Over the past 12 months, micromobility, in particular e-scooter and e-bike share services, have gained significant traction as sustainable and convenient modes of transportation. Previously, Canada has been more conservative in it’s approach to adopting these new mobility options but over the last two years we have seen a lot of Provincial legislative change that has allowed municipalities to begin actively embracing new micromobility solutions, with a preference for e-bikes in particular.
In this article, we discuss the latest micromobility news in Canada (since the beginning of 2022 until now) including:
- New pilot programs
- The rise of shared e-bikes
- Major micromobility regulatory changes.
Micromobility in Canada 2023 Update: E-scooter & E-bike Share
Ontario's E-Scooter Pilot Program
One of the most notable updates in Ontario was the launch of an e-scooter pilot program in select municipalities in May 2022. Several regions including Ottawa, and Hamilton, implemented pilot programs to assess the feasibility of e-scooters as an alternative transportation mode.
According to data collected during the pilot program:
- Over 1,000 e-scooters were deployed across participating cities.
- Approximately 100,000 rides were taken during the pilot period.
- The average trip distance was around 1.5 kilometers.
In early 2023, the province of Ontario amended its Motor Vehicle Act, enabling municipalities to create bylaws allowing the use of e-scooters on public roads, bike lanes, and paths. This change has opened doors for pilot programs and increased adoption of e-scooters as a viable transportation option.
This change in legislation has allowed Bird Canada to become the exclusive operator of shared e-scooters in the City of Hamilton beginning April 3rd, 2023, and renew it’s contract in Ottawa alongside Neuron Mobility with 450 scooters being rolled out. Bird will also operate shared e-scooter fleets in both Brampton and Oshawa in the coming weeks as well.
Quebec's Shared E-Bike Program
In Quebec, a new pilot program focusing on shared electric bicycles was introduced in early 2022. Under this program, companies like BIXI and JUMP launched their e-bike sharing services in Montreal and Quebec City. The initiative aimed to encourage residents and tourists to opt for sustainable transportation options, particularly for short trips within urban areas.
Statistics from the pilot program include:
- Over 1,500 shared e-bikes were made available in Montreal and Quebec City.
- Users collectively took more than 50,000 trips during the pilot period.
- The average trip duration was approximately 25 minutes.
More recently, Quebec has implemented regulations to classify electric bikes (e-bikes) into three categories based on their power-assist capabilities. These regulations aim to provide clarity and guidelines for the use of e-bikes on public roads and bike paths.
British Columbia's Regulations for E-Scooters
In British Columbia, there were significant legislative changes regarding e-scooters last year. In early 2022, the province amended its Motor Vehicle Act to allow municipalities to create bylaws permitting the use of e-scooters on public roads, bike lanes, and paths. This change opened the door for pilot programs and increased adoption of e-scooters as a viable transportation option.
Following the regulatory changes:
- Richmond, North Vancouver and Victoria saw the launch of e-scooter pilot programs. Lime and Spin were among the companies that deployed e-scooters within these regions. The average distance covered per e-scooter trip has been reported at approximately 2.5 kilometers.
- Despite previous e-scooter challenges faced by the city of Kelowna, last year South Okanagan saw shared e-scooters hit the streets in Oliver courtesy of Sparrow Scooters. Osoyoos will follow suit later this Summer.
- The city of Coquitlam also issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to explore the implementation of a shared e-bike and e-scooter pilot program. At the beginning of the week it was announced that Lime Technology and Neuron Mobility were awarded the contracts. Both companies will separately operate a combined total of 580 devices, including 130 e-bikes and 450 e-scooters.
E-bikes have also grown in popularity over the last 18 months in British Columbia. An example is Whistler’s E-Bike Program in Partnership with BCAA. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is partnering with the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), operators of the Evo car share program, to introduce e-bikes in Whistler this Summer. This initiative aims to enhance sustainable transportation options in the resort town and encourage visitors to explore Whistler using eco-friendly means.
Last year, Mobi by Shaw Go, a prominent bike-sharing service, also made a significant stride by deploying their electric bike fleet. Since the deployment, Mobi’s electric bike fleet has been well-received by riders, offering an enhanced biking experience with the added benefit of electric-assist technology. The electric bikes have garnered positive feedback for their ease of use, comfortable riding experience, and ability to navigate various terrains with ease.
movmi analysed some of the open data collected from mobi’s e-bike trips and compared it to mechanical bike trip journeys and the results were very interesting. Take a look at the report here.
