Transportation committee backs 2023 e-scooter pilot Leave a comment


City council’s transportation committee wants to ask the province for a legislative exemption for e-scooters on public roads.

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Electric scooters could be coming to Saskatoon in a couple of years.

However, the proposed pilot project appears contingent on the provincial government granting an exemption to allow the “micromobility” devices on public roads, which Saskatchewan Government Insurance has no plans to do.

City council’s transportation committee voted unanimously in favour of a motion asking city hall staff to begin working on the pilot project’s regulatory framework next year, with the aim of introducing scooters in the summer of 2023.

They also backed Mayor Charlie Clark’s motion recommending council write a letter to Don Morgan, the government minister responsible for SGI, asking for an exemption similar to an existing one for electric bicycles.

Both motions are headed to city council for consideration later this month.

The committee heard from representatives of three e-scooter companies — Lime, Bird Canada and Roll Technologies — who suggested any pilot would ideally allow the conveyances on public roads.

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Lime spokesman Jonathan Hopkins noted several provinces have already taken the necessary steps to allow e-scooters on roads, and his company would recommend Saskatoon seek to do the same.

A smaller-scale pilot, he said, could be an “intermediate step on the way to what we know will be successful” and perhaps help convince the provincial government to loosen the rules.

Bird Canada spokesman Chris Schafer made a similar argument, as did Arda Erturk, a spokesman for Roll Technologies.

“The ideal case would be (a pilot where) we would be able to also operate on roadways where the speed limit is less than 50 kilometres per hour,” Erturk told the committee at its meeting on Tuesday.

Coun. Hilary Gough said she is not convinced Saskatoon is configured to make an e-scooter pilot project work without access to public streets, which could cause significant problems later.

“What I fear is that we head down the route of a pilot project, and it is unsuccessful and it generates a lot of concern and potential safety issues (and) a lot of pushback,” Gough said.

The committee spent more than an hour debating the issue; much of the discussion revolved around the use of e-scooters on sidewalks where bicycles and other vehicles are not allowed.

In a letter to the committee, Sandra Bobyk said her experience in Europe convinced her that e-scooters on sidewalks are “an absolute, unmitigated nightmare for pedestrians.”

Different jurisdictions have taken different approaches. Ottawa permits e-scooters on public roads, while Calgary does not.

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City hall staff have said other municipalities’ experience suggests a pilot project would take about half a year and cost $100,000 to develop. It would likely be revenue-neutral once operational.

Jay Magus, the city’s director of transportation, said his department will report back on the provincial government’s response, and likely include a funding request as a line item in next year’s budget.

“If approved, then we would start (work) in 2022,” he said.

E-scooters have proven controversial in some areas, leading to reports of vandalism and questions about safety. However, they remain immensely popular, with hundreds of thousands of rides per year in some Canadian cities.

All three e-scooter company representatives touted the potential economic benefits. Hopkins said one has been shown to result in $1,145 in additional spending at local businesses over a six-month period.

“When scooters are present, (people) visit local businesses more.”

amacpherson@postmedia.com
twitter.com/macphersona

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