electric scooter toronto

Toronto bans electric scooters over safety concerns and not everyone is pleased

Toronto city council decided unanimously yesterday to opt out of the province's electric scooter pilot program, effectively maintaining the ban on using the method of transportation on public streets.

In a news release published Wednesday, the city said the decision was made in an effort to honour its commitment to safety and accessibility for people, especially seniors and those living with disabilities.

"The City consulted closely with members of the local accessibility community and the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee to inform the report and understand the potential impacts and implications that allowing e-scooters to operate in public spaces could have had for people living with disabilities," reads the release. 

"City staff also found that e-scooters provide inadequate consumer safety standards and that there is a lack of protections for pedestrians."

Staff also conducted a review of injury studies related to e-scooters in cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Austin, Paris and Tel Aviv, as well as cities in Australia and New Zealand.

Following the review, staff consulted with Toronto Public Health and determined that passing on the e-scooter pilot would help prevent potentially serious injuries on Toronto streets and sidewalks during a time when hospitals and resources are already burdened and strained as a result of COVID-19.

The decision applies to both shared and privately-owned e-scooters, and it means that e-scooters will remain prohibited on public streets, bike lanes, sidewalks, pathways, trails and other public spaces throughout Toronto.

But while Toronto's councillors may have been unanimous in their decision, cycling advocates say the result is inequitable because it restricts the public's access to a small, affordable and sustainable method of transport — one that isn't much different from the e-bikes people currently ride across the city.

And of course, e-scooter companies that were hoping to break into the Toronto market are likewise disappointed.

"If the City of Toronto is serious about becoming more sustainable, green and livable, then micromobility in all its forms, including e-scooters, must be part of the solution as they have been in more than 200 cities around the world," wrote Bird Canada in a statement in response to the decision. 

"While we are disappointed by the decision today, we look forward to continuing this dialogue with the City of Toronto in the coming months in the post-pandemic period. Our hope is that at that point a more fulsome analysis of sustainable transportation modes can occur. Let's not have Toronto be the city that only sees challenges when others see opportunity."

Bird also pointed out that the decision comes shortly after a recent Nanos survey showed that 70 per cent of Toronto residents were supportive of an e-scooter pilot.

But disability advocates say the ban is a win for the community.

"Imagine a person using a mobility device such as a wheelchair, cane or walker, or a person with vision or hearing loss, is out for a walk on a downtown Toronto sidewalk," wrote March of Dimes Canada in a campaign opposing the pilot project. 

"Suddenly, a silent, unlicensed and uninsured e-scooter rider comes along on the sidewalk, traveling at speeds up to 24 kilometres per hour. A pedestrian with a disability doesn't have the time or space to move out of the way – causing a collision where both pedestrian and rider are injured."

While the pilot won't go ahead in Toronto, it will be introduced in other parts of the province, and city council therefore also voted Wednesday to request that the Ontario government make helmets mandatory for e-scooters riders elsewhere.

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