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Is it time for Oshawa to pump the brakes on electric scooters? Some call for pause on project

Apr 07, 2023Apr 07, 2023

Businesses owners and a councillor in Oshawa are calling on the city to pump the brakes on an electric scooter pilot project, citing concerns over safety and a lack of proper infrastructure.

In April, the City of Oshawa chose e-scooter companies Bird Canada and Neuron Mobility to deliver a two year ride-sharing pilot program at no cost to the city, after opting into the Ministry of Transportation's program that permits e-scooters on roads.

Since then, the e-scooters, which can drive on road with a speed limit of 50 km/h or lower, have been seen across the city. They are not allowed to be driven on sidewalks and do not need to be dropped off in a designated charging area.

Erik Tamm, owner of Oshawa Markets, is among those calling for a pause on the project.

"We really were left in the dark about how the program is going to work and we haven't really gotten any answers since," Tamm told CBC News.

Tamm said he was surprised to see eight such scooters sitting on his property when he showed up to work in late April.

Located across from a retirement home, Tamm says his market is a fully accessible building that caters to senior customers. The scooters often get left in the middle of the sidewalk and can block entrances and ramps, he said.

He says he once found a scooter in his dumpster and saw one parked in the middle of the parking lot, creating a risk for vehicle drivers trying to park.

"It's become a real problem for us."

He also has concerns about insurance and accessibility liability. And he wonders why the e-scooters are allowed to be on private property.

"That's like me going to another business and setting up a market on their front lawn, taking all the money that I make, and leaving," he said.

The number of complaints Coun. Rosemary McConkey says she receives daily is why she is speaking up about temporarily suspending the program while the city gathers further information on how the pilot is going.

"It makes sense that micromobility is an idea that a lot of people are in favour of. It gets the cars off the roads, reduces pollution, all good stuff. But the safety is the big issue right now," McConkey said.

The city's website says vendors use geofence technology to determine where riders are and prevent them from parking or forcing them to slow down in certain parts of the city. But McConkey says she isn't sure if that's actually happening.

Last Monday, she put forward a motion to council to pause the program so that council could thoroughly review and look at different infrastructure options. But the motion wasn't heard after eight out of 10 councillors voted against it.

CBC News has reached out to Oshawa's mayor and the councillors who voted against hearing the motion but has not received a response.

"Hopefully at a certain point, the message will get through," she said.

For McConkey, discussing the program is even more important following the death of a 20-year-old woman struck by a pick-up truck while riding an e-scooter on a sidewalk in Oshawa on May 17.

Durham Regional Police are investigating the incident.

"My heart goes out to that family."

The ability to gor further for cheaper is what makes the e-scooters appealing on the Durham Campus, according to Aakash Chib, who was elected as the student governor for the 2023-2024 board year.

He said a number of students use them as it's more convenient to tap a credit card and hop on a scooter than wait a half hour or more for a bus.

"I love to ride it. It's pretty convenient for everyone," said Chib.

As for the safety aspect of the e-scooters, he said they don't go any faster than a bike, and motorists have for the most part been respectful of them on the road.

"All the drivers are concerned about us. Whenever they see us, they just move away," said Chib.

Advocates for electric scooters have noted benefits of the vehicle include low operating costs, easy repair and maintenance, and being more a sustainable, relatively eco-friendly, alternative to driving.

Back in 2021, Toronto city council unanimously voted not to opt in to the provincial e-scooter pilot program and banned e-scooters in the city. Council found significant accessibility barriers with the project and that safety, enforcement, insurance and liability issues were unresolved.

The City of Windsor, however, has moved ahead with plans to expand e-scooter services after council voted to allow Bird Canada to continue operating in the city for three years after an initial two-year pilot project downtown.

After taking Bird scooters for a spin, city looks to keep program going

In April of this year, the Region of Waterloo launched its e-scooter and e-bike program. Riders can rent the vehicles at virtual stations installed in the downtown core.

The City of Hamilton and the City of Brampton also have e-scooter rental programs.

Woman dead after being struck by truck while riding e-scooter on Oshawa sidewalk