It’s been a bumpy ride for Kelowna’s shared e-scooter program since its launch.
But city council is going to let it scoot by — for now.
Shared e-scooters appeared on Kelowna streets en masse in mid-April under a provincial pilot that allows scooters on streets in the same way bicycles are. Two months later, nearly 1,000 scooters are being deployed across the city daily by four separate operators. The program has been met with significant criticism from the public over a variety of issues.
After nearly three hours of presentation, deliberation and comments, council endorsed 19 changes to the program on Monday (June 14), to help remedy those issues.
Changes underway or already implemented include a ‘pledge’ that users are sober, helmet selfies that earn riders rewards, restrictions on late-evening scooting and limiting the speed of first-time riders, quicker retrieval by operators of improperly parked scooters, sidewalk stickers to remind riders to keep off the sidewalks, and limiting scooter density by requiring operators to place no more than 30 per cent of their scooters downtown.
According to Coun. Brad Sieben, one of the program’s most vocal critics, is a sign of how “reckless and haphazard” the rollout has been.
“Currently, the way it is, I believe there are far more negatives than there are positives. Change is needed rapidly,” said Sieben.
By most metrics, the service has proven popular, with an average of 1,700 rentals a day, each ridden for around 18 minutes travelling about two kilometres. A total of 77,000 scooters were booked in the program’s first 45 days.
“To expect a program like this… to roll out perfectly, if that was your expectation, I don’t believe it was realistic,” said Mayor Colin Basran.
“I don’t want to kill this program but I do want to see it improve. I want to see it operated far better than it has been.”
Council agreed, passing a motion tabled by Basran suggesting staff come back to council later this month to explore further options for the program, including the potential to bar e-scooters from the planned Bernard Avenue pedestrian area this summer.
In the program’s first 45 days, RCMP and bylaw officers have issued around 260 warnings related to e-scooter usage — the most common issues observed being failure to wear a helmet, sidewalk riding, underage riding, and impaired riding.
Proper parking has also been a commonly expressed gripe, with scooters limiting sidewalk accessibility in some areas. The city is implementing preferred parking areas and parking audits show the rate of improper parking has decreased drastically since the program started.
As seen in other areas, clinicians at Kelowna General Hospital have noted an anecdotal rise in injuries among people who use e-scooters. Interior Health is working on getting data on e-scooter injuries but ultimately expressed its support for the program in a letter to the city.
Council will consider further changes to the program during a June 28 meeting.
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