E-scooter rookies being ordered to slow down in Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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E-scooter rookies being ordered to slow down in Kelowna

FILE PHOTO - Ogo Scooter co-owner Chris Szydloski demonstrates the e-scooters for rent in Kelowna in this undated file photo. A review of the shared e-scooter program in Kelowna shows a real need to train and control the speed of new riders.
June 11, 2021 - 6:00 PM

A review of the shared e-scooter program in Kelowna shows a real need to train and control the speed of new riders.

The rental program started six weeks ago, April 19, but Kelowna city councillors called for a review after receiving numerous calls from constituents. That report goes to council Monday, June 14.

Already, city staff have ordered numerous changes in how the program operates and has a total of 55 in mind, including a halt to new permits as the bugs are being worked out.

“Just like other vehicles, less experienced riders are more likely to have an injury,” the report states. “E-scooter safety research highlights that 29 per cent of e-scooter injuries occur during first rides. Staff will require that e-scooter companies limit first-time e-scooter rides to half speed to lower the likelihood of injury.”

More than 20,000 customer accounts have been created in the past six weeks. A survey by the scooter companies found 72 per cent of those people had never ridden an e-scooter before.

Staff are also ordering the four operators to set up free rider training events twice a month for new riders.

The actual injury rate in Kelowna is not known because Interior Health’s emergency intake forms don’t have a space to note if the injury was caused while operating a rental e-scooter. That is being changed.

The program has been very popular, with more than 77,000 trips taken, averaging 1,700 per day. The average trip takes 18 minutes and covers two kilometres.

While the vast majority of rides have been for recreational purposes, many people are using them to get to or from work, shopping or appointments.

“There is strong potential for the shared e-scooter program to be a cost-effective way to help take cars off the road, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help people get around,” the report states.

While the scooters can be ridden all over the city, the main area of use is west of Spall Road and north of Mission Creek. In that area, about two per cent of trips taken were by e-scooter.

The most recent data to compare that with other forms of travel comes from a November 2018 study that showed transit was used for four per cent of trips in that area and bicycles for three per cent.

“This means the e-scooter program has the potential to take approximately 274,000 km of vehicle travel off our road network each year, reducing an estimated 50 tonnes of direct vehicle emissions annually,” the report states.

But, their use has triggered numerous complaints.

The RCMP and bylaw officers have, in the last six weeks, issued about 260 warnings. They’ve only had to respond to fewer than 30 complaints, mostly regarding helmet use, sidewalk riding, underage riding (users have to be at least 16 years old to legally operate an e-scooter) and impaired riding.

Some of the new rules already in place or being planned include:

- Users will have to make a pledge on the operating app that they are sober or undergo a cognitive test before unlocking scooters. Three of the four operators in the city already do this.

- Scooters are banned downtown (between Sutherland and Recreation Avenues, Richter Street and Okanagan Lake) between 10:30 p.m. and 4 a.m.

- Decals have been placed on some sidewalks warning that scooters are not allowed and new technology is being investigated that can detect when a scooter is being ridden on a sidewalk.

- Each company has to send staff out onto the streets for at least 100 hours a week to educate riders on safe riding and issue warnings or fines to violators.

- Members of the public can send photos of improper riding to the scooter rental companies so they can enforce the rules. The photos need to include times and locations.

- Improper parking is already being cracked down on and showing results. Audits showed 15 per cent of scooters improperly parked in the last week of April. That dropped to three per cent by mid-May.

- Companies must relocate improperly parked scooters within an hour between 4 a.m. and midnight each day.

- The city has identified 30 parking locations for the e-scooters with 50 more being developed.

- Companies also can’t place more than 35 per cent of their scooters in the downtown area each day.

- While the companies can’s provide shared helmets, one operator is offering credits or discounts if customers send in pictures of themselves wearing helmets. The other companies are considering similar programs.

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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