If you’ve left the house since Friday, you may have noticed a new trend in transportation sweeping the city. Two American-based companies, Bird and Lime, put out e-scooters over the weekend and the uptake was quick. By Monday, Edmontonians were comfortably zipping around the city, casually breaking every safety guideline in the book.
Bird had scooters on the street on Friday, but CEO Stewart Lyons says at that point they were only doing testing—Monday was the official launch and the fleet totals 400 scooters. Based on the weekend’s tests, Lyons says there’s been a good response so far.
“People really like the scooters and want to use them—so, so far, so good,” he says.
Lime, on the other hand, launched Saturday with 200 scooters, but Nate Currey, the senior operations manager for Western Canada, says the company’s permitted fleet size is 1,500 and it will eventually build to that.
Both Bird and Lime essentially work like a ride-share. You download their app, find the nearest scooter and use your phone to unlock it. You’re charged a base fee to unlock the scooter ($1.15 for Bird and $1 for Lime) and then you’re charged by the minute ($0.35 per minute for Bird and $0.30 per minute for Lime).
Both apps will also run down the rules with you:
Wear a helmet;
Only one rider to a scooter;
Don’t ride on the sidewalk; ride in bike lanes or close to the right curb (like you would a bike);
Park the scooter in such a way that it doesn’t block the public right of way.
There are additional rules, including a minimum age. For Lime it’s 18; for Bird it’s 16, but Lyons points out that anyone under 16 is legally required to wear a helmet, as per provincial law. Of course, even adults are encouraged to wear one.
But despite the fact that these rules are clearly laid out, it has not been hard to catch sight of people breaking them. Most people have been riding sans helmet and on the sidewalks, there have been multiple sightings of couples on scooters, and Currey says it’s not uncommon to find adults unlocking the scooters and then letting their kids have a go.
But both Currey and Lyons say there’s only so much they can do to get people to comply with the rules.
“We can’t control behaviour,” says Currey, “and that’s one of the hardest things that … the media tends to not pick up that nuance, for some reason—that we as operators still get blamed for poor behaviour, unfortunately, and I think that just comes with the territory of it being novel.”
“There’s only so much we can do,” Lyons adds. “We have some ability, the city also has to do their part. For things like no helmets, or if they’re too young or if they’re two people on a scooter, we have a way to report it on the app and we have a way to reinforce behaviour on the app, but if you’re riding a scooter while inebriated or doing certain things like that, that’s really up to the city.”
Currey, whose background is in urban planning, points out that cities with better infrastructure for bicycles tend to have better uptake, since there are more safe places for scooter users to ride. The infrastructure factor also applies to parking the scooters.
“If there’s not good infrastructure or if there’s not a lot of places to actually park it, then people do leave it out in the way, and it can be a real issue. Especially for those with mobility challenges that are trying to get through,” he says.
To educate users on how to ride and park, Lime holds First Ride events. Bird also has events—stops on the s.h.a.r.e. Safe Streets Tour—and Lyons says there will be one in Edmonton in the next couple of weeks. Free helmets are handed out at both events, and Bird also offers free helmets through its app, users just need to pay shipping.