London, Ont., is one step closer to receiving its own set of rules to govern personal e-scooter use, but it appears that an e-scooter share system is not in the cards for the city.
In 2020, the province launched a five-year pilot program for e-scooters, a stand-up scooter powered by an electric motor that features a large deck in its centre for its rider to stand on.
Several other cities have taken up the five-year trial to allow for e-scooters, including Ottawa and Windsor, Ont., which both currently have an e-scooter share system through various service providers.
Elsewhere, Toronto has an outright ban on e-scooters both for personal use and through share systems.
On Tuesday, city staff presented council’s civic works committee with a report that outlines its recommendation for London’s participation in the province’s pilot program.
Committee members eventually voted in favour of endorsing staff’s recommendations, but not before receiving input from several citizens attending Tuesday’s meeting.
First to speak was David Lepofsky, chair for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.
Lepofsky says his group agrees with city staff’s recommendation to not allow for e-scooter share systems, but wants council to go a step further and ban the personal use of e-scooters.
The scooters present “twin serious dangers,” Lepofsky said, to those with disabilities, vulnerable seniors and small children.
“The silent menace of an unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured, un-helmeted e-scooter rider racing upwards of 20 km/h … presents a serious danger of personal injuries,” Lepofsky said.
“And remember, they’re silent, so a blind person like me … won’t know they’re there until it’s, in my case, impossible to get out of the way.”
Lepofsky said the second danger is what happens when e-scooters in share systems are discarded by users who no longer need them after a session.
“When left strewn on the sidewalks, as they are in city after city where they are ridden, they present an accessibility barrier: a tripping hazard for blind people and an insurmountable impediment for people in wheelchairs,” he said.
The committee also heard from Chris Schafer, the vice-president of government affairs for the e-scooter company Bird Canada, who outlined the potential benefits of a share system in London.
One is geofencing, which allows Bird Canada to set a speed limit on all of its e-scooters, which can be determined by the city.
“We can then draw geofences, think of them as invisible barriers or bubbles around certain things to have the scooter slow down from the maximum speed to a lower speed, slow down and come to a complete stop, and we can prevent parking in certain areas of the city,” Schafer said.
“In Ottawa, Parliament Hill, for example, is a no-ride, no-park zone.”
Schafer also made reference to “anti-sidewalk detection technology,” measures intended to keep riders accountable for where they park scooters and plans to educate and govern the public on e-scooter use.
The meeting then heard a back-and-forth from city staff and councillors sitting on committee about how exactly e-scooters would be governed, with city staff noting that more research is needed before specific answers could be given.
Ward 13 Coun. John Fyfe-Millar expressed hesitation over how well updated bylaws on e-scooter use could be enforced.
“These vehicles are going to be used anywhere people walk, cycle, and trying to put a bylaw together that would exclude (e-scooters) from those areas, to me, almost sounds like failing out of the gate,” Fyfe-Millar said.
Following the same train of thought, Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen added that “we’re stuck.”
“If we do nothing, they’re still going to be used, it’s going to be horrible and not a priority in getting the so-called prohibited (e-scooters) off the street. On the other hand, if we have some type of regulation, at least some may conform to it,” Van Meerbergen said.
All committee members present during Tuesday’s meeting voted in favour of endorsing city staff’s recommendation to govern personal e-scooter use while prohibiting share systems in London.
City council will have the final say on the matter when it meets on July 5.