Learn from other cities’ problems with e-scooters: Pollard
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
While the devices are “touted as an environmentally friendly option to reduce congestion on roads and provide first- and last-mile connections to transit,” says Pollard, a partner with Edwards Pollard LLP, they’ve also led to more injuries and lawsuits in cities that have decided to allow them.
Following similar programs in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, and more than 125 cities in the United States, Ontario recently announced a five-year pilot project that would allow e-scooters on public roads, he writes in the online legal publication.
“E-scooters are currently illegal to use on roads in Ontario since they do not meet any federal or provincial safety standards for on-road vehicles, although they can be used on private property where Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act does not apply,” Pollard writes.
“Under the province’s proposal, e-scooters would be allowed on roads similar to where any bicycle can operate. The maximum operating speed proposed is 32 kilometres per hour, while the minimum operating age would be 16 years. Helmets would be required for those under 18.”
Users won’t require licences or specialized training, and municipalities can impose restrictions through bylaws, he says.
“While no date for the start of the pilot has been announced and e-scooters remain illegal to operate on Ontario’s roads, sales of the devices have been strong,” writes Pollard. “With the government consulting on ‘how’ and not ‘if’ it will implement e-scooters on the province’s roads, one thing is clear — the e-scooters are coming.”
He says Ontario can learn from the “headaches” other communities have experienced.
“Places like Nashville, Tenn. put limits on e-scooter use after the death of an e-scooter user who collided with a car while operating the device while drunk,” writes Pollard.
“Austin, Texas had over 300 reported injuries in a three-month period, while an emergency room doctor in Calgary reported over 60 e-scooter-related injuries in a one-month period. Most of those injuries were fractures, but some were also head injuries. This should give municipalities pause to consider the ramifications and logistics of allowing these devices on roads.”
E-scooter sharing has also created problems for municipalities, he says.
“The dumping of e-scooters has led to congestion on sidewalks and creates a significant and unexpected trip hazard for pedestrians, especially the elderly or those with disabilities or mobility issues.”
Pollard says safety advocates fear that pedestrians will be put at risk if e-scooters are used on sidewalks — especially at the proposed maximum speed of 32 km/h.
He also wonders about the implications of not requiring those over 18 to use helmets because they will be used “on roadways and bike lanes with little to no separation from vehicle traffic.”
“Thankfully, Ontario is far from alone in grappling with these safety issues and has the advantage of looking to other jurisdictions to see what rules are effective in keeping pedestrians and e-scooter users safe,” Pollard writes.
“Montreal has mandated designated pick-up and drop-off locations for the devices in an effort to prevent them from being left on sidewalks in high traffic areas. San Francisco has reduced the maximum speed to 24 km/hr, while Washington D.C. has proposed prohibiting the use of e-scooters between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. when visibility is poor. Cities like Chicago have taken to charging fines for rental companies and users that fail to follow the rules,” he says.
Based on the experiences of other cities, Pollard says “a proliferation” of lawsuits is likely, including trip and falls over devices left on sidewalks, and injury claims from pedestrians or cyclists struck by e-scooters and users who are hit by cars.
“While there are legitimate safety concerns for both riders and pedestrians that must be addressed, the popularity and the need for cheap, sustainable transportation solutions means that e-scooters are here to stay,” he writes.