Kelowna’s e-scooter program could screech to a halt next week | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna’s e-scooter program could screech to a halt next week

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
June 27, 2021 - 7:30 AM

After a tremendous start to a shared e-scooter program that saw more than 20,000 people sign on in its first six weeks, Kelowna city council is looking to stop most, if not all of it next week.

Four companies jumped on board when the program was approved on April 19, allowing the scooters on all city roads.

But complaints of too many scooters going too fast or being abandoned on too many sidewalks led council to ask for changes on June 14.

READ MORE: E-scooter rookies being ordered to slow down in Kelowna

“Kelowna’s shared e-scooter pilot program saw an overwhelming ridership response in a very short time – with demand far outpacing expectations,” states a report by Matt Worona, the city’s mobility specialist, going to council on Monday. “While this is an indicator of success, it has also brought challenges and disruptions related to bringing transportation more fully into the shared economy.”

A total of 19 recommendations were mandated to be in place by June 30 but only one of the four companies says it can meet that deadline, the report says. The others have different technology that would take weeks to adapt.

That means three permits are likely to be cancelled as of June 30. Those companies can re-apply for permits once they can meet the city’s conditions.

So, instead of four companies renting about 700 e-scooters, one company could continue operating but would only be allowed to offer 150 of the scooters with no more than 45 being available in the popular downtown core.

One of the changes council wants is to ban them on the waterfront pathway downtown and along the four blocks of Bernard Avenue that will be closed to motorized traffic next week.

By banning them from the underpass of Highway 97 at City Park to Rotary Marsh, that means they would have to travel one kilometre to Ellis Street if they wanted to ride on protected bike paths. The alternative is to ride on other roads that may not have any bike lanes.

If riders want to cross those corridors, they would have to push the scooters manually.

At the same time, privately owned scooters or those on long term rental would be free to travel those routes.

The operators are also being asked to report every two weeks on how many warnings and fines they’ve issued to riders, verify that account holders are over the age of 16 and prevent one account holder from unlocking more than one scooter in order to stop children from riding the e-scooters.

An alternative motion going to council is to cancel the program entirely, giving the operators 14 days to remove their e-scooters.

The permits issued to the companies contain a clause saying the city can change or cancel the permits at any time and operators have been reminded of that clause, the report states.

The scooters have also been heavily criticized by the chief of orthopedic surgery at Kelowna General Hospital who said his department has been inundated with injuries caused by the scooters.

READ MOREKelowna's e-scooters are a 'fracture factory', orthopedic surgeon says

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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