Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Electric Scooters Continue to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Kids and Others in Ontario – Register to Take Part in CNIB’s November 18, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on the Problems E-Scooters Create for People with Disabilities Living in or Visiting Ottawa
November 15, 2021
In Ontario, people with disabilities, seniors, children and others continue to be endangered by the silent menace of uninsured, unlicensed, untrained joy-riders racing at upwards of 20 kilometers per hour on electric-scooters, on sidewalks, roads park paths, and other public places. The e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists are continuing their feeding frenzy around Ontario, at the doors of municipal council members and municipal public officials.
The AODA Alliance along with other advocates for disabilities, seniors and others are continuing our grassroots efforts to get these politicians and public officials to stand up to the corporate lobbyists, and to stand up for people with disabilities. All our efforts are being coordinated by an informal group of disability organizations and individual advocates who have been conducting an excellent joint effort on this issue. Here’s the latest news on this front.
1. Ottawa—An Especially Bad Danger Zone for People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others
The City of Ottawa is continuing to be the most obviously under the thumbs of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. Ottawa is now running its second “pilot project” with e-scooters. It has demonstrably created real dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Unsurprisingly, e-scooters are being ridden on sidewalks, even though that is not supposed to be allowed. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office confirmed to the AODA Alliance during the 2020 summer, before Ottawa City Council under his leadership approved this e-scooter human experiment, that Ottawa had not budgeted any new funds for e-scooter law enforcement.
When this dangerous pilot project comes to an end this month, people with disabilities need Ottawa City Council not to extend it.
CNIB is hosting a virtual Town Hall on the Ottawa experience with e-scooters from 4:30 to 6 pm EST, on November 18, 2021. We set out the full announcement of that event, below. We encourage you to register to attend it, by simply writing Kate Riccomini@cnib.ca
A local Ottawa news report, the Capital Current, ran an article on November 10, 2021, explaining how Ottawa’s e-scooter “pilot” has represented a serious hardship for people with disabilities. We set that article out below.
The most thorough study of e-scooters and the dangers they pose was conducted this year and last year by Toronto city staff. We at the AODA Alliance have now sent the Ottawa city staff the excellent reports prepared by Toronto city staff on e-scooters, which have been available online for months. It is troubling that it was necessary for us to send those reports to Ottawa city staff responsible for the e-scooters project.
People with disabilities need the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee to now hold a public meeting and invite public input on this issue, and to strongly call for Ottawa not to allow e-scooters in public places. The Accessibility Advisory Committees in Toronto, Mississauga and London each passed strong motions recommending against e-scooters. The Ottawa accessibility should stand up for people with disabilities, and similarly recommend that Ottawa restore the ban on e-scooters. The AODA Alliance has asked the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee for a chance to present to it, which easily can be done virtually.
2. Toronto City Council Said No to E-Scooters But They Are Still All Over the City, With No Law Enforcement in Sight
Last spring, it was a huge victory for people with disabilities, seniors and others when the Toronto City Council unanimously voted not to allow e-scooters to be ridden in public places, whether rented e-scooters or an e-scooter that a rider privately owns. However, there are now many e-scooters being illegally ridden on Toronto streets, sidewalks, and public paths. There is absolutely no visible law enforcement. We have seen advertisements by those openly selling e-scooters, even though it is illegal to ride them in such public places.
The City of Toronto and other municipalities must vigorously enforce the ban on e-scooters, and must publicize the fact that it is illegal to ride them in public.
We need the Ontario Government to now give municipalities much better tools and rules for effectively enforcing such bans.
3. Will the City of Hamilton Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children by Allowing E-Scooters?
The City of Hamilton is apparently giving in to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. It now plans to hold an e-scooter pilot next year. However, it is still not too late to get Hamilton to call that off.
AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky spoke to Hamilton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee on November 4, 2021. He gave that Committee tactical and strategic ideas on how it could help in efforts to get Hamilton to back down on those dangerous plans. We remain eager to help them in any way we can.
4. London Ontario Has Not Yet Decided Whether to Give In to the E-Scooter Corporate Lobbyists
The City of London’s staff are now investigating the e-scooters issue. To our knowledge, London city staff have not yet rendered a report to London City Council. We and other disability advocates have spoken to London’s Civic Works Committee and a city staff official working on this issue to raise our concerns, backed by the London Accessibility Advisory Committee’s opposition to e-scooters.
5. In Order to Look Like they are Responding to Disability Dangers Posed by E-Scooters, the E-Scooter Rental Companies are Claiming to Explore Measures that In Truth Won’t Solve the Problem
A few ineffective proposals are being considered by Ottawa city staff to respond to e-scooter dangers created for people with disabilities, in evident conjunction with some of the e-scooter rental companies.
