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E-scooters return to Edmonton streets with COVID-19 restrictions

Bird Canada electric scooters spotted at 108 Street and Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020.
Bird Canada electric scooters spotted at 108 Street and Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020. Morris Gamblin, Global News

After being delayed two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, two electric scooter companies returned to Edmonton streets on Monday.

Bird and Lime said they each deployed 100 e-scooters on Monday, and more will be added to their fleets if all goes well. Clusters of scooters were spotted near Whyte Avenue and 109 Street, and on Jasper Avenue near 108 Street.

The service areas for the scooters encompass the city’s core — downtown on the north side of the river and in Old Strathcona to the south — similar to 2019 when e-scooters first came to Edmonton.

READ MORE: E-scooters zipping around Edmonton cause for excitement and concern

Taylor Bennett, global head of public affairs with Lime, said over the long-term, its permit allows up to 1,500 scooters after a gradual ramp-up, just like last year.

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Lime electric scooters spotted on Whyte Avenue near 109 Street in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020.
Lime electric scooters spotted on Whyte Avenue near 109 Street in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020. Morris Gamblin, Global News

Bird Canada CEO Stewart Lyons said his company will increase to 400 scooters mid-month if the initial roll out goes well.

Lyons said more Bird scooters may be more deployed throughout the summer, as long as the COVID-19 situation in the city doesn’t get worse and as long as they can continue to fulfill the city’s criteria.

The criteria was developed in coordination with Alberta Health Services, the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, and the e-scooter companies.

READ MORE: Edmontonians flock to electric scooters during weekend launch

Lyons said Bird scooters will be cleaned upon return and before they head out for the day to be used, and that process will be logged for the city.

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“We were advised against providing gloves or additional measures as there was a concern we would provide a false sense of security, and that scooters should be treated like a grocery cart or any door of a public building where multiple people could touch the surface,” Lyons explained in an email to Global News.

Lime said it will also be cleaning its scooters, advising riders to wash their hands before and after use, and providing education to customers.

Lime electric scooters spotted on Whyte Avenue near 109 Street in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020.
Lime electric scooters spotted on Whyte Avenue near 109 Street in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020. Morris Gamblin, Global News

Last year, Bird enforced an 11 p.m. curfew, meaning no new rides would be allowed after that time.

“This year, while we are at such a low number of scooters we will increase it to midnight and see how things go from there,” Lyons said, adding that so far, things have been going well in Calgary under similar conditions.

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Meanwhile, Lime says it isn’t planning to disable services and if there are scooters outside and with battery, they can be used 24/7.

Until the end of June, Lime said it is also offering free 30-minute rides to health-care workers, public safety workers, disaster service workers and law enforcement officials in both Calgary and Edmonton.

The promotion is valid for up to 100 per cent off their next 50 rides, and applies to unlock fee, per minute fee, and applicable taxes. People in those lines of work must sign up online to receive the offer.

Last week, the City of Edmonton said it would issue licences to two e-scooter vendors after working with the companies and AHS on contract terms. The plan is a phased reintroduction, effective June 1, that was structured to evolve into full operation.

Bird Canada electric scooters spotted at 108 Street and Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020.
Bird Canada electric scooters spotted at 108 Street and Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, Alta. on June 1, 2020. Morris Gamblin, Global News

The city said if essential criteria were met, the companies can expand operations. The additional safety measures being enforced by the city and AHS include enhanced daily cleaning of e-scooters, the addition of public health messaging on the scooter apps and on the e-scooters themselves.

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The e-scooters will also now be corralled in designated areas to facilitate daily cleaning, the city said. Lyons said there are five corrals at the moment and he has been told the city will add more.

“They are a helpful way to keep distribution organized and clutter to a minimum,” Lyons said.

READ MORE: E-scooter companies eyeing return to Alberta after COVID-19 put the brakes on spring launch

The city’s licence agreement will be cancelled if e-scooters are found to be a source of COVID-19 transmission, if users or the company are not adhering to cleaning protocols, or if use of e-scooters is judged to be a hazard to pedestrians or vehicles.

The staged introduction approach will begin with a modest number of e-scooters followed by a stepped increase in numbers if the criteria is met.

The number of e-scooters could be as many as 2,400 e-scooters at peak times, the city said.

Pedestrians push back against e-scooters on Edmonton sidewalks
Pedestrians push back against e-scooters on Edmonton sidewalks

Similar to 2019, scooters must remain within a designated perimeter in the heart of the city. Outside of that, they slow down and then the brakes engage.

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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. All of the e-scooter companies charge a fee — typically a dollar — to unlock and then an additional 35 cents a minute after.

In Edmonton, scooters are not allowed on sidewalks, only on shared-use paths the city maintains, bike lanes and on roads where the posted speed limit is 50 km/h or less.

The scooters do not have docking stations to return to and instead can be parked on sidewalks, parking lanes, at transit centres, rec centres and on parkland. The scooters cannot block doors or travel for people walking, biking or driving.

READ MORE: Edmonton e-scooters set on fire, companies say they’ve never seen anything like it

A third company — Toronto-based Roll — said back in March that it planned to operate in Edmonton and Calgary this year as well. On Monday, company CCO Arda Ertürk said Roll had made changes to their plans due to COVID-19, but still hopes to launch in Edmonton later this summer. No firm date was set.

Edmonton reopening: transit fares returning; some skate parks and basketball courts closing
Edmonton reopening: transit fares returning; some skate parks and basketball courts closing