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Edmonton e-scooter contracts could charge users extra for poor parking job, city says

Love or loathe them, electric scooters and bikes will be back on Edmonton streets this season with new rules aimed at getting users to be safer and more responsible as micromobility choices become more popular. 

E-scooters trips spiked 124 per cent to just over one million (1,011,756) rides in 2023, up from 452,170 in 2022, a new city report shows. 

E-bike trips also went up slightly, more than five per cent, to 49,641 rides from 46,997.

The activity comes with its share of safety and behaviour complaints. 

After getting feedback about negative interactions pedestrians had with riders, Ward Anirniq Coun. Erin Rutherford asked city administration to assess the program and suggest ways to improve it. 

“I was getting a lot of concerns about e-scooters left in the middle of sidewalks,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “Then somebody with mobility issues not being able to go down that sidewalk.”

This year, the city is amending the contracts with the companies providing the service.

It’s planning on changing the fee structure to daily instead of quarterly, so providers pay the city a fee for every day vehicles are on the street.  

“This will encourage suppliers to improve utilization rates per vehicle, actively relocate unused vehicles and match availability to demand,” the report says. 

It’s also introducing compliance fees to address improper parking and street clutter.

Riders could end up getting charged an extra fee on their account if they leave the vehicles on sidewalks, in ditches and anywhere they don’t belong. 

“It’ll start to motivate people to know: If you don’t properly park your e-scooter, you’re going to get an additional fine for that,” Rutherford said. “So I think that’s a really great mechanism to hold the users and the companies that we contract out to, to account.” 

Breaking the rules

Under the city’s traffic safety bylaw, people on scooters and bikes are supposed to ride on bike paths, multi-use paths or streets where the speed limit is 50 km/h or below — not sidewalks. 

Having more than one person on a scooter or bike is not allowed and riders must be 18 years or older. 

It’s the sixth season the city is operating the rental program that launched in 2019 with e-scooters only, then included e-bikes in 2022.

The rules are commonly broken, yet in four of the five years the program has been active in Edmonton, the city says it didn’t give out tickets.

An e-scooter seen on the street with traffic lights visible in the distance. The e-scooter has no rider and is parked.
Bird Canada and Lime confirmed they have applied for new contracts with the City of Edmonton. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Only in 2021, bylaw officers gave out 14 tickets. In 2022, one formal warning was issued.  

Rutherford said she’s going to encourage the city to do more education and enforcement in the coming season. 

Shewkar Ibrahim, director of traffic operations, said the city hasn’t implemented fines or non-compliance fees to vendors.

“We have plans to use the real-time data obtained from the shared rental e-scooters and e-bikes provided by the vendor in the upcoming season,” Ibrahim said in an email Wednesday. “This data will enable us to oversee the use and misuse of shared micromobility devices with greater transparency.” 

A group that advocates for active transportation thinks the city should focus more on building the proper infrastructure so people feel safe and protected from both vehicles and pedestrians, said Shannon Lohner, chair of Paths for People. 

The city should put up frequent, clear signs directing people to designated bike lanes near Whyte Avenue, Jasper Avenue and 124th Street, she said. 

“There’s a really phenomenal bike lane on 83rd Avenue, one block north, but not everybody necessarily knows that that’s there,”  Lohner said in an interview Wednesday. “Let’s not make assumptions that people know that intuitively.” 

E-scooters and e-bikes are available around the world and people from out of town will use them and need to know where to go, Lohner said. 

“We can’t rely on people having this internal map of the city in their brain when not everybody lives in Edmonton.” 

Bird Canada and Lime confirmed they have applied for the 2024-2027 contracts with the City of Edmonton. 

Both said they couldn’t comment on the new compliance fees or other changes as they’re still in negotiations. 

The city will announce by the end of May what companies are getting the new three-year contracts.

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