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Motion at Ottawa accessibility committee recommends ending e-scooter program next year

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Ottawa's accessibility advisory committee will consider a motion that would ask the city not to bring back electric scooters next year, over concerns they pose a risk to pedestrians and people with disabilities.

The motion put forward by member Wayne Antle says despite attempts by the city to rectify resident concerns, the program has not gone far enough to eliminate accessibility barriers.

The five-year provincial pilot program is set to conclude at the end of this year, but several councillors have already discussed the possibility of extending the program or making it permanent. The city has voted to maintain the program since its first season in 2020, with a number of adjustments to account for citizen concerns over sidewalk safety.

The committee had previously recommended against renewing the program in 2022 following similar complaints over sidewalk hazards.

Ottawa's city council opted to continue with the program with a number of changes to account for the complaints, including introducing a ban on sidewalk riding, requiring designated parking and riding areas, and adding an audible sound on the scooters to alert pedestrians that they are approaching.

The recent motion says the changes have not been effective or have not gone far enough to prevent illegal sidewalk riding and parking that pose a risk. The motion claims council did not allow public scrutiny of the changes made by councillors.

"There have been numerous reports of sidewalk-riding, improperly parked e-scooters, and e-scooters not emitting a sound that could be heard above the noise of city traffic reported to blind and partially-sighted stakeholder groups," the motion reads.

"There is growing evidence… that the barrier prevention technology is not as effective as the e-scooter providers indicate, and e-scooters continue to pose a threat to disabled, elderly, and vulnerable pedestrians."

The motion cites a city survey from the 2023 season that found more than half of respondents encountered improperly parked scooters and users riding on sidewalks. Only four per cent of those surveyed took the time to report rule breaking to the city.

Approximately 50,000 riders took about 179,000 trips around the city in 2023, with about 1,000 trips per day. A larger coverage area and fleet of scooters led to more than twice the number of trips taken than in 2022.

“I tried one and I was hooked - I found it was such a great way to get around,” said e-scooter enthusiast Mike Kruithof. “It's more comfortable than bikes, I find.”

Kruithof admits he's seen several instances where riders will park on people's lawns or driveways and drive on the sidewalk. 

"When I'm on the sidewalk, I walk the scooter, but other people just plow through," he said. 

Councillors voted to increase the number of hours the scooters could operate and introduce sobriety tests for the 2024 season. The city said last year that it would be undertaking an "educational campaign" on riding and parking etiquette.

Members of the accessibility committee will discuss and vote on the motion at the next meeting of the committee on June 18. The committee consists of 12 voting members who have a lived experience or expertise with a disability. Coun. Marty Carr serves as the sole non-voting councillor liaison.

A decision on the future of the e-scooter program will likely be made before the end of the season in November.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Sam Houpt

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