OGO Scooters, the first available rideshare scooters in Kelowna, made their debut in Kelowna on July 12, 2019. (Mackenzie Britton - Capital News)

Kelowna council confused, frustrated by report on future of e-scooters in the city

E-scooter sharing programs are currently out of operation due to the pandemic and city staff say they may not return for some time

Nearly an hour of deliberation over a report on the use of shared “micro-mobility” — e-scooters and other smaller methods of transportation — ended with Kelowna city council telling staff to come back with clearer ideas.

After expressing their frustration and confusion, councillors said the report needs to be sent back to city staff for clarification and to take into account yet-to-be-determined provincial guidelines that may see e-scooters regulated similarly to bicycles, allowing them to ride on roads. A pilot program is anticipated to be launched once the province does come to a conclusion.

The report, given to council on Monday, June 15, was largely meant to guide council’s decision on the future of shared micro-mobility in the city — which is currently non-operational amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Likely, staff said, the city won’t see a return of those programs until the province makes its decision on how the vehicles can be regulated.

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Council was anticipated to either implement a speed limit on scooters and other small vehicles along the entire waterfront walkway and the Bernard Avenue temporary closure, or ban them altogether in those areas. Instead, they voted to simply accept the report and have staff take another look at it.

The report also stated, however, that similar sharing programs for pedal bikes are decreasing in popularity and would likely require a $1 million per year subsidy from the city to attract an operator, much to the dismay of some councillors.

“Two years ago we had a bike share program that was a resounding success from a community standpoint,” said Coun. Brad Sieben of the Dropbike program that operated in Kelowna in the summer of 2018. “… We don’t have that anymore, and there’s a multitude of reasons why, but one of the things we got in exchange … was e-scooters, which haven’t been warmly received.”

Sieben reiterated a point he’s made in the past that e-scooters are not used as a legitimate method of transportation, while the bike share program was.

Coun. Maxine DeHart said the city should look into subsidizing a bike share program saying that “the city subsidizes a lot of stuff.”

“Lets get innovative,” she said. “Maybe there is some type of subsidy the city could do.

“Let’s look outside the box instead of just saying ‘No.’”

The report stemmed from a November 2019 request by council for staff to take a look at the implication of allowing e-scooters on the waterfront.

There is no timeline on when the province will decide its regulations, and as such, no reference for when the report might come back to council.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


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