Thursday, May 23, 2024

Electric scooters back in Ottawa, longer hours offered

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Electric scooters are once again rolling down the streets of Ottawa ahead of another summer, providing residents with a convenient mode of transportation for short trips in the downtown core.


Rebecca Kovacs and her friends are visiting Ottawa from Vancouver, and using e-scooters to explore downtown.


“We’re kind of just cruising around, exploring the town,” said Kovacs.


Duru Gundogdu adds, “I mean, this is kind of like my first time in Ottawa, so doing this is kind of fun, getting to know the city, you know?”


The city kicked off its fourth year of a five-year pilot project last Thursday, marking the return of the popular e-scooters to the capital.


“It’s a really great example of working together with the community to make the program work for, frankly, all members of the community,” said Austin Spademan, Bird Canada’s head of government partnerships.


Operating hours are extended this year.


“It used to cut off at 11 p.m. and now the City of Ottawa has extended the operating hours to 1 a.m., which gives a lot more flexibility to our riders to basically have a reliable mode of transportation any time of the day,” Spademan said.


Orléans South-Navan Coun. Catherine Kitts, vice-chair of the city’s transportation committee, highlighted the safety measures accompanying the extended hours, including a sobriety test requirement for riders using the scooters after 11 p.m.


“And because we’re going later into the evening after 11 p.m., we’re requiring that there’s actually a sobriety test with the technology, just to make sure that it’s safe. You know, if people are using them after they’re out and about, we want to make sure everybody’s safe,” Kitts said.


The sobriety test is a series of skill-testing questions or a test of your reaction time on the app.


The extended hours apply to several neighborhoods, including Downtown, Westboro, Sandy Hill, The Glebe, and Vanier; however, riders in the ByWard Market area will still be cut-off at 11 p.m. The city plans to begin the season with 900 e-scooters and may increase the number to 1,200 if necessary.


“Since launching in Ottawa, people have traveled over half a million kilometres on their own e-scooters, which is quite incredible. That’s had an estimated impact of, inverting 35 tonnes of CO2 emissions since we launched in the city,” said Isaac Ransom, Neuron Mobility Canada’s head of corporate affairs.


The e-scooters not only help people travel more efficiently, they are also helping the local economy.


“When riders are scooting around the city, 73 per cent of these trips are resulting in a purchase, which is pretty fantastic for main street businesses with an average of $32 per person. And so it is having a significant economic impact on the city of Ottawa,” Ransom said.


During the 2023 season, approximately 50,000 users took nearly 180,000 trips around the city, averaging about 1,000 trips per day.


“Every year we kind of take the feedback we’re getting from the community, to bring that back to the companies. And so they’re becoming more and more widely accepted. I think there was a lot of resistance initially, and I think now people are embracing them,” Kitts said.


“The one thing that I would change, rather than doing by the minute, tourists, they might want to just take it for an hour. So do kind of like an hourly rate.” Said Kovacs.


This year’s e-scooter season will run until Nov. 15. 

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