The most obviously laughable option is for the e-scooter rental companies to put a braille label of some sort on their e-scooter. This is meant to help a blind person report to the City if an e-scooter is improperly used.
This will of course be useless for a blind person to identify an e-scooter that is improperly being ridden on the sidewalk. A blind person cannot be expected to run after the e-scooter, catch up to it, and reach out a hand to try to read the braille somewhere on it, while the e-scooter is racing forward at upwards of 20 KPH.
The only possible use of this braille could be in the case that the e-scooter is improperly left lying on the sidewalk, as too often happens in communities that allow rental e-scooters. Picture a blind person walking down a public sidewalk, where e-scooters are not supposed to be ridden or left lying around. The blind person unexpectedly finds it, possibly tripping over it. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists or city staff are imagining that the blind person will then walk or crawl over to the e-scooter, lying on the sidewalk, and start to feel all over it, somehow already knowing it is an e-scooter, and expecting it to have a braille label on it.
There are so many reasons why this is absurd. Many blind people don’t read braille. Of the minority of blind people who do read braille, why would any of them expect that the object over which they just tripped will have a braille label of some sort on it? None should reasonably be expected to engage in such public groping of an object lying on the ground, in hopes that a braille label can be found somewhere on it.
All of this is meant to enable the blind person to call in a complaint, either to the e-scooter company or the City. This all leaves the profit-making to the e-scooter companies, while shifting the burden to grope the e-scooter and then lodge complaints to blind people, who, after all, simply want to be able to safely walk on the sidewalk.
The second distraction that some e-scooter companies are promoting is to add some sort of audible beeping sound to the e-scooter, in order to warn people that one is coming. From the feedback we have received from some people with disabilities who took part in a demonstration of these that the Ottawa city staff coordinated with the e-scooter companies, the beeping is not loud enough to be heard if there is nearby construction, a lawn mower, or a loud truck driving by. Moreover, we have not heard any proposals that the e-scooter continue to emit a loud beep while it is parked and unaccompanied, to warn people of them lying on the sidewalk.
Finally, in an effort to spawn enthusiasm about futuristic technology, some e-scooter companies talk about using “geo-fencing.” Each e-scooter would have a GPS tracker on it, that won’t allow the e-scooter to ride on a sidewalk. Of course, anyone who uses a GPS on their smart phone or in their car knows only too well that GPSs are not so accurate as to reliably know when an e-scooter is on a sidewalk, and not the adjacent road.
It is important for such side-shows not to distract from the bottom line here. E-scooters should not be allowed in public places. Neither the Ford Government nor any city council should be allowing the creation of such new disability barriers. This is especially so when Ontario only has a little over three years to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.
6. Looking Ahead towards the 2022 Provincial and Municipal Elections
Ultimately, what Ontarians with disabilities need is for the Ford Government to now repeal its regulation that allows municipalities to permit e-scooters in public places. In the 2022 provincial election, we will ask all political parties to commit to do so, if the Ford Government has not done so by then.
We also need all municipal council members to stand up for people with disabilities and to oppose electric scooters in their communities. In next fall’s Ontario municipal elections, we will call on voters to hold their city council members to account on this issue. Stay tuned!
For more information on our campaign against e-scooters, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.
Capital Current November 10, 2021
Sidewalk snafus: Accessibility issues are dogging the e-scooter pilot program in Ottawa
By Sarah Malina,
The impact of e-scooters on sidewalk accessibility has been a source of frustration for Ottawa residents during the city’s 2021 e-scooter pilot program.
People have been concerned about the increase in sidewalk obstructions caused by e-scooter users.
“It’s a maze, it literally is,” said Ryan Lythall, who uses a wheelchair.
Lythall said he has had his path on a sidewalk impeded by e-scooters many times during the pilot program. This past summer, for example, he had a run-in with two teens riding on an e-scooter down the sidewalk.
“They pulled over to try to give me room, but I ran into a pole. There was simply no room for me to get by,” he said.
Lythall says people with mobility concerns (such as physical disabilities and visual impairments) can have a harder time navigating sidewalks at the best of times and e-scooters bring an increased risk of collisions and obstruction when ridden or misparked on sidewalks.
People have shared their concerns on social media. Twitter has been full of photos of misparked scooters blocking sidewalks and expressions of frustration about having to move scooters out of the way — something that people with disabilities or limited mobility, like Lythall, might not be able to do on their own.
The City of Ottawa’s 2021 e-scooter pilot program, has 1,200 machines deployed across the city by rental companies Bird Canada, Neuron, and Lime until Nov. 30. As of Oct. 31, the city reported that the 2021 pilot season had 123,327 riders who had taken 452,808 trips.
The city promised in its announcement of the pilot that there would be a focus on reducing sidewalk riding and improper parking. Willem Klumpenhouwer, a transportation researcher and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, said that pilot programs often see issues such as these.
