Visitors to Toronto’s Distillery District will now have a new way to get around — but not for long.
The pilot project by Toronto-based Bird Canada features a fleet of the company’s dockless electric scooters, restricted to an area within the Distillery District using a virtual barrier known as a geofence.
“They’re fun, they’re easy to get around and they’re a great, environmentally-friendly solution for short distances,” the company’s CEO, Stewart Lyons, told reporters on Thursday.
The scooters are similar to bike-share programs in function, except without designated pick-up and drop-off points. They promise riders a way to avoid congestion at a low price.
“People in Toronto will adopt them. They will enjoy them. They’ll use them in large numbers. It’s going to happen one way or the other,” Lyons said.
“It’s really about us being a smart operator, a responsible operator.”
Electronic scooters aren’t currently approved for use on streets in Ontario, but are permissible in the Distillery District since it’s private property.
The province recently announced plans to launch its own pilot project that would allow e-scooters on most roads where bicycles can operate, but municipalities must first pass bylaws governing their usage.
“The proposed e-scooter pilot framework will create a new market for electric scooter companies to sell and rent their products in Ontario,” said Bob Nichols, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation.
A City of Toronto spokesperson, Eric Holmes, said city staff are working on a response to the province on its request for feedback on the issue, which he said the city received late last week.
In cities like Edmonton and Montreal, where scooter programs launched earlier this summer, some people have complained the devices are left all over sidewalks, creating an eyesore and potentially a hazard.
WATCH: (Aug. 16, 2019) E-scooters begin operating in Edmonton
In Calgary, there were a reported 60 scooter-related visits to the emergency room within two weeks of their introduction.
If its scooters are deployed on a permanent basis in Toronto, the company plans to educate customers on where to leave scooters, as well as potentially penalize misuse with fines, Lyons said.
The pilot project runs until Sept. 15.