Giving green light to e-scooter pilot
EVIDENCE that the pandemic has increased the need for low-cost transportation options can be seen through the windows of any passing Winnipeg Transit bus, where what’s immediately apparent is an unusually large number of empty seats.
Ridership has dropped dramatically, as many virus-wary Winnipeggers now view buses as potential COVID-19 cocoons because passengers are seated closely, breathing the same air and touching the same poles, seats and doors.
Alternatives to bus transport would be greatly appreciated by those reluctant former riders who don’t own personal vehicles, perhaps for budget or environmental reasons, but still have to get around town.
A possible alternative might arrive in the form of electric scooters. City administration is currently studying the issue and recommended council ask the province to alter the Highway Traffic Act to allow a trial of e-scooters in Winnipeg. Council and the province would be well advised to approve the proposal, allowing the trial should proceed full speed ahead (or, at least, at the 30 km/h that is top speed for e-scooters).
A novel transportation alternative for Winnipeg, e-scooters are already allowed in dozens of North American cities, including Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton. The experiences of these cities show the advent of e-scooters is not universally welcomed. In fact, for some people, it’s hate at first sight.
Social media, including the popular Instagram account Scooters Behaving Badly, reveal that many automobile drivers resent sharing road space with the tiny motorized machines that tend to navigate traffic in unfamiliar ways. Some pedestrians also feel e-scooters create danger on sidewalks.
Despite the many who sneer at e-scooters, however, others acknowledge that this new technology has advantages. E-scooters hardly pollute, they’re less expensive than traditional motorized vehicles and they take up far less space on streets in cities where they’re allowed on roadways.
Calgary’s e-scooter pilot project, launched last July, limits e-scooter use to sidewalks, pathways and bike lanes. In Edmonton, authorized e-scooters are allowed on bike lanes, shared paths and streets with speed limits of 50 km/h or less, but not on sidewalks.
Another possible source of irritation involves the ways in which idle e-scooters are left unattended in cities served by scooter-share companies such as Lime or Bird, which make e-scooters available to people who download an app. Customers use GPS technology to find an e-scooter near them, use their app and credit-card information to unlock the vehicle and, after reaching their destination, leave the e-scooter where it can be used by another rider.
Special protocols are required during the pandemic. In Edmonton, the city’s 200 scooters are brought to five corrals nightly and sanitized, and there is an advertising campaign urging e-scooter riders to sanitize their hands before and after they use the machines.
Winnipeg city administrators had earlier pondered whether the e-scooters in the trial would be supplied and managed by the city or by a third party company. It’s a wise course to leave the trial to an experienced company that knows how to deal with related issues, such as how to protect against theft and vandalism and what to do with e-scooters once the snow falls.
Would Winnipeggers use e-scooters to a degree that makes them feasible in this city? The answer lies in a trial period that temporarily gives e-scooters the green light.