E-scooters coming to Kelowna Monday; Vernon may have to wait | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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E-scooters coming to Kelowna Monday; Vernon may have to wait

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
April 15, 2021 - 7:30 AM

Two Okanagan cities are on different trajectories to get shared-use e-scooters up and running in their cities.

Kelowna and Vernon are two of only six B.C. cities granted the right to launch pilot programs to run the scooters on most city streets over the next three years.

“Monday afternoon, we should see at least four operators delivering service,” Matt Worona, Kelowna’s active transportation manager, told iNFOnews.ca April 14. “It’s a tight timeline. We’ve only heard about his change and the bylaw amendments since a few weeks ago, so getting equipment in place and hiring the people is challenging.”

In 2019, Kelowna did have a number of companies renting out e-scooters. While they proved very popular they were limited to a few pathways.

That program was put on hold in 2020 partly because of COVID-19 but mainly while the city waited for the province to agree to allow pilot projects to allow them to operate on most streets within the city.

That approval didn’t come until this year.

Kelowna city council gave the first three readings to traffic bylaw changes on Monday, with final approval expected on Monday, with operators planning to launch later that afternoon.

Because some operators already have permits in Kelowna, they will be able to start right away.

Vernon council received a report at its meeting on Monday but the first readings of bylaw changes there won’t go to council until April 26.

There are no operators currently licenced to operate in Vernon.

“We have had some interested inquiries,” Angela Broadbent, Vernon’s active transportation coordinator, told iNFOnews.ca. “With any luck we might have one this summer.”

That city still has to create a permitting or licencing program. Broadbent is working on getting that process in place at the same time as the bylaw changes are being worked on.

The change in provincial rules allow for e-scooters to go on all shared pathways, in bike lanes and on roadways.

That means they will be able to operate on the waterfront pathways downtown as they did in the past. Those have no speed restrictions.

The e-scooters can now go everywhere else in Kelowna other than on Highways 97 and 33 except where there is a shared pathway adjacent to the highways.

There are also some restrictions on where the scooters can be parked.

The rental businesses will have to make their own agreements on whether the scooters can go on UBCO roads since the university has authority over those roads.

The scooters will not be able to cross the Bennett bridge into West Kelowna or go into Lake Country.

“I think this is really exciting,” Worona said. “We’re working really really hard to make sure that, when this all launches, we’ll have all the information ready for residents. We’ve been working over the last few weeks to make sure everything is up to a certain high standard across all the shared scooter operators.”

E-scooter riders have to be over the age of 16, Worona said. That’s the rule for all motorized vehicles, including e-bikes. Even though such bikes are made and sold for children, it is illegal for anyone under 16 to operate them.

The new program includes e-scooters only. Things like electric powered skateboards or Segways are illegal under provincial regulations and subject to some significant fines.

E-bikes are allowed on roads under provincial regulations and the definition of what qualifies as an e-bike is very broad, Worona said.

Zip, Bunny and Roll already have permits to operate in Kelowna and are ready to go, Worona said. Two other new operators can’t be issued their permits until the traffic bylaw changes are formally adopted.

Worona expects Lime to launch on Monday but Helbiz may take a few more days.

Kelowna has also put out a call for proposals for a bike share program with a deadline of May 1. Worona has told council in the past that no bike-share programs are operating anywhere without major government subsidies.

He would not say if there is any interest from companies wanting to launch bike-share programs in Kelowna but did say more news on that issue will likely be coming soon.

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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