AODA Alliance Asks Toronto Mayor John Tory to Stand up for People with Disabilities and to Stand up to Corporate Lobbyists for Electric Scooter Rental Companies who are Inundating City Hall

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

AODA Alliance Asks Toronto Mayor John Tory to Stand up for People with Disabilities and to Stand up to Corporate Lobbyists for Electric Scooter Rental Companies who are Inundating City Hall

November 4, 2020

          SUMMARY

The AODA Alliance today wrote an important letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory (See below). We asked him not to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in Toronto. They endanger the safety of the public and especially people with disabilities and seniors. We’ve been told over and over that he will make the ultimate decision.

If he won’t just stop this now, we urge Mayor Tory to himself hold an open, accessible series of virtual town halls with people with disabilities in Toronto to hear our concerns about e-scooters. Our October 30, 2020 news release revealed how City Hall has been the target of a well-funded feeding frenzy by corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. In today’s letter, we ask Mayor Tory to stand up for Torontonians with disabilities and to stand up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

You can help us with this important issue. Please email Mayor Tory. Tell him not to allow e-scooters in Toronto. Tell him to listen to people with disabilities, and not to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. You can write him at:

Mayor_Tory@toronto.ca

For more tips on how you can help people with disabilities, seniors and others, press the City of Toronto not to unleash the dangers of e-scooters upon us, check out the AODA Alliance’s Toronto e-scooters Action Kit.

We’ve gotten word that some of the e-scooter rental companies are trying to hold some sort of meeting or consultation to hear from people with disabilities about their concerns with e-scooters. We take a dim view of this. Those companies are well aware of our well-documented concerns. They showed no such interest until it became clear that our concerns were impeding their allied members of City Council from railroading this issue through the City in a hurry. We anticipate that those corporate lobbyists are trying to position themselves on the disability issue so they look like they are genuinely concerned.

It is the City of Toronto, and particularly Mayor Tory, that should be holding a major, open and accessible public consultation with people with disabilities on their concerns regarding the dangers that e-scooters create. The e-scooter companies have an unalterable financial goal, which is to spread e-scooter rentals as far as they can.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

For more background:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s July 8, 2020 brief to the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee, already endorsed by Spinal Cord Injury Ontario and the March of Dimes of Canada
  1. The open letter to all Ontario municipal councils from 11 major disability organizations, opposing e-scooters in Ontario, and
  1. A sampling of news reports on the serious injuries that e-scooters have caused in communities that permit them.
  1. The AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

          MORE DETAILS

November 4, 2020 Letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory from the AODA Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 4, 2020

To: Mayor John Tory

Via Email: mayor_tory@toronto.ca

Office of the Mayor

City Hall, 2nd Floor

100 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Twitter: @JohnTory

Dear Mayor Tory,

Re: Protecting Torontonians from the Dangers of Electric Scooters

We seek your leadership to protect all Torontonians, and especially people with disabilities and seniors, whose safety is endangered if Toronto permits electric scooters (e-scooters). By all accounts, the practical decision will be yours, as our mayor, on whether to allow e-scooters. If you say no, enough members of City Council will follow your lead to stop this danger.

We seek your leadership in standing up to e-scooter corporate lobbyists and to stand up for the many Torontonians who don’t want to be injured by e-scooters. To that end, we ask that you:

  1. Please stop the City’s consideration of e-scooters before it goes any further.
  1. If not, then at the very least, put any consideration of e-scooters on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic is well behind us. No doubt, City Council and staff now have much higher priorities.
  1. If not, then if any steps at all are to happen on this issue over the next months, you, as mayor, should personally lead an open, accessible and extensive City consultation with people with disabilities and seniors on the dangers that e-scooters pose. That would be the best way to act upon the City Council’s July 28, 2020 motion, addressed below. As Toronto’s mayor, we ask that you hold public virtual face-to-face town hall meetings with these Torontonians so you hear directly from them.

The Issue

An e-scooter is a silent motor vehicle. If allowed, a joy-rider with no license or training could rocket around on an e-scooter at 20 kph or faster. E-scooter riders and innocent pedestrians would get seriously injured or killed. See a recent CBC report on e-scooter injuries suffered in Calgary.

The silent menace of e-scooters especially endangers seniors and people with disabilities, such as people who are blind or have low vision or balance issues, or whose disability makes them slower to scramble out of the way. A blind pedestrian can’t know when a silent e-scooter races toward them at over 20 kph, driven by a fun-seeking unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmetted rider.

The Dangers to People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others

In cities where e-scooters are allowed, rental e-scooters, left strewn around public places, create new mobility barriers to accessibility for people using a wheelchair, walker or other mobility device. For people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, they are a serious unexpected tripping hazard.

When you spoke with me back on December 9, 2019, you were awaiting a City Staff report on e-scooters. Since then, a detailed June 24, 2020 City of Toronto Staff Report showed that to allow e-scooters in Toronto will endanger public safety, send e-scooter riders and innocent pedestrians to hospital emergency rooms, require significant new law enforcement efforts and impose new financial burdens on the taxpayer to cover added costs that e-scooters trigger. The Staff Report also shows that e-scooters do not bring the great benefits for reduced car traffic and pollution that corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim.

