Should the City of Vancouver consider introducing a shared electric scooters program? The ‘e-scooter’ has been popularized by companies like Lime. Cities such as Vienna have allowed competing shared e-scooters to operate (the photos in the slideshow are from October 2019). Other cities, such as Montreal, have run a pilot program and then have chosen to ban shared e-scooters after mass non-compliance with the regulations. Since Vancouver already has a bike share program, would the e-scooter be redundant? Or is it another option to provide affordable mobility?
A motion on notice by Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung for a shared e-scooter and e-bike pilot project will be introduced at a City Council meeting on July 21st (note: this item was not heard on July 7th due to time constraints). If approved, the motion would look at having staff prepare work for a launch of the pilot in the fall of 2020, with proper safety measures in place. The motion makes note of successful pilots in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa. The full name of the motion is ‘Enhanced Mobility Options to Support Post Pandemic Recovery through a Shared e Scooter and an e-Bike Pilot Program.’
Speakers to the item have until 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, to sign up. If Council decides to hear from speakers then it will be referred to a subsequent Committee meeting, which will likely be on July 22nd.
While e-scooter share programs make promises of quick and easy travel, there has been much controversy in other jurisdictions. The e-scooters can litter the streets, because there are typically no designated docking stations or lockup points, as in Vienna. In practice, there are also issues with riding on sidewalks. Occasionally two people ride on a single e-scooter. There are safety concerns with the lack of helmets. The user base is somewhat limited by the requirements to have a smart phone and online payment system. There’s also the question about a fall-off in demand for e-scooters during the wet and cold winter months.
As the e-scooters have limited ranges, the batteries need to be charged. This is where the ‘juicers’ come in. They are the people who work freelance to collect e-scooters, charge the batteries, and return them to the streets, as directed by the operator. The juicers make fees based on the number of e-scooters they charge, working in an arrangement that’s analogous to ‘share economy’ companies like Lyft and Uber. It’s worthwhile noting that in some jurisdictions, the recharging and collection of the e-scooters is done by service companies and not individuals.
E-scooter share programs have been controversial in other cities and have resulted in bans. Should Vancouver proceed with a pilot program, evaluate, and decide whether to move ahead? Or should such a program be avoided entirely at this time?
Lime e-scooter causing backlash in Montreal (Global News, Brittany Henriques, August 23, 2019)
City of Montreal bans electronic scooters (CBC, Vincenzo Morello, Feb 19, 2020)
E-scooters suddenly appeared everywhere, but now they’re riding into serious trouble (CNN, Julia Buckley, Nov 22, 2019)
E-scooters will be back in Kelowna this summer (InfoNews.ca, Rob Munro, May 21, 2020)
Electric scooters are igniting new laws, liability concerns and even “scooter rage” (CBSNews, Ed Leefeldt, July 2, 2019)
Electric scooter-sharing grinds to a halt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (The Verge, Andrew J. Hawkins, Mar 20, 2020)
Welcome, watch or ban: how should cities deal with electric scooters? (The Guardian, June 18, 2019)
‘Basically you go hunting’: How Calgarians charge up their bank accounts with Lime e-scooters (CBC, by Natalie Valleau, Aug 26, 2019)
‘They’re basically hunting’: What it’s like to be a Lime Juicer in Calgary (Livewire Calgary, Josei Lukey, Aug 14, 2019)
Regulations for Kick and electric scooters, City of Vienna
Lime Wants To Pay You To Recharge Their Electric Scooters In Montreal (Mtl Blog, Stefanie Hanrahan, Sept 2019)
New electric scooters invade Prague’s pavements (Radio Prague International, Oct 17, 2018)
Lime e-scooters launch in Montreal; users to face strict rules (Montreal Gazette, Mia Anhoury, Aug 14, 2019)
Shared e-scooters to be banned in Montreal in 2020 (CBC News, Feb 19, 2020)
Electric scooters’ sudden invasion of American cities, explained (Vox, Umair Irfan, Sep 7, 2018)
Electric Scooters to be Banned From Pedestrian Areas in Prague (Prague Morning, Jan 10, 2020)
Lime electric scooters return to streets of Prague (Radio Prague International, April 27, 2020)
Explore Vienna in Google Maps (Mariahilfer Straße 120)
Motion (from July 21st, 2020 City Council meeting)
COUNCIL MEMBER’S MOTION
5. Enhanced Mobility Options to Support Post Pandemic Recovery Through a Shared e-Scooter and an e-Bike Pilot Program
Submitted by: Councillor Kirby-Yung
- The City of Vancouver declared a local state of emergency on March 19, 2020 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and is now in recovery phases where the Province continues to recommend physical distancing measures of 2 metres or 6 feet to prevent spread or a second wave;
- Many residents are cautious about resuming regular activities, citing concerns about taking transit due to being in close quarters and proximity to others. There is apprehension that this may result in increased car use and dependency that will work against the gains Vancouver and the region have made in growing strong transit ridership;
- According to a Vancouver survey conducted by Research Co. between May 15 and 17, only 57 per cent of respondents said they would take the bus and 55 per cent that they would get back on Skytrain, with the remainder saying they would wait until there’s a vaccine, meaning two out of five residents stated they would not ride public transit right now. The survey also revealed a gender difference amongst responses, with fewer women than men saying they would ride public transit;
- The Province continues to cite the public health benefits of being outdoors;
- An e-scooter and an e-bike micro-mobility pilot can be an important accelerated action in the City’s Climate Emergency Response, as well as contributing to a multi-modal, sustainable, people-movement ecosystem;
- In recognition that partial street reallocation can be an effective way to enable safe distance during the pandemic, Vancouver City Council passed a motion May 27th ‘Reallocation of Road Space to Support Shared Use During Pandemic’ that resulted in direction to reallocate at least 11% of existing road space – amounting to about 220 km of the approximate 2,000 km of roads within the city’s jurisdiction – towards more people-friendly public spaces, noting that longer-term or possibly permanent changes to the road network would be made in conjunction with the planning and consultation process for the ongoing Vancouver Plan;
- So-called “slow streets” are being rolled out across Vancouver in an effort to provide more room for residents to walk and cycle and practice physical distancing. This work creating the network of “slow streets” is underway with targeted implementation by July. A second phase of work between July and September will monitor outcomes and public feedback on the changes to date, The third and final stage beyond September through 2021, will gather data and feedback on how walking, cycling, and rolling has changed on these altered streets;
- Covid-19 is stimulating the need to revisit mobility and shared mobility planning as part of our new normal and new economy;
- At Translink’s Virtual Annual General Meeting on June 18, CEO Desmond spoke to the need to integrate with new mobility options;
- Cities around the world are welcoming scooter operations as a Covid-19 mitigation to address concerns about riding transit, transit capacity challenges with physical distancing and to prevent mode shift to cars. For example, London, England has expedited their scooter pilot by a full year to June, 2020 due to an 85% loss in transit capacity as a result of social distancing protocols;
- During Covid-19 shared scooters and bikes were named an essential service by the province of Ontario, Montreal, San Francisco, L.A., Austin and Baltimore, while they returned to Calgary and Edmonton with approval of Alberta Health Services. They remain popular during COVID recovery: scooters in Calgary are experiencing 7-9 rides per day currently as opposed to a typical 3 rides per day;
- E-Scooters offer an affordable, environmentally-friendly transportation option that expands the population willing to try active transportation instead of cars. The most recent National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) study showed that in the United States, despite an increase of 38.5 million shared e-scooter trips in 2018, docked bike-share (like Mobi) ridership still grew by 9% to 36.5 million trips. As a result, shared micro-mobility trips doubled to 84 million trips nationally in 2018. E-scooters accounted for 81% of this increase in shared active transportation usage;
- This complementary nature between bike-share and scooter-share is demonstrated in survey data by the City of Portland that showed 45% of scooter riders “never” ride a bike and 78% of scooter riders had “never” used Portland’s ubiquitous Biketown bike-share system;
- E-bikes can feel more accessible to less able cyclists;
- In November, 2019 the Province amended the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) to allow municipalities to pilot micro-mobility devices such as e-scooters and e-bikes. In mid-January, 2020 the Province released the Pilot Project Proposal Package for communities interested in establishing pilot projects for Summer 2020 as a result of the MVA amendments;
- Vancouver submitted an expression of intent to the Province and subsequently a pilot project proposal for privately owned e-scooters vs. a deployment of a larger fleet of shared e-scooters. On this current course, Vancouver would not have shared scooters until Summer 2021 or 2022. . The Province has indicated that direction from council no later than this July, followed by an implementation bylaw passed by early fall could allow shared e-scooters to operate in Vancouver by October or November, 2020;
- This work from the Province, and further collaboration between the City and the Province through a pilot, will support allowing the use of micro-mobility devices (such as e-scooters and e-bikes) on protected bike lanes and local streets with
30 km/h speed limits, as well as contribute to the goal of having the Province enable
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blanket speed limit changes allowing for cost-effective and widespread implementation of slow zones on local streets across the city;
- Typical e-scooter programs in Canada include municipal fees to operate. For example in Calgary, a $600 application fee, $15,000 security deposit and $60 per permitted vehicle per year fee are charged to cover the costs of program administration;
