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Kelowna looks to offer exclusivity for e-bike-share operator, not e-scooters

Kelowna’s e-scooter sharing market will remain competitive, while the city seeks a lone e-bike-share operator
The City of Kelowna is looking to change its micro-mobility program to allow a single operator to provide e-bike-share services to the city, in hopes it will pique interest among service providers. (Contributed)

Kelowna should continue to allow a competitive e-scooter sharing market while beginning a search for a lone e-bike-share service provider, staff told council on Monday (Feb. 1).

In June 2020, council requested staff devise a report on the implications of offering exclusivity to a single provider to handle all of the city’s e-mobility sharing programs — both e-bike-share and e-scooter share. This would prove challenging, staff said Monday, as currently only one company currently offers the services in tandem.

As a result, active transportation co-ordinator Matt Worona suggested the city allow e-scooter share programs to continue as it previously did through summer 2019 with a competitive market built by several providers. While the city wouldn’t incur any financial penalties in cancelling those permits to allow for a single provider, it could hurt the city’s reputation with service providers, Worona told council.

“Historically, the City of Kelowna has allowed and encouraged competition in the private delivery of shared transportation services — think taxis, ride-hailing, car-share,” Worona said, adding that the “flux” of the industry could cause service interruptions if given to a single company.

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However, Worona said offering exclusivity for e-bike-share services could pique operators’ interest, which is lacking under the current application system.

Council agreed with Worona, directing staff to come back with an amendment to the city’s micro-mobility program which would allow operators to apply to become the city’s exclusive e-bike-share provider. The amendment would not affect operations for rental programs.

While e-scooters are not currently allowed on city streets, the provincial government is expected to soon amend legislation to change that — until then, e-scooter services won’t return to Kelowna, staff said.

Currently, all mobility sharing programs in the city remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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