In its final meeting before the summer recess on Tuesday, Edmonton City Council approved changes to the bylaw that governs e-scooters so ride-share companies offering that mode of transportation can officially set up shop in Edmonton.
They’re coming a little later than what companies had hoped for, after a holdup from the province with making them legal. City council had given the bylaw two readings on June 4 in anticipation of provincial approval.
“It wasn’t the province giving the city the OK, it’s that they give each company the OK,” Councillor Andrew Knack said. “That was the change we had to adjust for in the bylaw.”
With the bylaw change now in place, the city can begin to issue permits to service providers. Knack said he knows of two companies waiting in the wings to get going.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about e-scooters.
The province has set new rules in the Traffic Safety Act, to accommodate the e-scooters, Knack said, much like you see now with bikes.
“In terms of the speed people are travelling, they’re still required to have a bell, they have to have lights, reflectors. So yes, it’s different in a way, but overall, I think it makes sense.”
Critics have said they believe e-scooters are an accident waiting to happen because of the skills needed by those who operate them. Knack said he isn’t worried about that.
READ MORE: Lime electric scooters launched in Calgary
The scooters will be allowed on roads that have a 50 km/h speed limit, as well as in bike lanes and on sidewalks if the sidewalk is a designated bike lane. They’re also not to be designed to go faster than 18 km/h.
Users will not have to have a licence but will have to be at least 16 years old.
Councillor Scott McKeen has voted against implementing e-scooters on Edmonton’s roads from the outset.
“My concern is that in reading about what’s going on in other cities, people are getting injured,” he said. “There was a fairly famous young woman… YouTube she was known for, she was killed in a recent accident.”
McKeen doesn’t see the practical purpose of an e-scooter, as opposed to an e-bike.
“I don’t think there’s a true mobility function to e-scooters,” he said. “I think they’re a toy, they’re fun. My concern is we’re throwing those toys into a context with cars and trucks and buses all around.”
“I actually think the biggest issue, more than anything, is going to be just clutter,” Knack said. “I hope we’ll look at opportunities.
“I’ve seen some jurisdictions where they’ve actually allocated one or two on-street parking spaces on busy locations, and those are where you park your scooters. So instead of just leaving it on the sidewalk, in the middle of the sidewalk, make sure it’s put in designated locations.”
Edmonton Tourism believes the implementation will bring more tourists to the city, especially into the river valley.
“It’s a very cost effective way to travel, it’s eco friendly, it’s electricity powered and they can get from place to place so it’s easy to pick up an e-scooter and go place to place,” said Tourism Development Manager Nadim Chin.
Rentals are activated by a smartphone app. Users will be charged by the minute between activation and drop-off as they use the scooters.
The goal is to get them in use while the bulk of summer is still ahead of Edmonton.
“I go back to the point of, ‘Let’s give people the choice,'” Knack said.
“If more people want to have different options of how they move around the city, to me this does not seem like a bad idea at all. It seems like a good idea and there’s no cost to us as a city for doing this. So if we can create a no-cost option of one more choice for transportation, great.”
One way Knack sees use of e-scooters is part of the “First-K, Last-K” program that Edmonton Transit Service is setting up, to get riders from the bus to their final destination.
The changes to the bylaw also allows for the use of e-bikes as a form of active transportation in city parks, roads and transit centres.