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City staff seeking earlier deployment, extended operating hours for 2024 e-scooter season

City of Ottawa staff are recommending that council move forward with another season of the city’s electric scooter program, with a number of changes that could see more scooters hit the streets.

A memo on Tuesday evening to the mayor and city councillors from the city’s interim planning manager Vivi Chi said staff will be initiating the process of offering a contract extension to Bird Canada and Neuron Mobility to continue the provincial pilot program, which will be entering its final season this summer.

Staff say an increase in the number of riders last year and adjustments to account for safety concerns to pedestrians and people with disabilities posed by illegal sidewalk riding should allow e-scooters to be successfully implemented for another year.

Weather permitting, the city says it wants to see the program begin as early as April 15, one month earlier than in 2023 and ending on Nov. 15.

Staff are also recommending an extension to the operating hours of the e-scooters to put them more in line the city’s transit schedule.

The 2023 season allowed scooters to be used between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Staff want to see those hours extended from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., with an exemption for the ByWard Market. The city says it want to ensure companies “deploy sobriety technologies” on all rides after 11 p.m.

The city reduced the number of e-scooters from 1,200 to 900 last year. Staff want to see 900 deployed as a start, but are seeking an increase to a maximum of 1,200 “if requested and justified by the service providers.”

Among the other changes, staff are recommending that council remove a 10 cent per ride user fee and explore options with service providers to make helmets available for all users.

The 2023 season of the pilot program ran from May 15 to Nov. 15 where approximately 50,000 users took about 179,000 trips around the city. There were about 1,000 trips per day, the city says.

Last year, a number of changes were made to the program. Some seniors and people with disabilities expressed concerns the rules don’t go far enough in protecting accessibility on city sidewalks. The new rules implemented by council for the 2022 season included forbidding sidewalk riding, requiring parking in designated areas and introducing an audible sound to alert pedestrians that they are approaching.

Staff presented the results of last year’s season to the city’s accessibility advisory committee in February, who spoke to the need to improve the sound emitted by e-scooters. A key challenge, the city says, is the increase in privately-owned scooters, which are not subject to the same rules as shared e-scooters.

The city says it will be undertaking an educational campaign on riding and parking etiquette.

Staff say they will report back to the city’s transportation committee and council on the future of the program as the four year provincial pilot wraps up this year.

The province will advise council of their decision to extend the pilot, make it permanent or discontinue it altogether.

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