Pedaling plays second fiddle to electric scooters in Kelowna | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Pedaling plays second fiddle to electric scooters in Kelowna

Ogo Scooter co-owner Chris Szydloski
October 23, 2019 - 4:05 PM

Early reports show that every electric scooter used in Kelowna’s ride-sharing program this summer was rented two to three times as often as the pedal bikes that proceeded them last year.

And those numbers may increase dramatically when the province allows the scooters to be ridden on streets, which could happen within days – just in time for the launch of the fourth rental operator in the city.

Matt Worona, the City’s active transportation coordinator, is still crunching the numbers in order to make a comprehensive report to city council.

Last summer, Dropbike was the only company that signed an agreement with the city. It rented peddle bikes that attracted 35,000 riders over a six-month period. The size of its fleet varied and, according to Worona, dropped significantly over time due to maintenance requirements and sourcing of parts.

The City estimated that each bike was rented 2.5 times a day. That means the scooters were rented five to 7.5 times a day.

The e-scooters are geofenced to a small area along the waterfront and on the Okanagan Rail Trail because it's illegal to operate them on streets.

Worona is closely watching the current sitting of the B.C. Legislature to see how proposed changes to the Motor Vehicle Act are progressing. Those changes will allow for pilot projects to allow the e-scooters to run in more areas of the city. Kelowna, Victoria and Translink have asked permission to launch pilot projects.

The proposed changes were in the first piece of legislation introduced into the fall sitting and have passed committee stage. While Worona is no expert on the legislative process, based on what he’s seen of how other legislation has progressed, he said they might get royal assent by the end of this week.

That will dramatically change where the e-scooters can be ridden and how they will be used, he said, pointing to Calgary and Edmonton as examples.

In Calgary, e-scooters can be ridden on sidewalks and in bike lanes. Within a month of launching last summer, each e-scooter was being rented an average of 10 times per day and there were 150,000 riders, according to a CTV report.

That compares to five to 7.5 riders per e-scooter per day in Kelowna.

In cities around the world e-scooters are used as commuter vehicles, often to get people to and from transit stops, Worona said. Given their restricted use, that was not really feasible in Kelowna.

Worona expects the e-scooters’ availability will expand beyond downtown to the more densely populated areas of the Lower Mission and Rutland but it’s unlikely, for practical purposes, that their geofencing will be lifted totally to allow them in more rural areas.

Ogo Scooters, which was the first to start up in Kelowna, said they had trouble hiring staff to pick up the e-scooters even in the restricted areas they operated in, so expanding may make returning them even more challenging.

Worona also noted that there were often no scooters available later in the evening because their batteries had run down. That’s why many companies are switching to “swappable” batteries, he said. That way, a worker with an e-bike and a trailer can ride around exchanging batteries rather than using a truck or van to haul in the whole scooter.

There are currently three companies renting e-scooters and they are obligated to do so until it snows. They are all operating, although their fleets are smaller at this time of year.

Roll is planning to launch its operations as early as Nov. 1 with e-bike rentals to follow in mid-November.


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