Vancouver City Council approves launch of public e-scooter share service in 2023

Jun 22 2022, 3:12 am

By the middle of 2023, a public e-scooter share service will be available in the streets of Vancouver, complementing the existing Mobi public bike share network.

Last week, Vancouver City Council approved a member motion by ABC councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung to move forward with a e-scooter share service starting next spring.

This is all part of the City of Vancouver’s participation in the provincial government’s e-scooter pilot program with participating municipalities. The e-scooter share service would itself be a pilot program within the larger pilot.

While personal e-scooters have been permitted on Vancouver’s protected bike lanes and minor streets since Summer 2021, city council came short of allowing a e-scooter share program over safety, accessibility, and public space clutter concerns at the time.

But as explained by a representative with mobility share company Bird Canada during the city council meeting, there have been many major technological advancements in the e-scooter share industry to mitigate these concerns — especially in the two years since Kirby-Yung first proposed such a program.

The smartphone app can be programmed to limit new riders to a lower speed for their first few rides, allowing them to gradually become more familiar with the device. Through the app, geo-fencing abilities can be activated to prevent e-scooters from travelling and parking in spaces where they are not permitted.

The app technology also now enables the option of requiring riders to take a photo of their parking spot to hold them accountable, and take a pre-ride selfie of themselves wearing the provided helmet attached to each e-scooter. Under provincial regulations, cyclists and e-scooter riders are required to wear a helmet.

Furthermore, the latest devices have new anti-tipping and dynamic steering control design features, and the devices now have a much longer lifespan of five to six years — up from only a few months for the first generation of devices.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to limit the [micro-mobility] options that are available,” said Kirby-Yung during the meeting. “Micro-mobility is here to stay and it is being adopted rapidly.”

“With respect to safety, we have heard with the technology, which improves regularly, and it will continue to improve as does everything in our lives… It is driven by tech now. There is so much more control with shared services than there are with privately-owned devices.”

She added that e-scooter share services provide their users with expensive, high-quality devices with more safety design features, whereas an individual may not be able to afford to buy their own decent device of a similar calibre, which carries an average cost of about $1,500.

Kirby-Yung’s motion was passed with amendments, specifically the addition of consultation with the city’s advisory committees for seniors, people with disabilities, transportation, and residents, with a specific focus on keeping e-scooters away from sidewalks and reducing the risk to pedestrians.

The approved motion directs city staff to conduct a competitive bidding process to select a company to initiate and operate the e-scooter share service.

Vancouver, of course, already has a bike share service, which was launched in 2016 with significant investments by the city to help cover the startup costs.

But Kirby-Yung suggests a e-scooter share service will not directly compete with Mobi bike share.

“In support of zero-emission transportation, more people are shown to ride shared e-scooters than ride shared bikes. However, both are instrumental in a robust micro-mobility system. Reducing the number of shared modes available to people limits the number of people willing to get out of their cars, thus working against sustainable mode share targets,” she wrote in her motion.

She cited data from Portland, where 45% of their e-scooter share users never ride a bike, and 78% never use their city’s bike share service. A 2018 e-scooter share pilot program in Portland found that 34% of e-scooter riders replaced car use with their last e-scooter trip.

Other jurisdictions in BC that have permitted a public e-scooter share service under the provincial pilot program include Kelowna and Richmond.

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