E-scooter program delayed in Ottawa

·2 min read
The City of Ottawa has imposed stricter regulations on e-scooter companies this year to cut down on sidewalk riding and improper parking. (Michel Aspirot/CBC - image credit)
The City of Ottawa has imposed stricter regulations on e-scooter companies this year to cut down on sidewalk riding and improper parking. (Michel Aspirot/CBC - image credit)

The City of Ottawa imposed stricter regulations on e-scooter companies in 2022 to cut down on sidewalk riding and improper parking. That's at least part of the reason for a delayed start to this year's launch of the program.

The pilot project, which was extended for its third year by city council in March, had seen the e-scooters booted up on city streets around late May in 2021 and mid-July in 2020.

This year, however, work continues to sort through new rules.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said any company planning to launch in Ottawa has to use technology that can "significantly reduce, if not eliminate, sidewalk riding."

Leiper, who voted against the pilot project, said the city will select two companies to continue the pilot if they can prove their software is adequate, but he remains concerned about safety.

"I am cynical that the technology will work as advertised," he said.

Leiper said he believes the scooters will return "within the next 3 to 4 weeks or so." He noted the city will see fewer of them compared to last summer.

The city issued a memo on Thursday, June 9 saying that this year's pilot start date is "anticipated in approximately two weeks."

Fewer companies, fewer scooters

Last year, Bird, Lime and Neuron operated e-scooters as part of the city's pilot, but it's not clear which of those two will return this summer. None of the three companies offered any clarity when contacted by CBC.

Accessibility advocates also remain skeptical about software upgrades protecting pedestrians.

The president of the Ottawa-Gatineau chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, who is also blind, said he worries people with disabilities will be "used as guinea pigs" as companies test out new technology.

Wayne Antle also said concerns about sidewalk riding and parking have been ignored and advocates weren't allowed to provide feedback during the testing phase of the program.

"I don't trust this process," said Antle. "When you go to three pilots of something that puts vulnerable pedestrians in danger, you know, I think that that's a problem."

Submitted by Wayne Antle
Submitted by Wayne Antle

The City of Ottawa's program manager of neighbourhood calming, Heidi Cousineau, said the accessibility advisory committee was consulted and "significant time was involved" to make improvements for the 2022 season.

Phillip Turcotte, chair of the city's accessibility advisory committee, says they were disappointed the city didn't take stronger action to protect pedestrians.

"We felt that the only way to really prevent people from leaving e-scooters where they shouldn't be is by creating designated spaces for e-scooters." Turcotte said. "That's something that we were asking the city to do because it was completely within their power as a regulator."

Cousineau said the city is currently selecting companies for the summer and it will have an update in the coming days.

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