Hundreds of electric-kick scooters are rolling out across Ottawa starting Thursday as part of a pilot program to gauge local interest for the shared transportation method.
The city is pitching e-scooters as an alternative that could alleviate congestion on public transit during the novel coronavirus pandemic, addressing a key concern as the ability for transit users to physically distance on buses and trains will likely be reduced when more residents head back to work and school in the fall.
Ontario gave the green light to public use of e-scooters at the start of this year.
Three operators — Bird Canada, Lime and Roll — are permitted to bring up to 600 shared e-scooters to Ottawa for the next few months.
Users can download an app to activate and pay for each scoot.
The three operators have their own unique deployment area where e-scooters can be picked up and parked, each of which generally overlaps in Ottawa’s downtown.
E-scooters can be ridden outside these areas on pathways, bike lanes and in the street but cannot be used on sidewalks, on National Capital Commission pathways, in Gatineau, in transit stations, on buses or trains, or on roads with speed limits of more than 50 kph.
Geofencing technology onboard slows the scooters down once they enter restricted areas.
The technology used in Ottawa’s pilot is dockless, meaning scooters can be dismounted and parked anywhere in the operator’s area. The City of Ottawa’s rules for parking state scooters should be placed on sidewalk curbs out of the way of pedestrians.
Accessibility advocates raised concerns about the e-scooter pilot when it was first approved by an Ottawa committee, noting that other municipalities have seen scooters left in the middle of sidewalks and other pathways, creating a barrier for some pedestrians.
Montreal banned e-scooters earlier this year after its pilot project showed only 20 per cent of scooters were parked in designated spaces, while Edmonton is reporting better compliance with its e-scooter rules.
Each e-scooter must be labelled with contact information for the operators, which are tasked with removing inappropriately parked scooters within an hour of being called.
E-scooters are cleaned at the end of each day but are not disinfected between rides, so the city reminds users to wash their hands before and after using a scooter.
Anyone over 16 can use an e-scooter under provincial regulations, but riders under the age of 18 are expected to wear helmets, and e-scooters should not be used while impaired.
E-scooters can be used daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The e-scooter pilot will run until October, at which point it will be evaluated with the possibility of a four-year extension if it’s deemed to be a success.