E-scooter make it or break it year in 2022

As we enter our third summer of piloting the electric-scooter program, it is inherently clear we need to better manage this project internally in the City. 

I voiced my concerns at the beginning of this pilot program in the spring of 2020. Stressing specific rules balance the fun and compliance of the riders and operators. 

As we know all too well, we have heard countless concerns that users ride scooters in places they shouldn’t, in ways they shouldn’t, and leave them where they shouldn’t.

The current system does not work. With multiple providers, it is confusing to who to report issues. And the follow-up is lacklustre as there is no one internally to enforce the rules created, and ones residents expect a respected City program would oversee.

It is the biggest challenge, yet I believe we can easily resolve this. 

Specifically, coordinating complaints and enforcement in real-time to ensure an effective response is the first step. This feedback received directly to City staff will allow us to hold the companies accountable for fixing issues and tracking all feedback and responses, via the now famous 311 system.

Let’s be clear; there is no doubt that e-scooters are indeed popular. Electric scooters are a fun, relatively affordable option. 

More than 72,720 riders took more than 238,000 rides on 600 e-scooters provided by three vendors in the pilot’s first year. 

However, we can not fully understand the impact of this project and respond if we are not made aware of all the feedback, concerns and complaints from residents. 

The current proposed model sees residents reporting individually to providers and the City. 

This needs to be centralized. I proposed changes to the program be sorted out before the first kick-stand is kicked out and the e-scooters are set to roll. 

At Transportation Committee, I introduced two motions directly intended to improve the e-scooter program. 

My first motion requested staff require the technologies requirements from e-scooter companies to include proper parking proof-including the option of fine, similar to our shopping carts bylaw, GEO-FENCING off City sidewalks or walkways and have providers obligated to contain strategies and technologies specific to violations of e-scooters travelling in the wrong direction. 

Our rules and bylaws need to be enforced when providers do not respond appropriately to issues within the acceptable timeframe. For example, City staff must react to parking (fine and remove the unit) and Ottawa Police, who enforce moving violations must proactively enforce riding problems to ensure non-chaotic environments on City streets and sidewalks.

Especially when it comes to accessibility and safety issues. 

By creating a system that penalizes the companies who do not react in a timely and appropriate manner, this cause has a direct effect. 

Retrieving an improperly parked e-scooter by the City until the offending company pays a financial penalty is a step toward creating compliance and accountability.

Geo-fencing of all sidewalks within the core areas such as Rideau Street, ByWard Market, Laurier Ave etc., will safeguard residents and riders. This request asks that every company’s GPS has appropriate vehicular lane direction within their systems and that their e-motor automatically stops when riding on a sidewalk.

My second motion requested the Province set fines for moving violations to address the misuse of e-scooters under the Highway Traffic Act. We must make sure policing authorities have the same HTA tools as they would for motor vehicles and bikes related to easily ticketing e-scooter infractions. 

These changes proposed for 2022 would address these common complaints of sidewalk riding and improper parking and improve reporting, monitoring and enforcement. 

Importantly, staff will report back at the end of the 2022 pilot season with recommendations that will shape the program’s future.

I believe this pilot can be safe and successful with these measures in place. It may even be electrifying.  

Here is the staff report, which highlights additional measures to make this pilot program a success:

Please share with us your experience with using an e-scooter, in Ottawa, and issues you have faced from those who are using them in our City’s core.