Lime, Bird scooters and e-bikes returning to Edmonton streets year-round

Click to play video: 'E-scooters and bikes delayed in Edmonton return'
E-scooters and bikes delayed in Edmonton return
The City of Edmonton is in contract negotiations with e-scooter and e-bike companies in an attempt to solve problems over the past few years. As Breanna Karstens-Smith reports, that means a delay in them being deployed this spring. – May 2, 2024

Love ’em or hate ’em, electric scooters and e-bikes will return to the streets of Edmonton this week — significant delayed compared to previous years.

The city has signed three-year agreements with both Lime and Bird Canada, allowing them to operate year-round if the weather permits.

Scooters and e-bikes will be available as of Wednesday, May 29, the city said. This is the sixth year for the micromobility vehicles in Edmonton.

The year-round contract allows Lime and Bird the flexibility to keep their fleet on the street as long as the weather allows, the city said, adding a new vendor fee structure will help address concerns with fleet management, improper parking and street clutter without invoking the need for fleet maximums.

“This partnership allows us to provide a consistent, sustainable, affordable and reliable transportation solution to the community, and we are committed to maintaining high standards of safety and service throughout the year,” said Pat Graham, the general manager and head of national operations for Bird.

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Click to play video: 'Riding effortlessly into summer on e-scooters and e-bikes in Edmonton'
Riding effortlessly into summer on e-scooters and e-bikes in Edmonton

Graham said Bird scooters will be available 24/7.  The company said it will operating with 600 e-scooters and 200 e-bikes to begin with, and hopes to increase its fleet as it expands its operating area in conjunction with the city.

In the past, the city limited the maximum number of scooters and bikes the companies could deploy, but the city said that resulted in all of them being concentrated in the city’s core instead of spread out.

Both Bird and Lime have operated in Edmonton since the program launched in 2019, and the city said there is a possibility for future expansion.

A third company, Spin, joined the fray for a year in 2021 but the following year, the city limited the number of vendors to two — Bird and Lime — and also required they provide both e-scooters and e-bikes. That will remain the case this year.

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Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use'
Health Matters: Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use

The city said the demand for shared micromobility in Edmonton continues to increase and the e-bike and e-scooter program has seen great success over the last two years.

In 2023, the city said users took approximately 1.06 million rides on shared e-scooters and e-bikes — more than double the number taken in 2022.

Lime, which operates all over the world in more than 280 cities like New York, London, L.A. and Paris, said Edmonton is one of its top markets.

Last year, Edmonton ranked among its top three cities globally in terms of demand and with 920,000 trips, set a ridership record. Lime said that’s a 195 per cent increase from 2022.

Lime said more people jumped on using scooters and e-bikes in 2023 as well. Those rides were taken by 190,000 people, which it said is an 84 per cent increase from the number of riders in 2022.

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“Throughout the entirety of April and during specific periods through 2023, Edmonton ranked among the top 3 cities globally in terms of demand,” a Lime news release Tuesday said. “Throughout May – August inclusive, demand in Edmonton was top five among Lime cities worldwide.”

Due to the mild fall and winter, Lime kept its scooters out in Edmonton well into November last year, when it said there were 20,000 rides.

“We are proud and grateful to be chosen as a long-term partner in Edmonton’s transportation system and we vow to the city and to our riders to continue investing in the best possible service,” said Sonia Kandola, director of government relations at Lime.

“Our global success will be felt here in Edmonton in our newest generation hardware continuing to offer a safe, fun, and affordable way to get around, while our local expertise will ensure safe riding and proper parking remain paramount.”

Bird did not provide detailed ridership numbers, but said it experienced an increase in rides.

“As the largest operator in Alberta and in Canada, we have continued to see more demand for our e-bikes and e-scooters each summer we have operated since 2022,” Graham said.

Bird also operates in three communities surrounding Edmonton: this is its fourth year operating in St. Albert, third in Leduc and second in Spruce Grove. Scooters were deployed in those cities in April and early May.

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Click to play video: 'E-scooters return to Edmonton for a 3rd year as spring weather draws people outdoors'
E-scooters return to Edmonton for a 3rd year as spring weather draws people outdoors

A report was presented to city council’s urban planning committee meeting earlier this month outlining changes to the micromobility program.

The changes include incentives for the scooter companies to offer a broader riding zone, and the vendors being encouraged to incentivize customers to pick up or drop off scooters and bikes in a greater range of areas — however, that won’t happen right away this year.

When scooters first came to Edmonton, the riding zones were essentially limited to Old Strathcona/the Whyte Avenue area and downtown.

The city began to allow scooters to operate in a bigger area two years ago, and the zones expanded to include more of south Edmonton to the Whitemud, as well as north of downtown and towards the west end.

The city said it wants to see vendors expand even more. As of Tuesday, both Bird and Lime’s operating areas on their apps were the same as in 2023.

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“Operating area is similar to start, but of course, we are always looking for opportunities to serve more areas of Edmonton and will work with the city to expand our service area as soon as it would be possible to do so in partnership with the city,” Jacob Tugendrajch, a communications manager with Lime, told Global News.

Bird Canada had a similar response.

“The operating area for tomorrow’s launch will remain the same as last year, focusing on the city’s core,” Graham said.

“However, we are actively working on expanding to different areas within the city this year.”

The city said Bird Canada and Lime have started with similar zones as last year to kick off the season, as the current focus is getting e-scooters on-street as quickly as possible because it takes some time to get the full fleet available for use.

“The city is working with the vendors to review their zones, and we are encouraging them to expand their zones this summer so that Edmontonians can explore more areas of the city via e-scooters and e-bikes,” the city said Tuesday afternoon.

Click to play video: 'The rules and regulations around e-bikes & e-scooters'
The rules and regulations around e-bikes & e-scooters

The city said this year, there will be real-time data tracking so the officials can see where bikes and scooters are at any given time and ask the operators to move their fleet around more if things become concentrated in one area.

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The fleet fee structure has changed from quarterly to daily, which means scooter companies will pay the city per vehicle, per day on-street. The city said this will encourage the companies to improve utilization rates per bike or scooter.

Other new program features include having clearly identifiable parking locations as well as no-parking zones, exclusion and slow zones on shared pathways, bike lanes and sidewalks, and the placement of more parking corrals.

E-scooters can be driven along shared pathways, bike lanes and roads with a speed limit of 50km/h or lower. They are not permitted on sidewalks or along park trails not maintained by the city, a news release Tuesday said.

— More to come…

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