While many residents and visitors to Ottawa have enjoyed the fun and convenience of e‑scooters over the past two years, they caused inconvenience and potential danger to others. Safety hazards were caused by people riding on sidewalks and leaving scooters “ditched” wherever their ride ended. In order to address these dangers, the city has reduced the number of available scooters and imposed more rules with stronger enforcement.
This will be the third year for e-scooters in Ottawa, with an increased focus on improved safety. This new approach was evident when the Transportation Committee and Council voted to extend the e‑scooter pilot project through 2022. At the time it was made clear that scooter providers and riders would face new rules and a beefed-up enforcement regime.
In 2021, there were 1,200 e-scooters from three providers in Ottawa. This year the number has been reduced to 900 from two providers. They will be introduced in a small number of neighbourhoods in the city’s core first, and will be available in more areas over the following weeks. They can be unlocked between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. all summer, and into November, depending on the weather.
A number of new measures have been introduced by the city to deter riding on the sidewalk and inappropriate parking. These include:
- GPS technology and artificial intelligence to allow more accurate location of individual e‑scooters;
- More staff from the providers to patrol, monitor, and communicate with riders; and
- Riders who ignore the rules will face fines and/or suspension of their app.
In addition, the apps from e-scooter providers now only allow rides to end in a city-installed designated parking area or an approved virtually designated area. If an e-scooter is improperly parked, the rider will continue to be charged until the scooter is properly parked or retrieved by the provider.
It will be easier to report “mis-parked” e-scooters because improper e-scooter parking and riding can be reported through a new e-form on ottawa.ca or by calling 3-1-1. Providers will have 15 minutes to collect an improperly parked e-scooter once it has been reported. There will also be By-law Officers assigned to monitoring parking and relocating or impounding e-scooters.
E-scooters are almost silent and this creates problems for pedestrians, especially those with a hearing disability. In order to alert pedestrians of approaching e-scooters, they will emit a continuous sound.
E-scooters have been a popular addition to the transportation options available in Ottawa and many other major cities around the world. As cities gain experience in monitoring and controlling e‑scooter use, the efforts to mitigate their potential dangers to pedestrians are increasing. What is missing, in Ottawa and elsewhere, is mandatory helmet use for e-scooter riders. Last year I noticed only one e-scooter provider had helmets available with their scooters. Hopefully, Ottawa has created a mandatory helmet strategy for the 900 e-scooters that will soon be zipping around the city.