E-scooters will be allowed on Oshawa roads and trails. Next year, residents may be able to get around the city using an e-scooter sharing program.
“James and I were so excited to see the new pilot program being developed,” said Joanne Kerr, who co-owns Durham E-Bikes/E-Scooters at 650 King St. E. with James Shadoff. “With the cost of gas and living in general increasing so much, our customers are looking for an inexpensive way to get around the city.”
Recently, Oshawa council voted to permit electric kick-scooter use within the city and to seek out companies to run a trial shared micromobility program. Getting the go-ahead for the e-scooter pilot program took months of public consultation and several bylaw amendments.
“Currently in our inner city, our sidewalks, our trails, we have all sorts of devices used to get around … This is a pilot program, let’s go through it and take the learning from it,” said Coun. Derek Giberson. “These are here to stay, they’re not going away.”
What is an e-scooter?
It’s a vehicle with two wheels, a platform to stand on, a handle bar for steering, a motor with a maximum of 500 watts of power; and a maximum speed of 24 kilometers per hour.
It’s different from an e-bike, which is a power-assisted bicycle with working pedals that can be propelled with muscle power. In Oshawa, e-bikes are already allowed on roads, trails, and prohibited on sidewalks.
“E-bikes and e-scooters can provide reliable transportation and independence to people who are unable to get their driver’s licenses due to medical issues as well. For our customers with traumatic brain injuries, cardiac problems, seizure disorders, and many other disabilities, having an e-bike or e-scooter has literally changed their lives,” said Kerr.
Several concerns were raised about permitting e-scooters. Here’s how they’ve been addressed:
Concerns related to sidewalk riding were raised. E-scooter use on sidewalks will be prohibited.
People felt e-scooter speeds were too fast for paths, or too slow to drive on the road.
E-scooters will be allowed on multi-use paths and trails with similar operating speeds as e-bikes and bicycles. The average bike speed in an urban environment is between 19 and 26 kilometers per hour. E-scooters will be limited to a maximum speed of 20 km/h when operating on multi-use paths and trials, and 15 km/h in parks, and high-pedestrian areas.
On the road right-of-way, e-scooters can travel at speeds of 20 km/h or less and only use roads with a maximum speed of 50 km/h or less.
People worried about rental e-scooters would be parked inappropriately, blocking sidewalks (a major concern for residents with mobility or visual impairments), and obstructing garbage bins, doorways, areas designated for buses, taxis or loading.
If council approves a scooter sharing company to operate in Oshawa, staff will make sure the agreement has fines for failure to address parking concerns quickly.
Concerns about the safety of the e-scooter driver and pedestrians.
E-scooters won’t be able to ride on sidewalks and must drive at reduced speeds on trails and in parks. Helmet use will be strongly recommended but won’t be mandatory for drivers over the age of 18 years due to the difficulty enforcing it.
“I really have a problem with the overall enforcement of this,” said Coun. Jane Hurst.
Moving violations, such as operating on a sidewalk, are expected to be enforced by Durham Regional Police Services.
Non-moving violations, eg blocking a sidewalk with a parked e-scooter, are expected to be enforced by Oshawa’s Municipal Law Enforcement.
Enforcement of e-scooter use on trails and in parks will be enforced by municipal law enforcement and escalated to police, if necessary.
Riders can use their personal e-scooters on roads and paths in Oshawa now, provided they follow the rules.
Several companies have approached the city interested in providing shared micromobility services in Oshawa. Given the time it will take to hold a competitive procurement process, and to have the new council assemble after the October municipal election, a staff report on the preferred company is expected in January 2023.
The Oshawa e-scooter pilot is expected to run until the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s e-scooter pilot program ends on Dec. 31, 2024. The results of the province’s e-scooter pilot and Oshawa’s pilot will determine whether e-scooters will still be allowed on the city roads and paths after that.
“You can’t learn anything if you don’t try it,” said Regional Coun. Rick Kerr.
Story behind the story: Oshawa’s new e-scooter pilot program took months of public consultation, several bylaw amendments, and was debated right up until the council vote.