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‘Grave’ Safety Concerns From Accessibility Advocates Could Stop London Rollout of e-Scooters

Daryl Newcombe CTV News London Reporter
May 28, 2021

LONDON, ONT. — A pilot project that would bring e-scooter sharing to London streets got a rough ride from city hall’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC).

“We have very grave concerns about the accessibility issues this would cause,” explains Jay Menard, Chair of AAC.

Menard warns that e-scooters pose a danger to people with mobility or visual impairments because they travel quickly with little noise, and if parked improperly on sidewalks could become a barrier.

“Yes, these things can be enforced, but who is doing that? And at what cost? Who is paying for that?” he asks.

City staff are collecting feedback on a provincial pilot project that would permit electric scooters on London streets.

Adults could use an app to rent a battery-powered scooter for short trips within the central part of London and Western University.

E-scooters can travel up to 24 km/hr, but speeds can be internally limited in different geographic areas using GPS technology.

Participation in the provincial pilot project has been inconsistent.

E-scooters currently cruise many of the streets and paved pathways of Windsor and Ottawa, but Toronto has decided to opt-out, based on accessibility and safety concerns.

Bird Canada, which operates e-scooter sharing in Windsor, Ottawa, and other cities says the concerns raised by the advisory committee are not new, and can be addressed through recent technology advancements.

“Sidewalk riding detection technology lets the e-scooter knows when it is on a sidewalk and can gradually and safely come to a complete stop to discourage riding on sidewalks,” explains Chris Schafer of Bird Canada.

He adds that Bird Canada has a team of people to educate riders and address operational issues in its partnering cities.

Schafer says injuries are few, and there have been no deaths in Canada related to public e-scooter fleets.

He suggests London has the ability to avoid some of the challenges faced in cities that first adopted e-scooters three to five years ago.

“Learn from them, take their best practices, and implement them locally to address the valid concerns, that our friends in the accessibility community have,” he adds.

The Accessibility Advisory Committee is preparing a written response to the pilot project that will express their concerns to city council.

“Unless we get those answers in a satisfactory manner,” he explains. “We are not going to be supportive of this program.”

City staff will continue consulting with stakeholders before bringing a report to council in late summer.

If approved, e-scooters could be on London streets this fall or next spring.

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