E-scooters would especially endanger public safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and others on sidewalks. The City Staff Report shows that in cities where e-scooters are allowed but banned on sidewalks, they are nevertheless ridden on sidewalks. At the July 9, 2020 Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, law enforcement officials told Councilors that overburdened officers have no capacity to handle added burdens of enforcing new e-scooter regulations, if enacted. One Councilor remarked that City law enforcement officials don’t now even enforce restrictions on riding bikes on sidewalks.

This shows that Toronto should reject e-scooters. Why then is the City and City Council still considering this at all, much less during the current devastating COVID-19 pandemic?

Feeding Frenzy at City Hall by E-scooter Rental Companies’ Corporate Lobbyists

A recent AODA Alliance report provides insight. It documents that City Hall has been flooded by a well-funded feeding frenzy by corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies. Entries in Toronto’s Lobbyist Registry, filling fully 73 pages, reveal that from June 2018 to the present, eight e-scooter rental companies and three lobbying firms had 1,384 contacts with City Hall in person, by phone, by virtual meeting, or by email. Among these are at least 112 meetings and 1,153 emails with City officials.

Among many other City officials, this includes contacts with the Mayor’s Office, including 10 with you; 58 with your Senior Advisor, Legislative Affairs; 15 with your Director of Legislative Affairs; 10 with your Chief of Staff; and 1 with your Deputy Chief of Staff.

It is a long-standing, time-tested requirement that motor vehicles are only permitted when the motor vehicle and the driver are properly licensed, when the driver has had to undergo mandatory training, where the vehicle is subjected to safety technical standards, and where both the driver and vehicle are insured. These important safeguards are needed to protect public safety.

The e-scooter corporate lobbyists are trying to get you to let them duck all these safeguards. Those corporate lobbyists want to make money on e-scooter rentals, laughing all the way to the bank as seriously injured pedestrians sob all the way to hospital emergency rooms. They falsely claim that the City can approve e-scooters at no cost to the City or the public.

The June 24, 2020 City Staff report overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the City of Toronto should not lift the ban on e-scooters. Why then did the Staff Report reach an irrational and unexplained suggestion that Toronto should run a pilot with e-scooters? The report does not say. It makes no sense, given the report’s conclusions about e-scooters’ known dangers and unrealized benefits.

Moreover, to run a pilot would be to expose Torontonians to serious injuries if not deaths, just to see if e-scooters are a good idea. Experimenting on the public, when the risks are so serious, would be demonstrably immoral. The corporate lobbyists seek a “pilot” as a pretext to establish a market in Toronto for their product, as a fait accompli.

The only explanation is the e-scooter corporate lobbyists’ feeding frenzy at City Hall. Our report reveals that they have not only been vigourously lobbying your office and your colleagues on City Council, but a stunning spectrum of City employees as well, such as the Project Lead, Big Data Innovation Team, Transportation Services (62 contacts), the Manager, Street Furniture Management, Transportation Services (41 contacts), the Project Officer, Pedestrian Projects, Transportation Services (37 contacts), the Manager, Operational Policy & Innovation Transportation Services (36 contacts), the Manager, Data & Analytics Transportation Services (26 contacts), the Manager, Transportation Policy & Innovation, Transportation Services (25 contacts), the Director, Policy & Innovation, Transportation Services (22 contacts), the Coordinator Bicycle Safety Education, Transportation Services (18 contacts), the General Manager, Transportation Services (18 contacts), the Manager Transportation Services (18 contacts), the Project Lead Environment, Policy & Research, Environment and Energy (13 contacts), the Director, Transportation Infrastructure Management, Transportation Services (12 contacts), the Manager, Policy and Research Environment & Energy (10 contacts), the Manager, Strategic Policy and Innovation, Transportation Services (7 contacts) and the Manager, Cycling Infrastructure & Programs Transportation Services (7 contacts).

Earlier this year, on February 3, 2020, the municipally appointed Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee unanimously recommended to City Council that Toronto should not allow e-scooters because they endanger people with disabilities. On July 28, 2020, City Council voted to direct City Staff to report back on the disability accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters. We thank you for voting in support of that motion.

It was deeply disturbing that fully 11 City Council members voted on July 28, 2020 to oppose getting more information on the dangers that e-scooters create for people with disabilities. That appears explicable by the e-scooter corporate lobbyists’ relentless pressure.

That the e-scooter corporate lobbyists argue that the COVID-19 pandemic would be a great time to start allowing e-scooters in Toronto would only pile hardship upon hardship for society’s most vulnerable People with disabilities are now suffering disproportionate hardships due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Let’s Talk

Can I speak with you by phone about these issues? It has been almost a year since we had our earlier discussion. Please make your legacy one which made this city safer and more accessible for people with disabilities. Do not leave a legacy of a Toronto where it becomes harder and more dangerous for us to get around.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance