Will Ottawa City Council Today Vote to Conduct a Deeply Troubling Experiment on Ottawa Residents and Visitors By Allowing Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities and Others?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Will Ottawa City Council Today Vote to Conduct a Deeply Troubling Experiment on Ottawa Residents and Visitors By Allowing Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities and Others?

June 10, 2020 Toronto: On the eve of today’s Ottawa City Council vote on whether to allow electric scooters (e-scooters), in the nation’s capital, the AODA Alliance obtained information from the office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson that exposes new serious problems with Ottawa’s proposal. Today, Ottawa City Council will decide whether to allow uninsured, untrained, unlicensed, unhelmetted e-scooter riders to rent and ride electric scooters in some public places during a “pilot” that would run until the end of October. Montreal tried just such a pilot but cancelled it last year due to problems that were revealed.

E-scooters can silently race up to 20 KPH up to and injure innocent pedestrians, such as blind people who can’t see them coming. E-scooters will also create new barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities, especially when left lying in public spaces like sidewalks (as the Ottawa proposal would permit).

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance learned this troubling information from officials in the Mayor’s office:

* The mayor’s office did not dispute that e-scooters can pose a risk of personal injuries. It did not dispute that they can present a safety risk for people with disabilities and others, as well as creating accessibility barriers that can impede people with disabilities.

* Ottawa has not budgeted for any additional law enforcement to cope with the risks that e-scooters are known to present. Therefore, there will be no additional police or other law enforcement on the streets to monitor if e-scooter riders are obeying any of the City’s rules or regulations. The AODA Alliance emphasizes that this means that e-scooter riders have little to fear if they break the rules.

* The only “training” that Ottawa would require an e-scooter rider to take before renting and riding one is to read materials that will be presented on a smartphone app. The AODA Alliance notes that this provides no public protection. One need only click that one has read such content, without actually reading it. The AODA Alliance here notes that as well, the person first signing up and clicking that they read it may not be the user that actually rents and rides the e-scooter, if the smartphone owner shares their e-scooter account with family or friends.

* When confronted with the danger that e-scooters pose to safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, the mayor’s office stated that during this pilot, Ottawa will collect data so that the pilot can be evaluated. The AODA Alliance pointed out to the mayor’s office that this amounts to conducting an experiment on those who live or visit Ottawa, risking their safety, without their prior consent to being subjected to this experiment.

* According to the mayor’s office, if someone is injured by an e-scooter or if the e-scooter blocks their accessibility on a sidewalk, data can be collected on this during the pilot, if those people call in to report their problem with the e-scooter. The AODA Alliance pointed out that the City of Ottawa would be unfairly shifting a burden onto innocent victims of e-scooters to have to report to the City about the harm they suffered, if the City is to learn about these harms.

* The mayor’s office disputed the AODA Alliance ‘s suggestion that the COVID-19 pandemic was an inappropriate time for City Council to take up this issue. The mayor’s spokesperson said that the COVID-19 pandemic is an especially good time to try out e-scooters, due to congestion in public places. According to the AODA Alliance, the COVID-19 crisis does not make it more appropriate to expose Ottawa residents and visitors to e-scooters’ dangers. 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. The City of Ottawa should not sponsor a program that would create this new danger to public health.

“The ill-conceived Defence offered by the mayor’s office for its plans to conduct an experiment with e-scooters on Ottawa’s own residents and visitors is strikingly similar to the very talking points used by the corporate lobbyists of the e-scooter rental companies who lobby hard for their adoption,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability coalition that has spearheaded efforts to protect people with disabilities from the dangers posed by e-scooters. “It’s especially unfair for Ottawa Council to be dealing with this now, when we’re all locked down and battling the impact of COVID-19. Surely Ottawa City Council has more pressing issues to address during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more important priorities for spending public money.”

The AODA Alliance alerted the Ottawa mayor’s office that if this e-scooter scheme is adopted, tourists and conference planners will be best advised to avoid Ottawa as a destination because of the experiment it is conducting in public with e-scooters that pose these dangers to the public.

The AODA Alliance urgently asked the mayor’s office for a chance to speak to Mayor Watson. The Alliance calls on Ottawa City Council to delay today’s vote, so it can properly investigate these and other serious concerns with e-scooters that the AODA Alliance has uncovered.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

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.