Ottawa

E-scooters set to hit Ottawa streets, paths this year

Ottawa could soon join other Canadian cities in allowing electric scooters on its multi-use paths, bike lanes and even some streets after its transportation committee approved a pilot project Wednesday.

City plans to allow 600 of the dockless standing scooters, but with limits on where they can go

If Ottawa's e-scooter pilot gets full council approval, the devices will be allowed on pathways and on roads with speed limits up to 50 km/h, but not on sidewalks, on NCC paths or in Gatineau. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Latest

  • Council approved the e-scooter pilot program on June 10, 2020.
  • Councillors Carol Anne Meehan and Scott Moffatt dissented.

Ottawa could soon join other Canadian cities in allowing electric scooters on its multi-use paths, bike lanes and even some streets after its transportation committee approved a pilot project Wednesday.

The pilot, which would run until the end of October, still needs full council's approval on June 10. The plan would permit up to 600 e-scooters operated by rental companies.

"This is a good time to introduce it. It's a pilot, we're starting with a smallish sample," said Vivi Chi, director of transportation planning.

The battery-powered standing scooters have been illegal in Ottawa, but the Ontario government gave municipalities the right to set up their own pilot projects to test them out back on Jan. 1.

Under the Ottawa plan, e-scooters could travel on the city's multi-use pathways, in bike lanes and on roads with speed limits of 50 km/h or lower. The scooters themselves could travel no faster than 20 km/h under the proposed bylaw.

E-scooters would be banned from city sidewalks, and because neither the National Capital Commission nor the City of Gatineau intends to allow them in 2020, the rental companies would need to employ "geofencing" technology that would slow the machines to a crawl and prevent them from being parked in areas that are off limits.

The same goes for Ottawa's LRT. While the city sees e-scooters as a great way for passengers to travel that "final kilometre" between transit stations and their destination, city lawyers balked at allowing them on buses or trains.

Careless parking a concern

To make room for the e-scooters, Ottawa plans to expand its existing bike-share program, but will charge rental companies much higher fees. Instead of paying one dollar per bike per year, companies such as Bird Canada and Lime Canada will pay $60 per bike or scooter, which are dockless and can be returned anywhere. 

A representative from Lime Canada pointed out Wednesday the proposed fees are among the highest in Canada. Sam Sadle also suggested the city allow between 1,200 and 3,600 scooters instead of the proposed 600.

Lime Canada would like to see Ottawa allow more than 600 e-scooters during its pilot phase this year. (Lime)

While e-scooters are seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to driving or ride-hailing apps such as Uber, there are safety concerns.

Stories abound about collisions and injuries, and there are worries about improperly parked e-scooters blocking sidewalks.

In fact, Montreal has decided to ban e-scooters this year after fewer than 20 per cent of users obeyed parking rules during that city's pilot program. That worries Ottawa's volunteer accessibility advisory committee. 

"This is not just an inconvenience to us," said the advisory committee's chair, Phillip Turcotte.

Chi said Ottawa will have more options than Montreal when it comes to parking. The scooters could be left in the area of the sidewalk closest to the street, where benches and trees are located, and the city could also paint some designated parking areas on streets, she said.

The city would also require rental companies to disinfect their scooters to public health standards during the pandemic, although it's not clear how that will work between users.

Coun. Jeff Leiper has already bought into the scooters, literally. Rather than waiting to rent, he said he's waiting for his own to be delivered.

"I want to have my own," Leiper said.

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