Opinion: Vancouver needs to allow public e-scooter share services

Jun 4 2022, 12:35 am

Written for Daily Hive Urbanized by Sarah Kirby-Yung, who is a Vancouver City Councillor.

With gas prices hitting $2.25 per litre across the Lower Mainland, now is the time for politicians to act on getting people out of their cars.

In 2019, Vancouver City Council declared a Climate Emergency, but since then, they haven’t delivered on giving residents the options they need to support their transition out of vehicles and onto more sustainable forms of transportation.

As a City, we need to embrace micro-mobility as a way for Vancouverites to commute to work, connect to transit, visit friends and family, or run errands.

Shared e-scooters are sustainable and affordable.

Affordability, safety and climate change are the three reasons why I believe Vancouver can’t afford to wait in supporting shared micro-mobility.

When City Council approved a privately-owned e-scooter pilot in June 2021, it created a system where only those who can afford the cost of purchasing an e-scooter can participate.

I believe every Vancouverite should have access to safe and sustainable transportation. Micro-mobility can increase access to affordable transportation for all Vancouver residents, especially those in most need of economic relief. Most e-scooter rides are significantly cheaper than a ridesharing car service. And with gas prices high and not coming down soon, driving a car has become prohibitively expensive for many. The City can also require micro-mobility operators to offer discounted access to people in need, making services even more affordable.

Safety needs to be a foundational part of any addition to our transportation network and our cityscape. I would not advocate putting shared e-scooters on our streets if there weren’t safety mechanisms in place.

The reality is that unlike privately-owned scooters, maximum speeds can be set and controlled for shared e-scooters, and lower speeds can be programmed for new users and in sensitive areas like near schools to support slow streets or near public plazas. Shared services can also set no-go zones like prohibiting riding on sidewalks, to ensure they are kept clear for pedestrians and for those with mobility challenges through geo-fencing technology.

The good news is that there is clear evidence and hard data from cities across our country, province, and right here in the Lower Mainland that tells us shared e- mobility is safe — as long as it’s sensibly regulated, and operators responsibly educate their riders.

Finally, we need to pursue smart strategies that can help fight against climate change.

Vancouver declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. While we’ve made considerable progress since in areas like reducing building emissions, City staff reported in last year’s annual climate report that Vancouver has a low chance of achieving its goal of two-thirds of trips being made by active transportation or transit by 2030. This is important as approximately 37% of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from burning gasoline and diesel in our vehicles.

In order to reduce greenhouse gases, we need to give people more diverse and climate-friendly ways to move around our city. A full adoption of micro-mobility has the potential to complement our public transit system, provide an option for first and last mile of trips, and provide a fun and sustainable way for people to get around while reducing air and noise pollution. Enabling shared micro-mobility would also help decrease congestion.

If Vancouver fails to move on this, it will continue to fall behind other Canadian cities like Ottawa, Edmonton, and our neighbours in Richmond, who are all embracing the benefits.

Shared e-scooter programs deliver more safety, affordability, and climate benefits than only allowing privately-owned devices. It’s time to move on bringing shared e-scooters to Vancouver, and that’s why I’m bringing a motion forward to city council the week of June 6, 2022.

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