Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19, on April 16 city council decided electric scooters will not be allowed back on Edmonton streets for the foreseeable future. Previous story from early March, before the pandemic was declared, is below.
With spring weather slowly approaching, electric scooters will be returning to Edmonton streets in just a few weeks, and it appears a new company is joining the mix.
Bird Canada confirmed its scooters will return on April 1. Bird said that for the beginning of the 2020 season, its service area will be similar to 2019. Last summer, the company’s scooters operated around Old Strathcona and in the downtown core.
The company can’t yet say how many scooters will be deployed because it is still working out its fleet size.
Meanwhile, Lime said it will also return to Edmonton this spring. Lime isn’t committing to a firm date, saying the scooters will come out when the weather is nice enough.
“We work with the city and make a determination based on a number of factors,” Lime spokesperson Alex Youn said. “Warm weather and safe riding conditions are the ultimate factors.”
Lime is introducing two new features in Edmonton this year. The first, called Group Ride, will allow a user to unlock up to five scooters with one account. The company said riders can also be added on the fly, even if the host’s ride is already in progress.
The group ride option was first tested in France, Poland and Chile last summer before being rolled out to other cities across Europe and Latin America.
The second new feature is LimePass: a weekly subscription service offering unlimited ride unlocks for $4.99.
The pass offers unlimited free scooter unlocks for seven consecutive days. The company said depending on how often a rider uses a scooter, the subscription can pay for itself in as little as two to three days.
Lime said the first season saw high ridership, especially during the morning and evening commuting hours. (Bird did not share ridership data.)
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Last year, Lime scooters were available in pockets throughout Edmonton — including near West Edmonton Mall — but its scooters were mainly concentrated in the downtown urban core.
Bird and Lime both started operating in Edmonton last August. A third company — Roll — said it will be in Edmonton and Calgary this year as well.
The Toronto-based company first launched in Kelowna, B.C. last summer and said it has applied in both Alberta cities to operate here.
“We are planning to launch in Calgary in April with 500 scooters and we will gradually increase our fleet during summer,” Arda Ertürk with Roll said. “We also plan to launch in Edmonton in Summer after our launch in Calgary.”
All of the e-scooter companies charge a fee — typically a dollar — to unlock and then an additional 35 cents a minute after.
Roll said it will be providing helmets via its partner locations at no cost, and those who want one can fill out a request form online.
Roll also has a feature called “first-timer speed limit.”
“If you are riding an e-scooter for the first time, the speed will be reduced in order for you to learn how to ride it. We believe that this will prevent most of the first-time injuries,” Ertürk said.
Helmets are not provided by Lime or Bird, but the scooter companies encourage users to wear their own while riding.
All of the scooters are activated via mobile apps, which are available for both Android and Apple.
The City of Edmonton expects service to ramp up starting April 1.
“Vendors have applied to the City of Edmonton to operate sharing services for regular bikes, e-bikes or e-scooters in 2020. As in 2019, these permits will be issued as licence agreements with the city,” Amanda Gelinas, supervisor of right-of-way and parkland management, said in a statement.
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People can use e-scooters on roads with a posted speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour or less and on bike lanes, shared paths or park trails that are maintained by the city.
The city reminded users that the scooters are not allowed on sidewalks, park trails that are not maintained by the city or on roads with a speed limit over 50 kilometres per hour.
The scooters do not have docking stations to return to and instead can be parked on sidewalks, parking lanes, at transit centres or rec centres and on parkland. The scooters cannot block doors or travel for people walking, biking or driving.
The city said the rules for e-scooters will be the same as last year.
The first year for the scooters was a bumpy one: Mayor Don Iveson said there were issues with scooters being ridden on sidewalks and dumped in inconvenient places like wheelchair ramps.
The companies also dealt with vandalism, including dozens of scooters being set on fire.
“Discussion on the enforcement approach for active transportation in 2020 is still ongoing,” the city said on Thursday.