Personally-owned electric scooters can now be used on minor streets and protected bike lanes within Vancouver.
Vancouver City Council approved the amendments to the street and traffic bylaws on Thursday as part of the provincial government’s pilot program with six participating cities. The other jurisdictions are North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, West Vancouver Kelowna, and Vernon.
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For Vancouver’s policies, the e-scooters can be used on minor streets, defined as roads without lane lines or directional dividing lines.
While protected bike lanes are permitted for use, e-scooter riders cannot travel on sidewalks, the seawall, and major streets.
Anyone using an e-scooter must follow the same rules as cyclists, be at least six years old, and travel no faster than 24 km/hr.
Early this spring, the provincial government approved the pilot project and identified the participating cities after seeking potential interest last year. This pilot of researching, testing, and evaluating the safety and operation of e-scooters on roadways is expected to run until April 2024.
City council has directed city staff to report back on initial interim findings of the pilot project in early 2022.
“Public safety is a priority in delivering this pilot,” said Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart. “As the use of electric devices becomes even more widespread, it’s important for us to better understand these emerging sustainable modes of transportation.”
However, Vancouver’s participation in the provincial pilot project stops short of allowing companies to operate a pilot e-scooter share program.
On the other hand, this past April, Kelowna City Council approved the launch of e-scooter share services operated by several companies for its downtown area, including a fleet of 500 e-scooters operated by global micro-mobility giant Lime. Prior to the provincial pilot project, Kelowna had permitted e-scooter share services on an off-road, city-owned, multi-use pathway between downtown and the UBC Okanagan campus.
In a report, City of Vancouver staff state e-scooter share services and rental programs are not being considered at this time due to “safety, accessibility, public realm, and other considerations.”
They cited data suggesting that inexperienced riders are at the greatest risk of injuring themselves, with more than one-third of e-scooter injuries occurring during a first ride, and over 60% of injured riders making fewer than 10 trips on an e-scooter. The overall injury rate greatly exceeds those of individuals on bicycles and motorcycles.
City staff also brought up concerns that are seen in other jurisdictions where e-scooter share services are widely adopted, specifically the problem of scooters haphazardly strewn across sidewalks and other public spaces. They state this could potentially create a tripping hazard or limit accessibility to pedestrians.
“By focusing the initial pilot project on privately owned electric kick scooters, staff aim to manage the number of new riders on City streets and the associated risks that come with this mode of transportation,” continues the report.
Lime previously indicated its interest in launching its services in Vancouver. It will launch BC’s first electric bicycle share program in North Vancouver City and North Vancouver District later this summer, as a pilot project in the jurisdictions.