By Tim Kalinowski on May 8, 2021.
Micro-mobility was a major topic of discussion at this week’s Civic Works Standing Policy Committee meeting of city council – namely, the viability of bringing rentable e-scooters to downtown Lethbridge as a pilot project this summer.
The e-scooters, provided by a private business entity, would be readily accessible for anyone who wanted to use an app to rent a scooter, unlock the controls using a smart phone, and then go for a ride around town. And when finished with the electrically charged vehicle, users can just leave it on a nearby corner for the next person to come along to pay, unlock and take for a ride.
The e-scooter program has proved popular in both Edmonton and Calgary, committee members were told, but those cities’ experiences also provide opportunities for learning before the program starts up in Lethbridge, said City of Lethbridge transportation engineer Adam St. Amant during Thursday’s meeting.
Three challenges identified by St. Amant were vandalism and theft of the vehicles in the early stages after initial rollout, improper parking by users, including sidewalk clutter, and potential low impact collisions between the e-scooters and pedestrians and other vehicles if improperly driven.
However, on the upside the vehicles have proven popular with users in other cities where they have been tried, and it was estimated that each scooter generates an additional $921 every six months for local businesses. The pilot project could test up to 200 of the vehicles in Lethbridge, committee members were told.
The e-scooter industry was championed by Bird Canada representative, Chris Schafer, and Lime representative, Jonathan Hopkins, at Thursday’s meeting. Both companies would be competing for the Lethbridge pilot contract if approved by city council.
Both representatives said their companies would be fully insured to whatever standard is laid out by the City of Lethbridge, and the City would have a great deal of input into the parameters of the pilot project through its Request For Proposals process. The companies would provide all the scooters at no charge, and would be responsible for all maintenance and liabilities associated with the vehicles themselves.
The e-scooters also come equipped with geo-fencing technology so the City of Lethbridge could set hard boundaries on where the vehicles would be permitted and where they would not, committee members were told. If a user crossed out of the bounds geo-fenced off by the vehicle’s GPS unit, the scooter would automatically shut down.
The Civic Works Standing Policy Committee unanimously endorsed the e-scooter proposal in principle, and sent it on for submission to the next full city council meeting. The pilot project would likely commence in July if approved by city council.
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