- Participation in a pilot will provide the chance to leverage the City’s road reallocation strategy as well as slow streets implementation, provide additional street usage experience, as well as enable British Columbia’s largest city to provide valuable input into shaping the Provincial government’s legislative response to new mobility technologies (including factors such as speed limits and where devices can operate);
- With regards to the importance of Accessibility and concerns about shared e-scooters resulting in devices left on the sidewalks blocking pedestrian movement, cities around the world have resolved parking issues with measures such as parking corrals in high-use areas, and through the choice of riding pathways by focusing scooter use in bike lanes and off sidewalks;
- The Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) has welcomed scooters as long as cities follow best practices which are being used in places like Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa;
- In terms of sustainability, shared use scooters typically last 12-18 months with service providers having lifespan management and recycling programs in place;
- In terms of contributing to green transportation modes, more people are shown to ride shared e-scooters than ride shared bikes. However, both are instrumental in a robust micro-mobility system as reducing the number of shared modes available to people limits the number of people willing to get out of their cars thus working against sustainable mode share targets. This is demonstrated in Portland’s experience where 45% of their users saying they never ride a bike and 78% saying they never use the city’s Mobi-like bikeshare system;
- Calgary and Edmonton have had citywide scooter pilots operating since 2019. Ottawa, Kelowna, and Seattle, Washington will start citywide pilots this summer, along with more BC cities to follow;
- Calgary’s pilot showed 750,000 trips in three months with every 3 scooter trips replacing one car trip, and over 50% of trips ending in a Business Improvement Association area;
- Portland’s 2018 pilot similarly found that 34% of riders replaced car use with their last scooter trip. The impact was more pronounced for visitors and tourists, of whom nearly half (48%) reported replacing car use on their last scooter trip. Visitors and tourists generally cannot make use of personally owned e-scooters;
- Limiting a pilot program to private e-scooters or e-bikes has equity issues as many cannot afford their own e-scooter or e-bike, as well as posing limitations to fully evaluating the potential and impact for e-mobility use in Vancouver. Purchasing an
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e-scooter or e-bike is not financially viable for many; a lower-cost trip on a shared device is more affordable. Further, a large number of e-scooter riders connect with transit, supporting equity for residents who are reliant upon transit as a primary or key mode of travel. Additionally in Calgary, 42% of scooter riders are women, higher than the 25% of Calgary bike commuters who are women;
- A July 31, 2019 staff Memo to Mayor and Council cited safety concerns with introduction of e-scooters. Since then, a February 2020 report released by the International Transport Forum (a think tank for transport policy at the OECD) indicated: “A trip by car or by motorcycle in a dense urban area is much more likely to result in the death of a road user – this includes pedestrians – than a trip by a Type A micro-vehicle [which includes e-scooters]. A modal shift from motor vehicles towards Type A micro-vehicles can thus make a city safer.” Moreover, this OECD report concluded: “A road fatality is not significantly more likely when using a shared standing e-scooter rather than a bicycle. The risk of an emergency department visit for an e-scooter rider is similar to that for cyclists.”;
- The 2019 Baltimore City Department of Transportation six-month e-scooter pilot report examined 723,252 trips, 191,218 riders, and 63 Emergency Room visits. The report concluded: “The available data suggest that scooters are not more dangerous than other modes of transportation… scooters appear to be involved with fewer injuries than walking and only slightly more than biking. Calgary and Edmonton’s e-scooter pilots have been underway for almost two years and have not noted major issues.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
- THAT Council direct staff to engage with the Province in order to proceed with a shared e-scooter, as well as an e-bike micro-mobility pilot program for fall 2020 or as soon as possible.
- THAT the pilot ensure due attention is given to accessibility and safety considerations.
- THAT staff prepare any necessary by-law amendments for presentation to Council no later than the first Council meeting in September in order to allow pilot devices on City streets in fall 2020.
- THAT the proposed by-law amendments give consideration to best practices demonstrated to date in the successful pilots in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.
- THAT staff report back on the results of the pilot including usage, trip length, frequency and other metrics, and provide recommendations to how including environmentally friendly micro-mobility options could support Vancouver’s active transportation and climate emissions reduction goals, as well as how micro-mobility could be integrated into ongoing work on reallocating road space and on slow streets.***** Page 4 of 4