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Company behind Toronto e-scooter pilot blindsided by recommendation to ban scooters on city property

WATCH ABOVE: Five days into an e-scooter pilot project in the Distillery district, Toronto’s environment and infrastructure committee has recommended temporarily banning e-scooters on city property. The move means residents can’t even park e-scooters on sidewalks. Priya Sam has more.

The Ontario government is planing to move forward on a recommendation from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to allow e-scooters in all areas where bikes are allowed, but the City of Toronto appears to be moving in the opposite direction.

At a meeting on Monday, the City’s infrastructure and environment committee recommended issuing a temporary ban on e-scooters on all public property. The move means e-scooters can’t be parked on any streets or sidewalks. If that becomes permanent, it could likely mean e-scooter businesses would not have a place in Toronto.

The news comes a few days after Bird Canada launched a pilot project using e-scooters in the Distillery District. The company’s CEO said he and his staff were blindsided by the recommendation.

READ MORE: Dockless e-scooter pilot project launches in Toronto’s Distillery District

“It was a little heavy handed … no one consulted us,” said Stewart Lyons.

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But Mayor John Tory said he’s seen other cities in chaos after allowing e-scooters and that he doesn’t want that to happen in Toronto.

“We’re going to preserve the status quo the best we can and not have kind of a wild west where people just show up in town and start operating the scooters without rules and start leaving them all over the place without rules,” Tory said.

But Lyons responded saying it doesn’t have to be that way and that Toronto can learn from the mistakes and the successes of other cities.

READ MORE: E-scooter company Lime vows to help correct issues in Montreal

“Canada’s one of the last countries in the world to come on board with scooters, so they get the benefit of knowing what’s worked in other areas,” he said.

Lyons said he would like to see the City put an end date on this proposed temporary ban before passing the recommendation. He said that would give the City time to work out any concerns and also alleviate concerns the ban could become permanent.

Among the main concerns from city council are safety, especially in areas with narrow sidewalks. Clutter was cited as another concern with the mayor saying he’s been to cities where this has been a problem.

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“I saw in Austin … and I’ve heard stories from other mayors about the fact that it can be sort of chaotic. One of the advantage of these forms of transportation is you can leave them anywhere. But that’s one of the problems with them too,” said Tory.

But Lyons said his company plans to take those concerns into consideration when creating pick-up and drop-off points.

“There are ways between the app and the city that we can enforce parking in a responsible way and keep them out of accessible areas and pedestrian thoroughfares. Lots of areas in the city have wide sidewalks where you can accomplish both,” he said.

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The next step is for city council to vote on whether to accept the recommendation for a temporary ban. The MTO is also due to release its recommendations for a five-year pilot project on Thursday. It’s expected to include regulations to say drivers must be at least 16 years old and that the scooters can’t travel any faster that 32 km/h.