Torontonians with Disabilities Need Mayor Tory’s Leadership to Prevent the Dangers to Their Safety and Accessibility that E-Scooters Pose
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
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February 6, 2020
The AODA Alliance has written Toronto Mayor John Tory. We asked him to use his leadership to help us ensure that Toronto does not lift the ban in place on electric scooters (e-scooters). Our letter details the dangers that e-scooters pose, and the serious problems with the option for permitting them that Toronto City Staff have said they prefer. We set out our letter below.
Meanwhile, 371 days have now gone by since the Ford Government received the final report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to come up with an effective plan to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.
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Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2020 Letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
February 6, 2020
To: Mayor John Tory
Via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of the Mayor
City Hall, 2nd Floor
100 Queen St. W.
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Dear Mayor Tory,
Re: Protecting Torontonians with Disabilities and Others from the Dangers of Electric Scooters
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on the phone on December 9, 2019 about the serious dangers that electric scooters (e-scooters) pose for Torontonians with disabilities and others. I am writing as a follow-up to that call, and to address new developments since then. We seek your help and leadership.
1. New Open Letter to All Ontario Mayors and City Councilors from 11 Major Disability Organizations
On January 22, 2020, 11 major disability organizations including the AODA Alliance made public an open letter to all the mayors and city councilors of Ontario municipalities. Its message is clear, simple and compelling: Do not lift the ban on e-scooters.
This is easy for you to accomplish. You needn’t do anything. Right now, e-scooters are banned in Ontario, unless a municipality takes active steps to allow them, by passing a bylaw permitting them. If Toronto passes no bylaw, the ban on e-scooters remains in place. People with disabilities remain protected from the dangers that e-scooters pose.
To pass a bylaw that lifts the ban on e-scooters will endanger the physical safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and others, as our open letter explains. Please read our open letter. Please help us ensure that your City Council colleagues and senior City staff read our open letter.
2. The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee Unanimously Passed a Strong Motion Calling on the City of Toronto Not to Allow E-scooters
Reinforcing our open letter, on February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, chaired by Councilor Wong-Tam and appointed by the City unanimously passed a very important motion. The motion calls on the City of Toronto to leave in place the ban on e-scooters in public places.
That motion combines with our open letter to shift a very heavy onus to anyone who wants to permit e-scooters in public places in Toronto. For the City to permit them would be to reject the serious documented concerns that have been presented to the City by people with disabilities. These are among our community’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.
We are grateful that you have publicly recognized some problems that e-scooters would create. As you know, the AODA requires Toronto, like all of Ontario, to become barrier-free for people with disabilities by 2025. We are behind schedule for reaching that goal. To create new disability barriers will set things back further.
3. Despite These Concerns, City Staff Prefer to Allow E-scooters in Toronto on Terms that Won’t Solve these Problems
At the February 3, 2020 Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting, City staff said that they are preparing a report on e-scooters for City Council. That staff report will have an important impact. You have publicly said that you are awaiting their report as you decide what Toronto should do.
According to the February 4, 2020 Toronto Star, City staff told the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee at its February 3, 2020 meeting that it has a preferred option. We understand that staff would not go public with this unless that “preferred option” has made its way through key levels of review within the City’s public service.
We are exceedingly concerned about the City staff’s preferred option. Instead of keeping the current ban on e-scooters, City staff prefer an option where e-scooters would be unleashed on Torontonians. They would be managed by the Toronto Parking Authority. The Toronto Star article stated:
“Senior project manager Janet Lo gave a preview Monday to members of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. Those members later called the devices an unacceptable threat to the safety of disabled Torontonians.
Lo said work on the report continues. But staff’s “preferred” model would see riders pick up and leave e-scooters only in designated spots potentially Bike Share Toronto stations, or on-street vehicle parking spots converted to scooter use by Toronto Parking Authority (TPA).
“What we are suggesting is the designated-parking model … The high density of bike share stations they are planning for 625 makes it easy for people to be able to walk to them and access these shared micromobility options,” Lo said. “This addresses the sidewalk clutter and obstructions issue.””
We first learned about this from the Toronto Star article. Senior City staff had not before then reached out to discuss it with us. We are well-known for our advocacy efforts on this issue. City staff should not have chosen a preferred option before speaking to the broader disability community, including us about that option and ensuring that their option resolves our concerns. The unanimous February 3, 2020 Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee motion emphasized the need for proper consultation by the City with the disability community on the e-scooters issue.
The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee’s recommendation is especially timely. Last fall, the Ford Government gave our concerns short shrift. The provincial e-scooters regulation looks like it was written by the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies who are pressing for e-scooters in Ontario.
The City staff’s preferred option is seriously flawed. It should not be preferred by anyone.
