City council pushing for return to bicycle rentals in Kelowna as it considers e-scooter ban | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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City council pushing for return to bicycle rentals in Kelowna as it considers e-scooter ban

FILE PHOTO - City councillors want to see a return to bicycle rentals in Kelowna.
June 16, 2020 - 11:33 AM

Following a long and sometimes confusing debate yesterday, Kelowna city councillors called on staff to look at banning electric powered vehicles from the waterfront pathway and Bernard Avenue.

Some councillors also called on staff yesterday, June 15, to find a way to get a pedal bike rental program back on track.

“Two years ago, we had a bike share program that was a resounding success from a community standpoint,” councillor Brad Sieben said. “I don’t know if it made financial sense for the operator, I really don’t. I didn’t get the finances when you’re paying a buck a ride. But from a community use, a community enjoyment, community pride perspective, it was a resounding success. That’s a fact."

“We don’t have it anymore and there are a multitude of reasons why. But one of the things we got... was e-scooters, which have not been well received in my opinion, at least from my observations from the community and how they were used.”

What he was referring to was the highly successful Dropbike pilot project that operated in the summer and fall of 2018.

Then the City rejigged its permitting process, Dropbike withdrew from the pilot project and a multitude of e-scooter rentals were run last year. Those were restricted to a pathway along Okanagan Lake and the Okanagan Rail Trail. They were mainly used for enjoyment, rather than as commuter vehicles as some councillors, like Seiben, had expected.

There were numerous conflicts with pedestrians.

Matt Worona, the City’s active transportation coordinator, told council that pedal bike rental programs were virtually extinct in North America and it would cost $1 million a year to subsidize such a program.

READ MORE: Kelowna bike share program could be electric this summer

                            Kelowna's experiment with e-scooters a major summertime hit

Councillor Maxine DeHart was one of numerous councillors who told Worona that wasn’t good enough.

“Maybe the City can subsidize something,” she said. “We subsidize a lot of stuff. Maybe you can get innovative. Maybe there is some kind of subsidy the City can do. Let’s look outside the box, instead of just saying no.”

Worona had explained that pedal bicycle share programs were only used by experienced cyclists. E-scooters have a much broader appeal, especially with young, affluent people.

While the pedal bike program was supposed to be the focus of Worona’s report, he also updated council on the e-scooter rental program that has been put on hold because of COVID-19. He recommended it stay paused until the province approves a pilot project to allow them on city streets rather than being geofenced to the few approved pathways.

That was fine with council.

It was Worona’s recommendation that, once the province gave its approval, the e-scooters would be limited to a top speed of 10 km/h on the waterfront pathway and on Bernard Avenue once it’s closed to traffic at the end of June. But that would apply only to rental e-scooters that could be geofenced. It would not apply to privately owned e-scooters, e-bikes and a growing variety of electric mobility devices.

An alternative, which Worona did not recommend, was to ban the e-scooters from those areas altogether.

That’s the option most councillors seemed to support, although some, like councillor Gail Given, seemed to be saying they should be banned from streets as well.

“It is confusing and we’re kind of going around in circles,” councillor Luke Stack said.

In the end, council agreed to simply receive Worona’s report.

“We’ll bring a report back with the options and alternatives for banning certain types of electric vehicles on our waterfront walkways and Bernard Avenue during its closure, the implications of doing so and the associated bylaws,” City manager Doug Gilchrist told council.

No mention was made about council’s desire to have a pedal bike share program return to Kelowna.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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