Edmontonians flock to electric scooters during weekend launch

With hundreds of electric scooters being shipped to Edmonton, residents are making the most of the new means of transportation.

Two major international scooter-sharing companies, Bird and Lime, opened for business this past weekend.

“They’re available on street corners. People walk up, download the app, scan the scooter and drive around,” explained Stuart Lyons, Bird Canada’s CEO, on Monday.

His company plans to have 400 scooters in Edmonton by the end of the week.

Its competitor, Lime, has 200 set up and has been given the green light to add 1,300 more if the demand warrants it.

“It’s just a great, new, fun way and really efficient way to get around town,” said Nate Currey, Lime’s Canada West senior operations manager.

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A 10-minute ride will cost $4 with Lime and $4.65 with Bird.

“It really fits nicely in between the transit ticket and Uber, Lyft, taxis,” Currey said.

The scooters must remain within a designated perimeter in the heart of the city. Outside of that, they slow down and then the brakes engage.

“Leave it on the street corner, put it to the side, away from pedestrians or cars. You can leave it there and the next person can take it,” Lyons said.

A number of Bird’s scooters were stolen over the weekend, taken home by residents.

“I think people take them, not realizing that they have to put them back. They are tracked obviously. We can tell where the scooters are. When someone takes it home, we can see it inside someone’s house. We can make them make noise and all kinds of stuff,” Lyons explained.

Bird’s staff knock on doors and people give usually them back, he said. Otherwise, they call police.

In Edmonton, council maxed out the scooter speed at 20 kilometres an hour. They also decided contrary to what’s happening in Calgary: scooters here are not allowed on sidewalks to avoid confrontations with pedestrians.

“We said, ‘We’ve got good infrastructure, use it on the street or on the bike lane or on a shared use pathway and we should have no problems,’” Mayor Don Iveson said.

Some riders are already breaking the rules, scootering down the sidewalks or riding two to a scooter, but Iveson is hopeful time and education will change that.

“Realistically, it’s got to self enforce,” he said. “People have got to observe the rules and if we have too many issues with them, we’re going to have to revisit whether these will be a fit for Edmonton.”

In other cities, including Calgary, there have been multiple injuries — some have even had fatalities involving scooters. To combat that and keep riders safe, both Bird and Lime give away free helmets to users who request them.

“They should be treated just like bicycles. You’re supposed to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. You should also wear a helmet while riding a scooter. Not two people on a bike, not two people on a scooter — you know, that type of stuff. Common sense and people will get used to it,” Lyons said.

Coun. Scott McKeen, who represents downtown Edmonton, remains skeptical. He voted against the bylaw that allowed the scooters to come to Edmonton.

“Are people going to carry around a helmet when they go out for the night?” he said.

That’s not his only concern.

“It’s the peril, especially of people being able to hop on an e-scooter after they’ve maybe had a few beers on Whyte Ave or downtown. That’s what concerned me,” McKeen said.

To combat that, Bird has a curfew of 11 p.m.

“That’s typical of what we think is a safe time to operate,” Lyons said. “The problem if you go too late is you get some funny things happening on scooters. It’s a safety issue.”

Lime runs 5 a.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday and removes time restrictions on weekends.

Staff charge the scooters overnight for both companies, but Lime also encourages Edmontonians to do the charging for them. They pay $5.50 for “juicers” to plug in the scooters and get them back up to full speed.

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