Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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This week, the City saw the launch of e-scooter rental services after Council earlier approved an e-scooter pilot period and allowed the devices on City roads. Based on the social media interactions I've had, I thought it might be useful to provide a little more information about the scooters and how to use them. You're likely seeing them parked around the City and parts of our ward, or have seen people riding them around.

It's likely no surprise to residents that I supported the pilot, and I'm excited by the potential they have to fill some interesting mobility niches. I've bought my own e-scooter and have already begun using it extensively for a certain type of trip, but I'm also keen to see the commercial rentals succeed. From the outset, I should note that there have been a number of significant potential challenges raised associated with these services. My read of Council is that today we're willing to give the providers a fair shot to succeed. If we see issues with scooter parking creating accessibility problems, or if there's some high level of sidewalk riding, we'll approach any extension of the pilot with some grumpiness.


The City has posted a summary of the new scooter rental programs here, and has a broader overview of our new scooter rules here. I think it's important to note that the City is only able to approve scooters because the Province has created a five-year pilot framework. The high-level Provincial rules are here, and I've appended the City's by-law below. I think the most important considerations are that scooters can't be used on sidewalks, but only on roads or multi-use paths and bike lanes and are limited to 24 km/h. If they're parked on a sidewalk, they have to be out of the way of sidewalk users. You have to be 16 to ride a scooter, and under-18s have to wear a helmet. The NCC hasn't authorized scooters on its paths or roads. Scooters can't be operated on streets that have a speed limit above 50 km/h except where there is a reserved bike lane. One twist is that where there is a bike lane, scooters have to use it; that's unlike bikes that can use any part of the road even if there is a bike lane.

Scooters aren't allowed on the LRT unless they're folded up and brought on as "hand luggage". While generally happy with the regulatory framework now in place, I believe this is something that needs to be changed and raised that at our Transportation Committee meeting. Customers are allowed to bring their bikes on the train, and those tend to be bigger and more awkward than an e-scooter. Changing that rule, I believe, would enable a really interesting type of trip for people who buy their own scooters (and I hear from more and more people who are doing that). I have been able to get from my favourite zero-waste grocery store on Main to my front door on Hamilton N. in 21 minutes relatively effortlessly by rolling my scooter off and on the train. We should be encouraging that.


Many of the questions I've fielded have had to do with how to use the rental scooters. I'm glad to see the interest! It's actually relatively easy. Bird is the first to come into the market. To use a Bird scooter, you first have to download the app and set up an account and a payment method. If you think you might be interested, this is something you may want to do when you have a few minutes at home. Once you have the app downloaded and set up, you're ready to unlock a scooter and ride. When you first launch the app, you'll see a map with nearby available scooters, and you can reserve one if you'd like (the clock starts running on charges). It costs $1.15 to unlock the scooter, then $0.35 per minute while you're riding it until you park it and stop the clock. You can also walk up to any scooter you see and unlock it to start riding.

When I set up my account, I had the option of pre-loading a balance. Doing so actually provides a bit of a discount. If you load up $20, you're given a bonus of $2. If you load up $50, you get a $10 bonus. If you set up a pre-loaded charge, it will automatically re-charge when your balance gets to $0, which is something to keep in mind.

The rates seem a little high to me to make regular use cost-effective. I was noodling out how much it would cost to get from City Hall to a meeting or event at Lansdowne, for example, which would be a relatively normal trip for me. I don't always have my bike with me at the office, which is the fastest and least expensive way I can make that trip. I expect that it would take around 10 minutes to scoot down O'Connor in the bike lane. That would be a $4.50 ride. It's more expensive but much faster than taking transit. But, it's less expensive and probably faster than taking an Uber. I could certainly see myself making that decision easily on a one-off basis, but if it were more regular I'd want to use my own (mine cost about $400).

The companies, though, will set their rates according to the market, and the City isn't involved. I'll be interested to see if the prices change, and how the other companies will structure their programs.


I've put about 150 kms on my scooter since it was delivered. To date, I've been using it mostly for errands when my destination is maybe a kilometer or two away and I'm not keen to walk it, but it's too short to haul my bike out of the garage to ride it. For anything much further, it's generally going to be faster to bike the distance. For example, I don't believe I'll be using it to commute when I start going to the office again. It will be faster and I'll be able to carry more stuff biking the 5 kms to City Hall when I don't take the train. For getting around my immediate neighbourhood, though, it's sped up a number of my usual trips. Getting from my house to Victoria Pharmacy is now super fast and easy to quickly pick up a prescription, for example.

It's important to say, though, that while I'm comfortable scooting on streets like Wellington/Richmond or Gladstone, not everyone will be. I can get to the LRT station on mostly low-volume, low-speed streets, but I still have to take a block of Holland to get there. I can get to the other end of Hintonburg on Armstrong, but the road is in atrocious condition and not everyone will feel comfortable or safe with such a bumpy ride. If the City is truly interested in seeing more and more people choose biking and, now, scooting to boost sustainable transportation use in Ottawa, it has to go further than just allow the devices on our roads: we have to make those roads safe.

Happy scooting, Ottawa!


Posted July 18, 2020