Alberta's Electric Kick Scooter Pilot Project
Alberta also made strides in the micromobility landscape with the launch of an electric kick scooter pilot project. Initiated in early 2022, the project permitted selected municipalities to conduct trials with electric kick scooters. Calgary and Edmonton became the pioneers in implementing this project, partnering with companies like Lime and Bird.
Data from the electric kick scooter pilot project revealed:
- Over 500 electric kick scooters were available for use in Calgary and Edmonton.
- During the pilot period, more than 25,000 trips were taken using electric kick scooters.
- The average trip duration was around 15 minutes.
Manitoba's Bike Share Expansion
In Manitoba, the bike share program witnessed a significant expansion in 2022. The city of Winnipeg, in collaboration with various stakeholders, introduced additional bike-sharing stations and expanded the network across the city. This expansion aimed to provide residents with more accessible and sustainable transportation options, thereby reducing traffic congestion and promoting active lifestyles.
Key statistics from the bike share expansion in Manitoba include:
- The number of bike-sharing stations in Winnipeg increased to over 100.
- Ridership increased by approximately 50% compared to the previous year.
- The average bike trip duration was around 20 minutes.
Yet despite all this activity, Raktim Mitra, associate professor at Ryerson University’s school of urban and regional planning, says it’s still too early to know if the e-scooter market trend is here to stay.
“It’s hard to say what’s happening in Canada because, in most places where e-scooters exist in the Canadian context, they’re still in their pilot phases.”
Saskatchewan E-Scooter Pilots
Saskatoon’s newest mode of transportation hit the downtown area during the May long weekend last month. The city rolled out 500 e-scooters courtesy of Neuron Mobility and Bird Canada who were the vendors chosen to assist in the two-year pilot program, supplying scooters for downtown, Riversdale, and the Broadway District.
Regina city staff are also on the hunt for potential vendors willing to roll out a fleet of electric scooters in the city. The city plans to establish a shared e-scooter program by July this year.
Canadian Cities That Experienced Micromobility Challenges
It hasn’t all been success stories for micromobility operators and Canadian cities in 2022 and 2023 so far. A few services ended prematurely or where cancelled by their local municipalities. Some towns and cities that struggled with their micromobility pilots over the last 18 months include:
- Oshawa launched an e-scooter pilot program in 2022 but later decided to end it prematurely.
- One of the reasons for the termination was concerns regarding rider safety and improper usage of e-scooters on sidewalks, resulting in potential conflicts with pedestrians.
- Additionally, issues related to parking and e-scooter clutter were cited as challenges that contributed to the program’s failure.
Kelowna, British Columbia:
- Kelowna implemented an e-scooter pilot program, but it was halted due to safety concerns and issues with compliance.
- Some residents and officials raised concerns about riders not adhering to traffic rules and regulations, leading to potential accidents and conflicts with pedestrians and motorists.
- The city decided to suspend the pilot program to reassess safety measures and explore potential solutions before considering its relaunch.
It’s important to note that the failure of an e-scooter pilot program in one city does not necessarily indicate that similar programs cannot succeed elsewhere. Each town and city has its unique characteristics – one size (operation) does not fit all. The success or failure of a program depends on various factors that include; infrastructure, community engagement, education, enforcement, and addressing specific challenges as they arise.
Recent micromobility updates in Canada demonstrate a growing commitment towards sustainable transportation options. New pilot programs, such as the e-scooter initiatives and e-bike programs listed above aim to provide residents and visitors with convenient and eco-friendly mobility solutions. Legislative changes, such as Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Act amendments and Quebec’s e-bike regulations, are facilitating the integration of micromobility into existing transportation frameworks.
Numerous provinces have witnessed a surge in bike share expansion initiatives that incorporate electric bikes (e-bikes). The speed at which these e-bike share systems have been implemented by cities demonstrates a clear preference for them over e-scooter services, many of which are still in pilot stages. Considering the successful presence of mechanical bike share systems in numerous cities, this inclination is more than likely due to the cities’ familiarity and comfort with such systems.
This preference for e-bikes paves the way for prominent e-scooter companies to enter the market. By introducing e-bikes first, these companies can subsequently launch their e-scooter services more easily. This in turn compels local bike share operators to expand their services, leading to an extension of the operating season and an increase in ridership.
As Canada continues to embrace micromobility, these updates pave the way for greener, more accessible, and efficient urban transportation networks throughout the country.