E-scooters on sidewalks cause headaches for pedestrians, politicians

As electric scooters become more popular in downtown Edmonton they appear to be causing more frustration than fun at city hall.

"From my point (of view), it's not going well, actually," said Mayor Don Iveson on Tuesday.

"Certainly we hear that some people love them and are using them responsibly. But unfortunately too many people are riding them on sidewalks, creating conflict with pedestrians."

City council approved a bylaw amendment that permits e-scooters on low-speed roads, bike lanes and shared-use paths. The scooters showed up on city streets last month — and just as often on city sidewalks.

"People continue to seem to want to ride them on sidewalks, which is starting to create some pretty negative feedback from pedestrians, from business owners and then particularly from people who depend on mobility aids who are finding the scooters discarded in ramps and in other areas," Iveson said.

Electric scooter companies, Bird and Lime, are operating in the city under a licence that needs to be renewed annually. However, the city has the right to terminate the licence if companies don't live up to their signed agreement with the city.

Iveson said the city will "let this play out for a while yet, to see if things stabilize," but added city could pull its approval of e-scooters.

Different cities, different rules

While Edmonton doesn't allow e-scooters on sidewalks, the City of Calgary only allows its e-scooters on sidewalks and bike paths. A statement from that city's department of transportation noted that e-scooters — which operate at a speed of up to 20 km/h — are not fast enough for most roads but are too fast for most bike paths.

"The city has allowed non-motorized skateboards and scooters to operate on sidewalks for over a decade," the Calgary department said in a statement. "However, legally pedestrians have the right of way on sidewalks. We ask that people using e-scooters on the sidewalk do so in a respectful manner and operate a lower speed (from 0-10 km/h)."

Bird Canada general manager Alexandra Petre said the company is trying to educate riders, and hosted a safe scooter demonstration near Whyte Avenue on Tuesday afternoon.

CBC/Scott Neufeld

"Every single one of our vehicles has a huge sticker on the back that says no riding on sidewalks, so that's very clearly spelled out on all of our vehicles," she said.

Petre said she did not have statistics for the company's ridership in Edmonton, but noted that by the end of August there had been 350,000 rides in Calgary and 340 e-scooter related accidents had been reported to AHS.

City of Edmonton spokesperson Chrystal Coleman said in an e-mail that the city isn't actively ticketing scooter scofflaws.

"Our current approach around e-scooter enforcement is to use existing resources to address e-scooters being operated on sidewalks when they see it as part of their day-to-day duties. Due to the fleeting nature of the violation, it isn't possible to address 311 complaints of e-scooters on sidewalks."