Councillors park Hamilton e-scooter proposal for more consultation Leave a comment


City councillors have opted for more community input before pressing forward with an electric scooter-rental program in Hamilton.

Consultation on a proposed e-scooter-sharing pilot through private operators is to include the city’s advisory committee for persons with disabilities.

The committee is “emphatically against” such a plan, member James Kemp told Monday’s public works committee.

For some, e-scooters are a “fun and easy way” to get around, a money-making opportunity for others, Kemp said.

“For the disabled, it’s a terrifying prospect,” he said, calling e-scooters “landmines waiting to trip us up.”

But if the city moves ahead with the project, staff should at least consider the advisory committee’s recommendations, Kemp said.

Staff have proposed following the lead of other Canadian cities, such as Ottawa, Calgary, and Kelowna, B.C., that have launched “kick-style” e-scooter programs.

In Hamilton, the sustainable mobility pilot would see the city award two-year contracts to three private operators that would provide as many as 500 e-scooters each.

The proposed pilot follows council’s approval in December of a bylaw that allows e-scooters on roads, bike lanes, and certain paths and trails in concert with provincial legislation.

But advocates for people with disabilities, including those who are blind or deaf, worry improperly silent e-scooters pose hazards to them.

Moreover, Kemp said Monday, “it will be impossible to keep them off the sidewalks,” despite the city’s bylaw.

Jamie Stuckless, a Hamilton resident and cycling enthusiast, agreed sidewalk riding is dangerous.

“However, making people choose between riding on a road with no separation from fast-moving cars and trucks or breaking the rules and riding on the sidewalk is unfair.”

More separated infrastructure is needed for cyclists and e-scooter riders alike, Stuckless said.

Chris Schafer, a vice-president of Bird Canada, an e-scooter-sharing company, noted the city proposal is to cap the speed at 20 kilometres per hour.

Moreover, the app-based system can “geofence its slowdown zone” of 10 km/h in certain areas, Schafer said.

He also noted the option for a “beginner mode” for new riders that “softens acceleration.”

“Again, it’s about using technology and tools to make it safe and reliable for riders.”

E-scooter operators who make the cut in a request for proposals would be responsible for operating and capital costs. Some proceeds would also go toward to Hamilton’s SoBi bike-share program.

Peter Topalovic, who manages the city’s sustainable mobility file, said what hopeful operators propose for safety provisions, including an acoustic alerting system, would be covered in the request for proposals.

“‘We need this to be done and how are you going to do that?’ That would be part of their evaluation.”

The committee backed Coun. Tom Jackson’s motion to defer the preparation of a request for proposals to allow for more consultation. “I just think this definitely requires more time.”

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Coun. John-Paul Danko agreed to a deferral, but said he’d like to see an e-scooter pilot hit the road this summer.

“I think a lot of safety concerns that we’ve heard today have been addressed by staff and through the RFP process.”

Coun. Jason Farr said he’s a fan of the proposed pilot, adding he’s “hopeful” for “some compromise.”





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