Spademan said, he's issued 46 warnings and banned eight users.

Poor parking isn't the only problem the authorities have encountered: Ottawa police have also charged at least one scooter user with impaired driving.

As a motorcycle rider, Mayer said she understands the thrill people can get riding an e-scooter, but she also wonders if they're truly beneficial.

"There's very few people using them," Mayer said. "But yet they're causing inconvenience and a disruption for a whole lot of people."

The pilot project is slated to run until the end of October.

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