Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sobriety tests, longer hours: E-scooters are back, but the rules have changed | CBC News

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E-scooters are back on Ottawa streets for 2024, but with some new rules and regulations.

This year marks the fifth and final year of a pilot project first set up by the province in 2020. The city has selected two scooter providers who’ve operated in previous years — Bird Canada Inc., and Neuron Mobility.

The plan is to have a fleet of 900 e-scooters that can be used in and around an area bordered by St. Laurent Boulevard in the east, Rideau River/Carling Avenue in the south, Churchill Avenue in the west and the Ottawa River in the north. 

The fleet could expand to 1,200 if it’s needed, the city says.

Here are some of the new — and old — rules you need to follow if you want to use one of the e-scooters.

Hours extended

People will be able to ride between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. this year. That’s two hours later than in 2023, and one hour earlier.

The only exception is that after 11 p.m., if scooter users bring their rides to an end in the ByWard Market, they won’t be able to start a new one.

That’s due to the high concentration of bars in the neighbourhood. Riders will still be able to travel through the market after 11 p.m., and stop at lights and crosswalks, but they can’t get on and off.

Isaac Ransom, head of corporate affairs at Neuron Mobility, said he’s happy to see the longer hours but would like to have the scooters available 24/7.

“There’s no other city in Canada that we’re aware of that has limitations on when e-scooters can operate,” Ransom said. 

“We operate across all of our markets in Canada 24/7 without incident, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t operate in Ottawa that way.” 

Not on NCC paths

Riders will also be barred from taking e-scooters along the Rideau Canal Pathway or the Ottawa River Pathway.

The land belongs to the National Capital Commission (NCC), which doesn’t allow e-scooters or any vehicle that can’t be propelled by a person on the pathways.

According to Austin Spademan, head of government relations for Bird Canada, they’ve heard from students at Carleton University who are concerned they might end up on busy Bronson Avenue.

“That’s quite a scary road to ride an electric scooter on,” Spademan said. 

“A lot of students have asked if it’s possible to ride on the NCC trails that go near campus to get around Bronson and get over to Bank Street on multi-use pathways. And the answer is no.” 

Goodbye drinking and scooting 

Starting this year, riders will have to complete a sobriety test on the app before accessing the e-scooters after 11 p.m.

Bird Canada’s test has echoes of an impaired driving test, with users having to identify which lines on a screen are straight and which ones lean to either the right or left.

Neuron Mobility’s test makes users react to prompts within a limited time before they can unlock an e-scooter. 

They’ve been implemented to discourage people from riding while intoxicated. 

E-scooters are not allowed on sidewalks and must stay under 20 km/h. Riders are encouraged to wear helmets to prevent serious injury. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Bird Canada will still be monitoring riders for potential intoxication outside of the restricted hours, Spademan said.

“If you’re weaving and driving frankly like an idiot, our scooter can detect that,” he said. 

“We can determine your riding behaviour and take action appropriately. And what that would look like is a permanent ban if you’re not learning the appropriate riding behaviour.” 

Riders will receive a warning email if the company detects poor riding behaviour, like frequently slamming on the brakes or swerving erratically. They could be suspended or banned if further violations occur.

The City of Ottawa will also issue $150 tickets to users riding on the sidewalk. 

Longer e-scooter season this year 

The 2024 season has also started three weeks earlier than last year. It’s slated to run until Nov. 15, weather permitting

Last year, the city reported that riders made roughly 1,000 e-scooter trips every day. 

Centretown was the most popular origin and destination neighbourhood, with Sandy Hill and the ByWard Market following closely behind. 

The top complaint filed to both companies was e-scooters being parked incorrectly. The e-scooters have been equipped with geofencing technology that warns riders not to drive on sidewalks or dump scooters in unapproved parking areas. 

The e-scooters are available to use for anyone over the age of 16 and riders cannot exceed 20 km/h. 

Once the season wraps up, the province will then decide whether to make e-scooters a permanent fixture, extend the temporary pilot project, or discontinue them. 

All in a Day9:12E-scooters are back in Ottawa for the final year of pilot project

Associate Producer Halima Sogbesan tells us about some of the tweaks and changes this year

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