E-scooters hugely popular in Kelowna, but don't drink and scoot | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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E-scooters hugely popular in Kelowna, but don't drink and scoot

Image Credit: Pixabay

Thousands of people are hopping on rented e-scooters every week in Kelowna and a similar program is expected to launch this summer in Vernon.

Those are two of six B.C. cities running pilot programs where e-scooters are allowed on roadways and shared scooter programs have been developed.

As summer comes arrives, and patio dining and partying become more popular, people shouldn’t get the idea that if they’re over the limit they can just jump on a scooter and head on home.

“You can get jail time, just like you can drunk driving,” Mathew Worona, the City of Kelowna’s new mobility specialist told iNFOnews.ca.

“It’s a criminal offence in Canada to operate a motor vehicle under the influence. That includes your riding lawnmower, your ATV, your car, e-bike and e-scooter. It’s important for people to realize they’re making a very big decision when deciding to drive any motor vehicle under the influence in our country.”

The e-scooter program was launched by Zip and Lime on April 19, the same day Kelowna city council passed a bylaw allowing them to ride on streets and bike paths. Roll joined them within a week.

The uptake started off a bit slowly with about 600 trips a day. That’s jumped to an average of 1,900 from May 12 to 18.

Since the program started there have been more than 45,000 trips covering more than 100,000 kilometres. There were an average of 565 scooters per day available over the past week but that jumped to 695 by Wednesday, May 19.

That number is likely to increase since Bird launched its service on Wednesday.

At 1,900 rides a day, that’s about one-quarter of one per cent of the 450,000 trips taken by all modes of transportation in Kelowna each day, Worona said.

“That doesn’t sound like much but it’s a big change in a month,” Worona said.

While some rides are recreational, they average 2.2 km each, comparable to the roughly three kilometres a day commuting cyclists ride, so some scooter riders may be using them to commute. The scooter rides average 17 to 18 minutes per ride.

Most of the scooters, 65.6 per cent, are rented between 4 p.m. and midnight, 25.8 per cent between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 8.5 per cent before 10 a.m.

The scooters have been ridden up into Kettle Valley and out into Glenmore Valley and Rutland but the peak use is from Knox Mountain to Cook Road.

This map shows where the shared scooters in Kelowna during more than 14,000 trips have travelled over the past week.
This map shows where the shared scooters in Kelowna during more than 14,000 trips have travelled over the past week.
Image Credit: City of Kelowna

While riders can drop them anywhere they want, there are some rules, such as not blocking sidewalks or traffic. Riders have to take photos of their scooters when the finish the ride and can be subject to fines or be banned if they flout the rules, Worona said.

He’s only fielded about 60 calls since the program started. The majority he classified as complaints but some of those are things like motorists simply being concerned about whether they’re safe or legal to ride on painted bike paths. They are both.

“I find drivers are a little more cautious when passing,” Worona said. “They’re a little concerned, just not knowing what that vehicle (scooter) might do and it being a new thing so there’s a little bit of caution there.”

The scooters can go 24 km/h on the roads but are restricted to 13 km/h in areas of high pedestrian traffic along the waterfront downtown and between Gyro and Rotary beaches.

E-scooters were launched in Kelowna in 2019 but because of COVID and a delay by the province in agreeing to a pilot program to allow them to be ridden on roads the program didn’t run last year.

The 1,900 rides per day is not comparable to the 2019 experience since there were fewer than 100 scooters being rented that year compared to almost 700 today. In 2019, their use was limited to the downtown waterfront and the Kelowna section of the Okanagan Rail Trail versus the entire city now.

Vernon is a bit behind in getting its program launched.

Bylaw changes were passed by Vernon council on May 10 and a request for proposals has now been posted. That closes on June 10.

The applicants will have to be evaluated and it may take time for the operators to get set up but it’s expected there will rental e-scooters on Vernon streets this summer, Angela Broadbent, Vernon’s active transportation coordinator said.

Unlike Kelowna, where there’s no limit on the number of operators who can open shop as long as they meet the criteria, Vernon is limiting its program to two operators. Broadbent couldn't say how many have applied so far.

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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