Love-birds sharing a scooter, people taking selfies mid-ride, scooter gangs cruising the bike paths — Edmonton residents giddy with excitement flocked to the newest street toy this past weekend as electric scooters spread across Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenues.
Nay-sayers turned out, too. On social media, Edmonton residents complained about scooters blocking the sidewalk, riders not wearing helmets, and brakes on these new scooters being difficult to control.
Bird Canada set out 400 Bird One e-scooters on Friday. Residents can find and unlock them using a mobile phone app and credit card. New riders are provided with an in-app tutorial on how to use the two-wheeled, battery-powered scooters and park them. Safety instructions are posted on each machine.
It costs $1.15 to unlock the e-scooter and an additional 35 cents a minute.
Lime launched its fleet of 200 e-scooters in Edmonton on Saturday.
Before the launch, City of Edmonton staff checked what was happening in other cities and made Edmonton-specific rules.
E-scooters are allowed to travel along bike lanes, paved shared-use pathways and roads with a posted limit of 50 km/h or less, said city spokesman Derek Logan. Unlike in Calgary, they are not be allowed on sidewalks.
When the ride is over, users can park electric scooters on sidewalks, parking lanes (except E-Park zones), at transit centres, recreation centres and parks. They should not block the right-of-way.
“We’re really excited to be in Edmonton,” said Stewart Lyons, chief executive of Bird Canada. It’s a short summer, but “I hope we will still have a chance to get out and enjoy some scootering in the next couple weeks.”
He said the ban on sidewalk riding should eliminate one complaint common in other cities. But he defended the scooters against those who worry about safety. “Obviously accidents are an unfortunate thing … but the number of accidents have been overplayed,” he said. “There had been over 150,000 rides in Calgary at the time they last measured the number of accidents and there was something like 60-something accidents.”
Postmedia in Calgary reported 85,000 trips in the first two weeks of scootering there and more than 60 patients with scooter-related injuries at emergency rooms and urgent care centres.
Lyons said the Bird e-scooters will be available until October.
“We might do relatively small operations in the winter depending on demand,” said Lyons. “We’ll see how things go. If ridership isn’t really there in the winter we might just quiet things down and re-appear in the spring.”
A full set of guidelines for e-scooters and e-bikes is available on the City of Edmonton website and on the Transforming Edmonton website.