Despite the failure of the U-Bicycle program, top executives of the two biggest electric scooter companies have both said Victoria would be an ideal place to implement a program.
Lime and Bird, two of the top competing e-scooter companies in Canada, agree the city would be an ideal place to launch an e-scooter (similar to a push scooter, but with a motor) rental program.
In B.C., communities can submit proposals to the provincial government to conduct a pilot project for the use of e-scooters or other micromobility devices not currently authorized to be used on streets and sidewalks. While the deadline has passed for communities to submit proposals, they can still be considered for a possible future phase.
“From our point of view, Victoria is kind of a no-brainer,” said Jonathan Hopkins, director of strategic developments for Lime.
According to Hopkins, Lime has engaged with the city on having the e-scooters as Victoria has signed up to be a participant in the pilot project but is not currently “on the slate to operate this year.”
Stewart Lyons, CEO of Bird Canada, said his company spoke with city representatives “quite often in the last year” and “would love to be in Victoria” but is waiting for the city to make the next move.
When determining cities in which to launch e-scooter programs, both companies look at such factors as urban density, tourism and infrastructure.
Bird launched in Calgary a little over a year ago, and have had more than a million rentals, with an average ride of 20 minutes, in that time Lyons said. “That proves, from our perspective, that it’s really a commuting tool. It’s not just a toy or a tourism tool.”
For Corey Burger, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, the prospect of having e-scooters in the city is an ‘interesting double-edged sword.”
The positives, he said, are that scooters attract a new group of people to using active transportation, but the concerns about sidewalk clutter are important to take into account. In 2019, disability advocates took the city of San Diego and operating scooter companies to court for blocking rights-of-way.
Burger said Victoria saw a similar problem with the U-Bicycle business.
“They need to be left in defined places, but even that hasn’t solved the problem,” he said, adding that there needs to be additional rules to where you can park them. “I could just go pick one up and move it out of the way, but what about someone who uses a walker or a wheelchair?”
Hopkins said the best place for e-scooters – which can travel up to 20 km/h – is a bike lane.
“We don’t put pedestrians in the middle of a highway because pedestrians and cars go different speeds, and we try not to put scooters on sidewalks,” he said.
Another factor is the number of scooters that would need to be available in the city to make the program worthwhile.
“That’s part of the reason why the U-bike is essentially gone, is that they didn’t have enough bikes on the road to make it actually useful,” said Burger.
Skateboarders have been using bike lanes in Victoria for a few years now, and Burger said there have been no problems with that, adding that scooters are “just one more small micromobility device that can use that space.”
“And if there aren’t enough bike lanes, well let’s go and add some more – that’s not a big deal,” he said.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps did not respond to requests for comment.
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