E-mopeds? E-scooters on streets?: Kelowna looks to expand vehicle sharing

OGO Scooters is one of three electric scooter sharing businesses that have started operating in Kelowna since July. Global News

The City of Kelowna is opening the door to electric moped sharing services and pursuing a pilot project that would allow electric scooters on city streets, as it looks to further develop its bikeshare program.

Those are two of the initiatives the city’s manager of integrated transportation laid out in a report to city council this week taking stock of the city’s new bikeshare permit program.

Since May, Kelowna’s new bikeshare permit program has been taking applications for pedal bikes, e-bike and e-scooter sharing services.

READ MORE: ‘It’s super fun’: E-scooter rideshare program launched in Kelowna

The staff report said the program has, so far, permitted five different businesses to operate e-bike and e-scooter sharing services in the city.

The city says only three have started operating, all offering e-scooters.

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READ MORE: Kelowna bike share nearly ready to roll out

In the first three months the services were operating (between mid-July and mid-October), the staff report said over 20,000 rides were taken.

However, both the fleet sizes and locations were limited.

The city staff report said there were never more than 100 scooters available for use in the city on any given day and the devices aren’t allowed on public roadways.

READ MORE: Kelowna opens new walking, biking bridge across Bellevue Creek

So the area in Kelowna where they are allowed to operate is very limited. Most of the initial use of the devices has been along the waterfront downtown between Waterfront Park and City Park.

When taken out of their designated area the city report says the scooters “can power down gradually.”

Map of allowed e-scooter routes in Kelowna. The devices are currently not allowed on city streets but that could change if a proposed pilot project moves forward. City of Kelowna

Still, the city’s manager of integrated transportation Rafael Villarreal saw reason for optimism in the initial rollout.

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Villarreal said over 20,000 rides in the span of roughly three months “is a strong indication of success and future potential,” in a mid-sized city like Kelowna.

Indeed, the city is pursuing allowing the expansion of e-scooter use in the city.

READ MORE: ‘People need to remember’: Ghost bike installed for Kelowna cyclist killed in collision

Villarreal said Kelowna is currently in talks with the province about a pilot program that would allow e-scooters on city streets. However, there is no word on when that might take place.

Meanwhile, Villarreal said the city changed its bikeshare permitting program in September to allow companies to apply to offer electric-moped sharing.

While no one has been permitted to provide that service yet, Villarreal’s report said the city expects one of the already permitted but not yet operating companies to offer e-bikes as well as e-scooters.

READ MORE: After Dropbike’s departure, Kelowna expects next bike sharing programs will be electric

In the summer and fall of 2018, the city had a fleet of shared pedal bikes operated by the company Dropbike.

However, Dropbike was critical of the new bikeshare permitting process the city currently has in place and announced it would cut short its Kelowna pilot project in the spring of this year.