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Fate of e-scooters up to council as pilot program ends

Whether or not St. Albertans will be able to ride e-scooters in the city next summer will require council approval as the end of 2022 also coincided with the end of the pilot program.
E-scooter company Bird Canada says one St. Albertan travelled 24 kilometres during a single trip in 2022. FILE/Photo

Whether St. Albertans will be able to ride e-scooters in the city again next summer will be up to a city council vote, as the end of 2022 marked the end of the pilot program.

The e-scooter pilot, which started in September 2021, was modified by council in March 2022 to include conditions about where the scooters could be parked, how many were available in the city, and how quickly companies needed to respond to reports of abandoned or mis-parked e-scooters.

In an email, Bird Canada director of public relations Rebecca Peters said St. Albertans travelled more than 26,000 kilometres on Bird e-scooters this year, with an average trip length of about three kilometres.

"St. Albert saw one rider take more than 153 trips between April and October 2022; a trip every day of the season," Peters said, adding the longest trip on a Bird e-scooter was 24 km.

"The statistics show residents and visitors continued to embrace the micro-mobility program, with communities benefiting from having alternative transport options to choose from," Peters said. 

The other two companies operating in St. Albert, Lime and Roll Scooters, were unable to provide 2022 ridership statistics prior to The Gazette's print deadline. 

In an interview, Coun. Ken MacKay said he was pleased to see at least one brand of e-scooters was well-used this year, and looks forward to seeing more complete statistics when council discusses the program later this year.

MacKay said he's also looking forward to seeing whether St. Albert's program would benefit from having e-scooter companies like Lime bring a fleet of e-bikes to St. Albert, similar to what the City of Edmonton did in 2022.

"I know that there's been some pedestrian-bike conflict, and would e-bikes even create more of a conflict, I don't know. But is there an opportunity to look at the bikes if the market's there?" MacKay said.

"Maybe we bring back the e-scooter program but then pilot e-bikes — it [will] be interesting to know some of that information," he said.

Coun. Sheena Hughes, who brought forward the motions to amend the program, told The Gazette she received significantly fewer complaints about abandoned or misplaced e-scooters following the implementation of designated parking areas last summer.

"We'll wait and see what the survey results have, but just from direct communication to council, the complaints comparatively dropped off, so it looks like, at least preliminary, that there's been a better way [the pilot] could work in the city," Hughes said.

"People typically email us to tell us they're unhappy, and we haven't been receiving those emails."

Likewise, Coun. Wes Brodhead said he also noticed a significant drop in the number of complaints last summer.

"Personally, I didn't receive any calls this year complaining about the e-scooters," Brodhead said. 

"I think perhaps St. Albert got used to the idea of them being there, and maybe more [residents] took advantage of it and found that they liked it."

Brodhead added he's looking forward to seeing administration's full report on the pilot program results later this year.

Residents had until Nov. 14, 2022 to complete an online survey about the e-scooter pilot, the results of which will be presented by city administration in a report prior to council's debate. A date for council's decision has not been determined yet.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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