Micromobility Update 2022: Shared E-scooters in Canada

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Despite being less that 10 years old, the e-scooter sharing market continues to grow at a staggering rate each year. We saw first hand how other transportation systems failed us during the height of the Pandemic, the exception being micromobility. In 2020, e-bike and traditional bicycle sales soared and many e-scooter operators logged more rides than they did pre-pandemic.

The trend continues and this year the e-scooter sharing market is projected to reach US $1,752m with an annual growth rate of 13.1% between 2022 and 2026.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for e-scooter companies. In the early days of scooter sharing in North America, the excitement around the new mode of transport was tempered with concerns regarding several challenges, ranging from irresponsible parking that cluttered sidewalks, unreliable and unsafe scooters, and ambiguous regulations on where and how one can ride a scooter. However, scooter sharing has come a long way since. Operators have pivoted from the earlier ‘wild west’ attitude and are now taking a more collaborative approach, working with communities and addressing operational challenges through new technologies, especially around scooter safety. New hardware and software features are being developed and introduced, such as geofencing, more durable scooters with a more comfortable design, and innovative hardware add-ons to improve rider safety and accessibility.

In our opinion, demo days are the only way to truly understand each provider, assess technologies mentioned in RFPs and mitigate potential future challenges. In our latest whitepaper, we take a look at:

  • How operators ensure rider and non-rider safety: Taking a close look at geofencing capabilities and overall design of e-scooters.
  • How e-Scooter technology helps shape rider behaviour and thereby a safer ecosystem: Here we explore each e-scooter companies: sidewalk detection, parking management strategies as well as incentive programs for their users.
  • What additional features increase rider convenience and safety: For example, helmets, acceleration control etc.

To learn about Canadian micromobility companies Bird Canada, Link, Neuron and Roll and their electric scooters, download out our new whitepaper below. 👇 Keep reading to find out the benefits of shared electric scooters in our cities, the challenges both users and operators face and which Canadian cities will be next to launch an electric scooter fleet on their streets!

The Benefits of Shared Electric Scooters in our Cities

1. MICROMOBILITY IS AN ATTRACTIVE ALTERNATIVE TO THE PRIVATE CAR

Shared micromobility services can potentially lead to positive impacts on transportation and the environment, such as reducing car use, car ownership, and greenhouse gas emissions. If you take Paris as an example, cars on the streets of the city remain parked 95% of the time. That’s why Paris has decided to  remove 50% of parking spots. Cars are no longer the priority. In 2024, you won’t be able to drive a diesel car in Paris. In 2030, gas-powered cars will be banned. That is why some major roads in the city are now primarily focused on ‘soft mobility’.

Another example of where micromobility is being embraced is the city of Bremen in Germany. Due to their city-wide mobility hubs and alternative shared transportation solutions, there has been a decrease in personal vehicles and consequently, on parking demand, the city has saved €60-95M ($86-136M CAD) on parkade investments alone. For residents, the main motive for using mobility stations is cost, reliability and convenience. Foregoing a personal vehicle means saving on time, effort and money placed on maintenance, making carsharing, micromobility and public transit more economically viable. 

2. INSIGHTS TO MOBILITY PATTERNS FROM OPERATOR PROVIDED DATA

When introducing shared electric scooters into a city, a first step taken by local governments is to mandate that micromobility operators report usage and trip location data. The city-led Open Mobility Foundation (OMF) created the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) standard for exchanging data between mobility operators and cities, which has already been adopted by more than 80 cities and public agencies globally. 

These analytics help cities to track travel patterns and behaviours, improve their spatial intelligence, optimise curb management and allow the city to enforce permit conditions. Hamburg, Germany ran a pilot program with Wunder Mobility, based on usage data provided by the city’s four active e-scooter providers. The result was a data dashboard that generated insights into the location, number and duration of scooter rides in the city. It is already helping the authorities to manage overall fleet numbers and distribution, to identify service gaps, and to manage scooter parking more effectively.

3. POST-PANDEMIC HEALTH & SAFETY

Shared e-scooters hold the promise of being able to fill gaps in public transport routes, providing a practical and popular answer to the first-and-last-mile problem. This is particularly important in a post-pandemic landscape, for commuters who rely heavily on public transportation getting from point A to point B. Not only can shared e-scooters bridge the first and last mile gap, but they also allow riders to avoid the bigger and busier transit hubs. By simply hopping on a scooter, riders can easily make their way to the next public transit hub and avoid the more densely populated stations.

E-scooters in Canadian Cities

CHALLENGES AND ISSUES

In cities around the world, problems with careless parking, vandalism, the risk to pedestrians from inexperienced (at times notorious) riders and questions over scooters’ real lifetime environmental impact have spurred much debate. This has led to Canada becoming a slower adopter of the micromobility trend.

It’s clear that micromobility operators need to work in conjunction with cities to create successful systems and that restrictions need to be in place so that all city residents can feel safe. However, early lessons learned in cities are that inflexible rules-based regulation, and in some cases outright bans — can be counterproductive, restricting the spread of services and denying users access to the benefits available.

