By MICHELLE McCANN
As an e-scooter program is considered by Toronto City Council, a key question remains to be answered: How would the city effectively regulate the program so public spaces such at the Boardwalk and bike paths in the Beach remain safe for everyone to use?
Other jurisdictions that have introduced e-scooters have had issues with scooter-related accidents and injuries; scooters haphazardly strewn across sidewalks; and scooters being ridden illegally on sidewalks and boardwalks – posing risks to the elderly and people with disabilities.
Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford said the city is taking these safety concerns seriously, and that is why e-scooters have not been rolled out.
“I hear and share concerns about the Boardwalk especially. It’s a busy, shared space and the heart and soul of the community,” said Bradford. “We wait all winter to enjoy the space and with the pandemic, these spaces for outdoor enjoyment have become even more critical.”
Bradford stressed that for the program to be approved, it would have to be “additive and positive” to the community.
“If the city decides to allow e-scooters, there should also be requirements for the companies to manage their fleet responsibly,” he said.
Another concern is what kind of impact the quiet e-scooters, that can reach speeds up to 24 kilometres per hour, could have on Toronto’s cycle paths.
“The cycle paths could be a more practical location for e-scooters, but we need to have sensible, and practical regulations that put people’s safety as the top priority,” said Bradford.
Discussed by council last July, the e-scooter pilot proposal was sent back to staff for further study regarding safety and accessibility concerns.
City staff met with e-scooter companies earlier this winter to discuss solutions and presented their findings to the Feb. 25 meeting of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee.
The solutions proposed by e-scooter companies to combat sidewalk riding include putting e-scooter parking on the street, licence plates, and suspensions for repeat offenders. Solutions for improper e-scooter parking include docking stations, enforcement teams, and education campaigns.
Disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, who attended the committee meeting, said that even with a strong financial incentive to fix these issues, the solutions proposed by the e-scooter companies rest too much on investments from the city.
“Corporate lobbyists have no solutions that will work. They come up with some solutions, but they would cost the taxpayer a whole lot,” said Lepofsky. “We’re supposed to foot the bill, while they make the money, and we end up in the hospital.”
The Accessibility Advisory Committee voted unanimously to reject the e-scooter program and recommended council develop an education campaign to ensure the already existing ban on e-scooters is understood by the public.
Andrew Miller, head of strategy at local e-scooter company, Scooty, said that a lot of the bad behaviour seen in other jurisdictions is due to the absence of a phased approach and a lack of collaborative partnerships between cities and e-scooter companies.
“This is not an area for cowboy behaviour,” Miller said. “This is not an area for, as we’ve seen in the United States, for companies to just begin dumping scooters in every street corner and letting people figure it out for themselves.”
Miller said that e-scooters can bring a lot of benefits to a city by giving residents a lower-cost and convenient transit option for short trips, and by providing a more environmentally friendly mode of transit.
City staff will be reporting back to the Infrastructure & Environment Committee with the decision and feedback from the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting for review in the upcoming months.