ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Provincial Disability Coalition Urges Ottawa City Council to Reject Impending Proposal to Allow Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities and Others
June 4, 2020 Toronto: In a stunning affront to National AccessAbility Week, and while the COVID-19 crisis persists with no end in sight, Ottawa City Council’s Transportation Committee this week proposes to expose people with disabilities and others in Ottawa to proven dangers posed by allowing public use and rental of electric scooters (e-scooters). E-scooters will lead to personal injuries, including innocent pedestrians. They will create new barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities, especially when left lying in public spaces like sidewalks (as the Ottawa proposal would permit).
Ottawa City Council’s Transportation Committee disregarded concerns in the strong January 22, 2020 open letter to all municipalities co-signed by major disability organizations. Under the Ottawa proposal, uninsured, untrained, unlicensed, unhelmetted e-scooter riders will present dangers to the public that law enforcement won’t be able to prevent. Ottawa officials and politicians never even reached out to the AODA Alliance to learn about our concerns.
“It is a slap in the faces of people with disabilities that Ottawa would even contemplate creating these new barriers against residents and visitors with disabilities during National AccessAbility Week, and in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability coalition that has led the campaign on this issue. “It would be better if Ottawa’s City Government spent more time on removing the disproportionate hardships that people with disabilities now suffer during the COVID-19 crisis, rather than working on creating the new accessibility barriers this fall which e-scooters would impose.”
Beyond the dangers that e-scooters already presented in communities that allowed them, leading Montreal to ban them this year after trying them last year, e-scooters now present an additional danger in the COVID-19 era. When rented by one member of the public after the next, without any process in place to ensure they are sanitized, e-scooters risk further community spread of COVID-19. Ottawa City Council should pay less heed to the corporate lobbyists that are relentlessly pressuring politicians and should give priority to the needs of their community’s most vulnerable members.
If Ottawa approves this proposal, any organization that is looking for a place to hold conferences and conventions after the COVID-19 shutdown comes to an end would be wise to rule out Ottawa in favour of safer communities that continue to ban e-scooters.
For more background, check out:
The January 22, 2020 open letter from disability community organizations to the Ontario Government and Ontario municipalities.
The February 3, 2020 unanimous resolution of the Toronto City Council’s Accessibility Advisory Committee that called for Toronto not to allow e-scooters.
The AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 brief to the Ford Government on its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario.
The AODA Alliance’s e-scooter web page that sets out the campaign since last summer to protect Ontarians with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose.
CBC News June 3, 2020
E-scooters set to hit Ottawa streets, paths this year
City plans to allow 600 of the dockless standing scooters, but with limits on where they can go
Kate Porter CBC News
If Ottawa’s e-scooter pilot gets full council approval, the devices will be allowed on pathways and on roads with speed limits up to 50 km/h, but not on sidewalks, on NCC paths or in Gatineau. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)
Ottawa could soon join other Canadian cities in allowing electric scooters on its multi-use paths, bike lanes and even some streets after its transportation committee approved a pilot project Wednesday.
The pilot, which would run until the end of October, still needs full council’s approval on June 10. The plan would permit up to 600 e-scooters operated by rental companies.
“This is a good time to introduce it. It’s a pilot, we’re starting with a smallish sample,” said Vivi Chi, director of transportation planning.
The battery-powered standing scooters have been illegal in Ottawa, but the Ontario government gave municipalities the right to set up their own pilot projects to test them out back on Jan. 1.
E-scooters coming to Ontario in January as pilot project launches
Under the Ottawa plan, e-scooters could travel on the city’s multi-use pathways, in bike lanes and on roads with speed limits of 50 km/h or lower. The scooters themselves could travel no faster than 20 km/h under the proposed bylaw.
E-scooters would be banned from city sidewalks, and because neither the National Capital Commission nor the City of Gatineau intends to allow them in 2020, the rental companies would need to employ “geofencing” technology that would slow the machines to a crawl and prevent them from being parked in areas that are off limits.
The same goes for Ottawa’s LRT. While the city sees e-scooters as a great way for passengers to travel that “final kilometre” between transit stations and their destination, city lawyers balked at allowing them on buses or trains.
Careless parking a concern
To make room for the e-scooters, Ottawa plans to expand its existing bike-share program, but will charge rental companies much higher fees. Instead of paying one dollar per bike per year, companies such as Bird Canada and Lime Canada will pay $60 per bike or scooter, which are dockless and can be returned anywhere.
A representative from Lime Canada pointed out Wednesday the proposed fees are among the highest in Canada. Sam Sadle also suggested the city allow between 1,200 and 3,600 scooters instead of the proposed 600.
Lime Canada would like to see Ottawa allow more than 600 e-scooters during its pilot phase this year. (Lime)
While e-scooters are seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to driving or ride-hailing apps such as Uber, there are safety concerns.
Ontario clears path for e-scooters as U.S. cities balance convenience, fun and injuries
Stories abound about collisions and injuries, and there are worries about improperly parked e-scooters blocking sidewalks.
In fact, Montreal has decided to ban e-scooters this year after fewer than 20 per cent of users obeyed parking rules during that city’s pilot program. That worries Ottawa’s volunteer accessibility advisory committee.
“This is not just an inconvenience to us,” said the advisory committee’s chair, Phillip Turcotte.
Chi said Ottawa will have more options than Montreal when it comes to parking. The scooters could be left in the area of the sidewalk closest to the street, where benches and trees are located, and the city could also paint some designated parking areas on streets, she said.
The city would also require rental companies to disinfect their scooters to public health standards during the pandemic, although it’s not clear how that will work between users.
Coun. Jeff Leiper has already bought into the scooters, literally. Rather than waiting to rent, he said he’s waiting for his own to be delivered.
“I want to have my own,” Leiper said.