An example of this is Toronto. The city council decided to unanimously to opt out of the province’s electric scooter pilot program, maintaining the ban on this method of transportation on public streets. The decision was made despite poll results showing strong support from local residents for a 2021 pilot – 70% of Torontonians support or somewhat support a shared e-scooter pilot in the city, with only 19% in opposition. Will banning e-scooters and refusing to take part in any shared pilot programs really be beneficial to the residents of the city? Or is it a step back in the pursuit of a more sustainable and integrated transportation ecosystem?

THEFT AND VANDALISM

Other issues facing the successful launch of e-scooter sharing in Canadian cities are theft and vadalism of vehicles. In 2021, Bird Canada deployed around 200 e-scooters in the southwestern Ontario city, Windsor, for the first time under a pilot project. At the beginning of May, the service was temporarily suspended due to 10% of those scooters going missing. However, despite this initial theft, General manager Alexandra Petre said, “We received a lot of positive comments, we had lots of lots of rides and many excited people saying it felt like a new city.”

The devices have GPS on board, giving the company a bird’s-eye view of their locations and allowing someone to retrieve them easily.

Screenshot 2022 05 10 at 1.29.17 PM
Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-blazing-a-trail-e-scooters-get-burned-in-rash-of-vandalism-in/

PUBLIC SAFETY CONCERNS

Another city that has introduced e-scooter sharing to its streets, is Kelowna. After a rocky first year of e-scooters on city streets, Kelowna has launched its new micro-mobility permit program with an eye towards overall safety.

According to the City of Kelowna, roughly 50 serious injuries caused by e-bikes and e-scooters were reported last summer, so finding the right companies to join forces with the city was vital, and that included the new rule of these vehicles providing helmets for their riders.

The City of Kelowna held a competitive permit application process over the winter where they received several applications which were scored on the company’s commitment to sustainability, to equity, as well as the technology and features offered. That includes Lime’s new built in training program for first-time users.

E-scooter safety concerns are a major obstacle to clear for Canadian cities. Hamilton city councillors are holding off on making a decision about allowing e-scooter rental companies in the city to seek more input from groups, including those advocating for people with disabilities. City staff recommended allowing a maximum of three companies to run in Hamilton. Each one would offer between 250 to 500 e-scooters in the existing bike share service area, meaning a possible 1,500 devices hitting municipal streets. But after delegates flagged safety concerns, the city’s public works committee unanimously decided that staff should do more consulting with the community. 

Which Canadian Cities Will Be The Next To Launch Shared E-Scooters?

Just last week Bird e-scooters took flight in Leduc (AB), while Edmonton is still working to finalize which fleets will be approved to hit the streets later this month. The company also recently announced that its shared e-scooters are being deployed in two other cities in Alberta, St. Albert and Medicine Hat. While this is the second consecutive season that e-scooters will be available in St. Albert, it is the first time that Leduc and Medicine Hat will be adopting shared micromobility as a quick, low-cost, fun, and environmentally friendly way for residents and visitors to get to local restaurants, retail locations, schools, and more.

Ottawa approved the third year of its popular e-scooter pilot and mandated geofencing on scooters, which would halt them if driven on sidewalks. A step in the right direction indeed.

Last week Lime launched for the first time in Richmond, B.C. For now, the e-scooters are only available in a limited area around Richmond city centre, along with some electric bicycles. At the beginning of year, North Vancouver City council gave the green light to legalize a e-scooters on streets and enrolled into the provincial pilot program. It is intended to be eventually expanded to North Vancouver District and West Vancouver, which are amongst the participating municipalities, to cover the entirety of the North Shore. It is part of the provincial government’s broader pilot project of allowing e-scooters on roadways in select participating municipal jurisdictions across BC. E-scooters are otherwise banned from roadways, under BC’s Motor Vehicle ACT.

Airdrie could soon follow in the footsteps of Calgary, Red Deer, Cochrane, and other Alberta municipalities in offering e-scooters as a form of hyper-local transportation. During a regular meeting on April 19, Airdrie City council approved a framework to govern the roll-out of new modes of transportation or “micro-mobility” including e-scooters and e-bikes via a two-year pilot program to be launched later this year.

Neuron Mobility has announced the launch of a six-month global trial across four cities in three countries (the UK, Australia and Canada) to put its revolutionary new ‘e-scooter brain’ to the test. Fitted to the company’s N3 e-scooters, the new ‘e-scooter brain’ is the label for three new cutting-edge technologies developed by Neuron that, when combined, make its e-scooter the most sophisticated ever produced. The technology will give the company, and the cities managing shared e-scooter programs, unprecedented control of how the vehicles are ridden and parked.

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Source: Evaluating Shared Micromobility Whitepaper, 2022

In our latest whitepaper, movmi provides a brief evaluation of the technological capabilities of the scooters offered to the public by leading scooter-sharing companies. Four shared micromobility operators participated in demo day trials that were conducted by movmi: these were Bird CanadaLink, Neuron and Roll.

e-scooter

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