“There’s a lot of testing out what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, the City has access to the data, has access to certain measures of how these things are doing and then can react to that, and make sure companies are trying to find ways to improve.”
Austin Spademan, the assistant general manager at Bird Canada, says the data the company collects on e-scooter rides in the city suggests that Twitter complaints don’t represent the reality on the ground.
“Twitter complaints don’t seem to align with reality, because as a percentage of total rides, the compliance is exceptionally high right now. It’s not perfect, I totally agree. It’s not perfect, but we’re at like 99 per cent appropriate parking compliance by riders.”
A press release that Neuron Mobility shared with Capital Current on Oct. 21, included data from a recent rider survey the firm conducted in Ottawa. According to the findings of the survey, 82 per cent of riders believe e-scooters have had a positive impact in the community. It should be noted that this finding is specific to the e-scooter riders and not the general Ottawa community. No data was shared on misparked scooters. Spademan said there are kinks to work out. E-scooters are a new technology in Ottawa. He said that Bird is working directly with people with disabilities to whom these accessibility concerns directly apply. Bird Canada has been working with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Council for the Blind. Lythall, among others, was an early stakeholder consulted by Spademan and Bird Canada.
“Those are the people I’m listening to,” said Spademan.
The city, which shares the right way to park an e-scooter on social media, says proper e-scooter parking s in what is called the sidewalk furniture zone, which is “the area closest to the curb in line with trees, benches and bike racks and out of the way of pedestrian travel.” But, not all city sidewalks have such zones. Ottawa has also created the “Electric Kick-Scooter Bylaw” to regulate and enforce proper scooter use. Offenders are liable for a substantial fine.
Bird Canada has set up an email created initially for people with disabilities based on feedback from the Canadian Council for the Blind (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Messages go directly to the phones of Spademan and his operations team, allowing them to get to a site faster to move misparked e-scooters.
Neuron Mobility and Bird Canada are testing e-scooters with noise-emission technology to better alert pedestrians, particularly those with vision impairments, that an e-scooter is approaching. Neuron Mobility has also introduced braille identifiers and raised lettering on their e-scooters to help vision-impaired pedestrians to identify and report misparked e-scooters, and Bird Canada is also piloting a new model of e-scooters would prevent operation of the devices on sidewalks.
“Since we’ve implemented this program at Lansdowne, [we’ve had] zero cases of a scooter being parked outside of the digital coral,” said Spademan.
Gwen McGuire, Neuron Mobility’s senior communications leader, said Neuron will be making an “exciting safety-focused innovation announcement” in a couple weeks. That timing is aligned with the end of the 2021 e-scooter pilot, which is set to finish at the end of the month.
Lime did not respond to Capital Current’s inquiry on the measures they are taking to alleviate sidewalk accessibility issues.
Klumpenhouwer thinks that the root of the issue lies more so in Ottawa’s lack of infrastructure for active transportation, such as parking options and bike lanes.
My worry is that people will label the whole project as a big mistake when a lot of the problems that we’re seeing with scooters are because there’s not the right kind of infrastructure.”
Klumpenhouwer said he thinks if the proper infrastructure is provided people will use it, decreasing the obstructions to sidewalks and improve accessibility for people with disabilities and limited mobility.
“People are more inclined to park in a spot if it’s available and convenient. … So I think if you provide a little more of the infrastructure people will start to park them in better spots.”
Spademan, who is also a biker, agrees better infrastructure is necessary, and suggests that e-scooters are a good business case for more bike lanes in the city.
“Being in this job, I can actually make compelling data-driven arguments to the city. … We’ve now got a bunch of new people in the active mobility space and we’ve got the data to back it up to be like, ‘hey, you need a bike lane right here, or you need e-scooter parking on this street.”
Despite this, Lythall said he believes there are still too many irresponsible users for the e-scooter initiative to be worthwhile. He wants the city to end the program, as is the case in Toronto.
CNIB Online Announcement of Its November 18, 2021 Town Hall on Electric Scooters
Originally posted at https://cnib.ca/en/event/ottawa-e-scooter-experience-virtual-town-hall?region=on
The City of Ottawa is currently wrapping up the second year of its e-scooter pilot and we want to hear your thoughts.
Have you had encounters, good or bad, with e-scooters in your neighbourhood? Have you run into e-scooters in your travels to Ottawa? The second year of Ottawa’s e-scooter pilot is wrapping up, and we want to hear from you. You are invited to share your e-scooter experiences with us at a virtual Townhall meeting on November 18. We will be inviting City of Ottawa staff to hear your feedback as well, and incorporating it into a report to the City about e-scooters.
Date: Thursday, November 18
Time: 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Online or via telephone using Zoom.
Registration is required. To register, contact Kate Riccomini@cnib.ca Program Lead, Advocacy & Accessible Community Engagement at Kate.Riccomini@cnib.ca