Advocates for Ottawa residents living with disabilities say they are concerned about the possible return of electric scooters.

E-scooters are proving to be one of the most popular forms of transportation during the summer in Ottawa. The transportation committee will vote Wednesday on whether to bring back the scooters for a third pilot project.

“We’re hesitant to support it because it’s not proven yet that it’s actually going to happen,” says Dean Steacy, chair of government relations for the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC).

“Right now you’ve got the advisory committee that’s voted 7 to 1 against,” says Steacy. “So that should say something to the transportation committee.”

Some say these scooters still pose a threat to those living with a disability, including Wayne Antle, president of the AEBC for Ottawa-Gatineau.

“It’s almost impossible to enforce the rules with so many e-scooters, and so many riders,” says Antle. “So I really don’t think that they have addressed the issues that we’ve raised.”

One major issue is riders using and parking scooters in the middle of the sidewalk. Bird Canada CEO Stewart Lyons says their scooters have improved accuracy to prevent this.

“Much greater precision than we’ve ever had before. Where a scooter is, and where it’s going,” says Lyons. “And that helps up prevent things like sidewalk riding. It helps us do things like precision parking, which forces it to park in a 20 centimetre box.”

“I’m not convinced that the GPS accuracy is fine tuned enough to pick out if one is left in the middle of the sidewalk,” says Antle.

The City of Ottawa has made it clear that in order for companies to operate here, they must comply with some new stricter guidelines.

  • Newest generation of e-scooters
  • Cannot be driven on sidewalks
  • Can only be parked in designated spots
  • Response time to address issues reduced to 15 minutes (originally 1 hour)
  • E-scooters must emit a constant sound while operating

Still, David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance says that residents likely still won't hear the scooters coming up behind them.

“You’ve got to remember, you’re using this on a city street downtown,” says Lepofsky. “A truck goes by, jack hammers are going off, there’s loud music nearby. It’s got to be loud enough to warn you and they have not found that.”

Lepofsky also thinks the city is putting residents living with disabilities on the back burner.

“If it’s creating a barrier, and a risk for seniors, if people are afraid to go out because they’re afraid to be hit—all of which are feedback that we’ve heard from town halls on this in Ottawa—then I’m sorry, their safety should be the priority,” says Lepofsky.

The e-scooter companies say that safety is top of mind and that the new generation of scooters will address any issues from the previous two years.

“They may be testing prototype technologies, but vulnerable pedestrians shouldn’t be used as guinea pigs in another pilot while they test this technology,” says Antle.