The City staff’s preferred option does not eliminate or even reduce the danger to our physical safety posed by unlicensed, uninsured, untrained e-scooter drivers rocketing towards us at 24 KPH on roads or sidewalks on a silent e-scooter. People will get injured or worse. The most vulnerable will be people with disabilities and seniors. They should be able to walk in public in Toronto without our city government exposing them to this new danger.
Beyond the pain and suffering that e-scooters will inflict, they will force new costs, including costs to the City Government, and therefore, to the taxpayer. This includes:
* Increased policing costs, ambulance costs, and other emergency first responder costs.
* The City staff’s preferred option would have the City erect new racks for parking e-scooters in selected parking spots, forcing more costs on the City.
* If the Toronto Parking Authority is to operate an e-scooter rental program on behalf of the City, there will be additional City staffing and other costs for its planning, administration and monitoring.
* If the City operates this program, or contracts with a private e-scooter rental company, the City risks being on the hook for added costs for personal injury and property damage claims arising out of the use of the e-scooters that the City would either own or manage.
We respectfully suggest that there are better ways for the City to use public money.
Beyond these costs, the staff’s preferred option would lead to a reduction in the number of available public parking spots in Toronto. Some would be converted into sites for e-scooter racks. Too often, it is already hard to find street parking in Toronto. For people with disabilities among others, this threatens a further accessibility problem that our Open Letter had not anticipated.
As but one example, the Ontario Government is building a massive new courthouse in the middle of downtown Toronto. We have been active for over two years, raising a series of accessibility problems with that courthouse design. Among other things, that new courthouse will have no public parking, including no accessible public parking for court participants with disabilities who will be coming to court. They have to find street parking. The Ontario Government told us that they are turning to the City of Toronto to make available more accessible public parking. If e-scooter racks eat up more downtown parking spots, that will make things worse, not better, for solving that disability parking problem.
4. Wrong for Others to Be Forced to in Effect Subsidize E-Scooter Rental Companies Who Get the Profits
The taxpayer will be on the hook for all these additional costs, not to mention the added provincial health care costs from the personal injuries that e-scooters will cause. The e-scooter companies will walk away with the profits.
5. City Staff’s Preferred Option Does Not Eliminate the Risk of Some E-Scooters Being Left on Public Sidewalks, Creating Accessibility Barriers and Tripping Hazards
While it is an improvement over some other options, the City staff’s preferred option does not prevent e-scooters from being abandoned in the middle of the sidewalks. These will pose an unpredictable and unforeseeable accessibility barrier and tripping hazard. Beyond this impact on people with disabilities, it will also create barriers for others, such as parents pushing a shopping cart or baby stroller on a sidewalk.
The only way to prevent this, and to prevent e-scooters from being ridden on sidewalks, short of the more appropriate solution of banning them outright, is to flood the city with an armada of police officers on every block. Our overburdened police have too much on their hands as it is. This involves even more costs for the taxpayer.
6. Ontarians with Disabilities Need Your Leadership
Other cities are no doubt looking to Toronto for its leadership on this issue. They will be watching to see if Toronto lifts the e-scooter ban. We therefore need your leadership more than ever to prevent the dangers to people with disabilities and others that e-scooters pose.
The Ford Government has burdened Ontarians with disabilities with the undue hardship of having to advocate on this issue in one municipality after another, right across Ontario. In contrast, the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies have had the ear of Premier Ford. We anticipate that they are hard at work, lobbying members of Toronto City Council and senior staff behind closed doors.
Mayor Tory, Ontarians with disabilities are deeply indebted to you for your leadership on the issue of accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities when you were at Queen’s Park. In 2003-2005, you led the Ontario Progressive Conservative party to support the enactment in 2005 of the AODA, and to press for amendments to strengthen it when it was being debated before the Legislature. We reap the benefits of your support and dedication on this issue to this day. The fact that that legislation passed unanimously has been vital to our cause. It set a trend that has been followed in two other provinces, and federally.
Fifteen years later, we turn to you once again to show that spirited and decisive leadership. Don’t lift the ban on e-scooters in Toronto. Toronto will progress very well without exposing people with disabilities and others to the dangers that e-scooters cause. There are far better ways to address the traffic and other concerns that the e-scooter corporate lobbyists advance in their effort to make money renting e-scooters here.
There are more important issues for City staff to address. There are greater priorities for you and other members of City Council. There are greater unmet needs to which public funds should be directed.
At the very least, please direct City staff to go back to the drawing board. Please direct the City’s top officials to meet with us, before this goes any further. Direct them to review with us and the broader disability community any and all options that they might recommend. There is no reason to rush. If despite all of this, City Council were to decide to disregard the unanimous and wise call from Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, we ask that the City adopt all the restrictions on e-scooters that are set out in our open letter.
We would welcome a chance to discuss this with you further. We would be pleased to provide any help that we can.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance