While the City of Kelowna is touting e-scooters as a viable new way to get around town, they are posing new obstacles for some residents with disabilities.
Under a three-year provincial pilot program, Kelowna residents and tourists are now allowed to use the city’s road and shared-pathway networks to scoot around on shared or privately-owned electric scooters.
For Spring Hawes, who lives with tetraplegia and uses a wheelchair to get around, the scooter sharing programs are presenting an issue — specifically regarding parking. She says for herself and other Kelowna residents with disabilities, improperly parked e-scooters can limit already restricted means of transportation.
Since the launch of e-scooter sharing programs in Kelowna in mid-April, several people, including Hawes, have taken to social media to show photos of scooters parked in the middle of narrow walkways in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for some people to get around them.
“I’ve seen many times where they’re just left in the middle of the sidewalk and they’re literally completely blocking the sidewalk,” said Hawes.
“That’s a very obvious barrier — not just for people in wheelchairs, but for all kinds of people who wouldn’t be able to get around them.”
Hawes said she’s not opposed to the idea of e-scooters, but with the ‘dockless’ system offered by local operators, scooters will continue to be left in inappropriate areas.
“If there’s no garbage can, people will still throw their garbage out; if there’s no place to leave a scooter, people will leave it wherever it stops.”
The City of Calgary experienced similar parking-based problems throughout its two-year pilot program for shared e-bike and e-scooter programs. According to the city’s final report on the pilot from December 2020, staff fielded 255 calls over e-scooter parking issues in 2020 and Calgarians listed parking as their third top concern in a survey on e-scooters.
To address the accessibility issues posed by improperly parked scooters, Calgary implemented 30 parking zones in high-use areas in 2020. Still, those zones experienced relatively low usage with around 2.5 per cent of trips ending in the zones, despite 10 per cent of e-scooters being deployed there by operators.
“If there were more parking zones and incentives to use them, usage would likely increase,” staff wrote in the report.
City of Kelowna mobility specialist Matt Worona says growing pains are to be expected with substantial programs like this, and expects adherence to parking guidelines to improve as people become more familiar with them. Through the first week of the programs running in Kelowna, Worona says around 13 per cent of scooters were parked improperly.
“We hope to see that number trend downwards,” said Worona. “It’s not where we want to see it today, but we think we can get it to a better level.”
Much like in Calgary, operators in Kelowna will be handing out $10 fines to riders who park improperly. Users have to send a photo of their parked scooter to the operator using the app and park jobs deemed out of line will net fines.
“The first time, they get a warning. The second time they get a fine and if you continue on (parking improperly), you can get booted from the service.”
Worona is reminding users of any of the city’s three shared scooter programs, Lime, Roll or Zip, that helmet use is mandatory, scooters are not permitted on the sidewalk and riding drunk is not allowed.
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