Calgarians will soon be zipping around electric scooters and bikes in the city, as officials have selected two companies to bring the popular summertime way to get around back on a long-term basis.
Councillor Evan Wolley announced Thursday that Bird Canada and a new company to the Alberta e-transport scene, Neuron Mobility, were awarded contracts for e-scooters, which are set to hit the streets on Friday, May 28.
The companies were picked after a 16-month pilot project in the city’s downtown, which included gathering feedback from the community on the pros and cons of the mobility options.
“Calgarians love e-scooters — we were the first Canadian city to record one million rides and we continue to see demand for this type of micro-mobility,” Woolley said.
“As businesses begin to open up and Calgarians continue to look for ways to safely enjoy the outdoors, e-scooters will be a big part of that. Bird and Neuron are enabling this massively successful program to continue, while at the same time creating jobs in our city.”
Bird was one of the companies involved in the city’s pilot. Along with its return to Calgary, Bird is planning to bring e-bikes to the streets.
It also selected the city for its Canadian headquarters, which Woolley said will bring 45 full-time jobs to the city.
“We’re so excited to be back in Calgary for our third year here,” said Bird Canada general manager Alexandra Petre. “We have a new fleet of Bird 2s that are very sleek, very exciting, very fun to ride and also incredibly safe.”
According to Bird Canada, the new fleet has a built-in bell and new tires that address safety, traction and stability.
The newcomer, Neuron, is a three-year-old company that’s popular in New Zealand and Australia, Woolley said. Neuron expects to bring 75 jobs to the city.
The bright-orange Neuron scooters include helmets that are that can be unlocked through the app and voice instructions. The company is also offering free morning commutes for riders between 5 a.m. And 9 a.m., on weekdays for the first month of operation.
Each company will be allowed to have 750 e-scooters in the city.
Fifteen-hundred scooters is fewer than in years past as Calgary had 3,000 scooters between three companies in 2020.
City officials said capping the number of scooters will help with “scooter clutter” and will also address parking issues.
Scooters will be here to stay, even after the summer months. According to the City of Calgary, the city’s transportation department will ask scooter companies to pick up their scooters if there is a snowfall, but will allow them to operate year-round on warm weather days.
Scooters will be allowed to operate on pathways, bike lanes and sidewalks.
A new rule this year allows scooters on quieter streets with lower traffic and speeds, like those in residential neighbourhoods.
Other rules still in effect from the pilot project include only allowing people 18 and older to ride and only one person on a scooter at a time.
According to the city, violating the rules can net you a fine from a peace officer or Calgary police, and the companies can also issue fines through their app.
“Anybody that mis-parks a scooter is subject to a $10 fine,” Petre said. “Anyone that has three instances of such a fine can actually be kicked off the app.”
Both companies said they would be monitoring user behaviour using data collected by the scooters
“If you’re wearing a helmet and you take a selfie, we will give you free credits. If you park in the right parking zone, we’ll give you free credits,” said Neuron Mobility Canada manager Ankush Karwal. “I think it’s a mixture of penalizing and incentivizing that works well.”
Seven companies competed for the opportunity to launch scooters in Calgary.
One notable absence from city pathways this year will be e-scooters from Lime, a popular choice for Calgarians during the city’s pilot project.
“We were disappointed not to be selected, and it’s unfortunate that the company chosen by Calgarians for 75 per cent of their rides won’t be back this year,” Jonathan Hopkins, Lime’s director of strategic development and government relations in Canada, said in a statement to Global News.
“We hope to return to Calgary in the future so residents can once again enjoy our safe and sustainable transportation options.”
As for people who still have remaining credits on their Lime app, the company said to email their support department to get a refund.
E-bikes will also make a return to Calgary in the coming months.
Both Bird and Neuron said they are currently in talks with city’s transportation department on an appropriate rollout strategy.
–With files from Global News’ Adam MacVicar