Scooters

Almost 20 changes have been made to an e-scooter trial project since the program launched in Kelowna in mid-April, city councillors heard Monday.

It sounds like a no-brainer - get a free helmet when you rent an e-scooter.

Hundreds of free helmets have been given out by e-scooter companies, who must provide the headgear to any rider who asks for one.

"For the companies, providing a free helmet is a condition of their licence and it's just a cost for them doing business in Kelowna," Matt Worona, the city's new mobility specialist, said Friday in an interview.

The introduction of e-scooters in Kelowna on a trial basis has been highly popular by many measurements. About 1,700 of the devices are rented everyday, with each ridden for an average of two kilometres and 18 minutes.

But there have also been many complaints about e-scooters. The top three gripes are scooters being parked improperly after use, the devices being ridden on sidewalks instead of the road, and users not wearing a helmet.

Since the e-scooter program launched in mid-April, RCMP and city bylaw officers have issued 260 warnings to scooter users about their bad behaviours.

"Education is the preferred approach over enforcement," Worona said, adding he wasn't sure how many, if any, fines of $100 had been issued to e-scooter riders for not wearing a helmet.

While some might clamor for fines to be issued to helmet-less e-scooter users, Worona noted it's relatively rare for people who ride a bike without a helmet to be ticketed, despite regulations requiring their use.

The e-scooter program has been tweaked since its launch to provide for safer rides and fewer entanglements between riders and pedestrians.
Modifications either already made or in the works include:

- banning the use of scooters in the downtown area between 10:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. to limit the number of drunk people who may climb aboard
 
- requiring rental companies to more promptly retrieve e-scooters that have been left in places where they block pedestrians or otherwise pose an inconvenience
 
- since studies show 30% of e-scooter injuries occur during first rides, renters who've just opened an online account with a rental company can only operate the device at half speed
"We know that may be annoying to some people, to only go half as fast as their friends at first," Worona said. "But these kinds of actions are all about making e-scooter use as safe as possible."

- restricting e-scooter speeds, regardless of time of day or experience of rider, to 13 km/h when the devices are used in City Park or along the busy downtown Kelowna waterfront
 
City councillors will discuss the successes and challenges of the e-scooter trial program at Monday's meeting.