Toronto City Council has voted not to take part in Ontario’s electric scooter pilot programme, effectively upholding a ban on using the micromobility devices on public streets.
The city said the decision was made to honour its commitment to safety and accessibility for citizens, especially the elderly and those with disabilities.
A province-wide five-year pilot project, which began on January 1 2020, gave Ontario municipalities the choice to approve the use of e-scooters on public roadways.
Eric Holmes, Communications Advisor, City of Toronto, told Cities Today: “[The decision] was in part informed by various consultations that were undertaken from late 2019 to early 2021 by city staff, including direct contact, written submissions, in-person meetings, industry meetings, focus groups, and an online panel survey of 1,010 residents conducted shortly before the pandemic.”
“City staff also consulted a municipal e-scooter coordinating committee across Ontario, and contacts across Canada, the US, as well as Paris and Transport for London, UK, and met with and heard from local members of the accessibility community and the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee,” he said.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) welcomed the decision, adding that “the small number of Ontario cities that started an e-scooter pilot project should now suspend those pilot projects”.
In a statement, e-scooter operator Bird, which had lobbied the city for over two years on the introduction of e-scooters, said: “Positive data and learnings from other jurisdictions were routinely ignored [by the City of Toronto], including the e-scooter safety results in both Calgary and Ottawa which specifically showed that e-scooters were as safe as bicycles, if not safer.
“Let’s not have Toronto be the city that only sees challenges when others see opportunity.”
The company also cited results from a Bird/Lime-funded Nanos Research survey showing that 70 percent of Toronto residents were supportive of an e-scooter pilot.
Toronto has maintained that e-scooters provide “inadequate consumer safety standards and that there is a lack of protections for pedestrians”.
The city said staff also conducted reviews of e-scooter-related injuries in other cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Austin and Tel Aviv, as well as cities in Australia and New Zealand.
It determined, in consultation with Toronto Public Health, that rejecting an e-scooter pilot would help prevent potentially serious injuries on streets and pavements “during a time when hospitals and city resources are already under stress due to COVID-19”.
Other Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Windsor, have undertaken e-scooter experiments, with most planning to expand their pilot projects in the future.
Ottawa Transportation Committee Chair Tim Tierney told the Toronto Star that his city carefully considered safety issues before green-lighting last year’s pilot, adding that he witnessed first-hand how “out of control” the devices can get when used and stowed improperly.
The three e-scooter vendors picked to supply the city were closely monitored, and risked losing the opportunity to be part of the city’s next pilot if they did not fulfill their duty to pick up misplaced scooters in a very short window.
Tierney said this approach “worked out really well,” and out of more than 200,000 e-scooter rides taken in Ottawa during the pilot, only about 150 complaints of improper parking were reported, with e-scooter firms responding to alerts on social media and clearing improperly parked devices “within minutes”.
Once the provincial stay-at-home order is lifted, Tierney said a new pilot will begin with more than twice as many e-scooters made available to residents.
Last week, Windsor’s pilot was temporarily suspended just days after its introduction following a spate of e-scooter thefts.
Bird, the e-scooter firm running the city’s pilot, has since reinstated the scheme and urged users to get in touch if they spot an e-scooter “in peril”.