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Pilot project needs a better review

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on December 09, 2019 with No Comments

Doug Ford government has announced a 5-year e-scooter pilot that will begin on January 1’ 2020. Vijay Thanigasalam, Parliamentary Assistant to Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation while making the announcement last week, linked the proposed project with government plan to help businesses expand and allow consumers and commuters more choice. E-scooters do have potential to help reduce congestion, help commuters get to transit connections.

The project will be a pilot one for 5 years. Under the pilot, municipalities can choose whether to allow e-scooters on their roadways.  The pilot will allow the government to give more choice and making Ontario open for business. “Ontario’s e-scooter pilot will help businesses expand, enrich local economies and offer people more options to get around safely,” said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney. “Our government is strongly committed to promoting the highest standards of safety for all Ontarians who travel on our roads,” added Mulroney. Scooter-sharing ride systems saw a boom in 2018. People can rent the vehicles — essentially those scooters from your childhood, but with an engine and better hardware — for small periods of time to ride from one docking station to another. They’re cheaper than Ubers easier than biking. Under the proposed pilot, drivers would have to be at least 16 years old and could not have passengers. The e-scooters could not exceed a maximum operating speed of 32 km/h.
The proposal has thrown a set of question for various spectra of the community. Will people feel safe riding in mixed traffic? Allowing e-scooters on the roads will make it harder for people with disabilities to get around, and could lead to injuries. The option of cutting down the maximum speed may be opted, but knowing the certain e scooters can go uptill 60 km/hour, the users are likely to be tempted to attempt those speeds.  Any moving vehicle capable of travelling that fast certainly doesn’t belong on a sidewalk and it’s questionable whether it’s a good fit in a bike lane. Take the case of Calgary. The services is being offered by a company named Lime. Lime regulates speeds on its Calgary machines to 20 km per hour, which is fine on a street, but still seems fast for a sidewalk where scooters in that city are allowed. Calgary officials are even considering City officials that speeds be dropped even lower in high-congestion areas. These criteria and changes in other provinces bring forth -Is Ontario considering drivers to be licensed? Is the province considering penalties if the scooters are dumped on sidewalk? Also there are serious questions on the time frame for the pilot project in Ontario. Five Years ! And it would be rolled out from one end of Ontario to the other. If the government is trying to assess the safety of the program, it would be best to do it on a narrower piece of area and not the entire province and that too for much shorter period-may be six months.

Certain American cities that have experimented with the E Scooter project have faced certain common complaints. Unlike bike share programs where the bikes are returned neatly to a rack, e-scooters can be ditched anywhere (thanks to GPS chips, which help the next customer then find them). The result can be cluttered sidewalks and blocked business entryways. In San Diego, the situation got so bad, two men formed a company called ScootScoop which collects scooters dumped on private property and charges scooter companies to retrieve them. Cities like San Diego, Santa Monica and Nashville are testing designated parking areas called scooter corrals to try to cut down on clutter and have threatened bans if the situation doesn’t improve.  Studies are also starting to show that fears about scooter safety may be founded. A study by the public health department in Austin, Tex., conducted from Sept. to Nov. in 2018, found 20 people are injured per 100,000 scooter trips. No one died, but there were reports of broken bones, concussions and severe bleeding.  

Also the coverage of insurance for E scooters, there is lot left to be desired.  Insurance doesn’t necessarily cover riders if they hurt someone – just the company and the city.

With much more to answer, the pilot project and its impediments, the Ford government needs to do its homework well even before they launch the pilot project.

 

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