According to a City of Kelowna councillor, the newly implemented e-scooter rideshare programs, including OGO Scooters, Bunny Scooters and Zip, are impeding on the enjoyment of pedestrians in downtown Kelowna.
Coun. Brad Sieben said the scooters, though billed as a method of transportation, have become more recreation-based and are dangerous to pedestrians and users alike.
In an Aug. 26 morning meeting, Sieben raised concerns to his fellow councillors about how the scooters are being used, the safety of pedestrians and the lack of helmet usage.
“It’s not unanimous, I have seen people using it as a mode of transportation,” said Sieben.
“But more of what I’ve seen is (the scooters) being used as a novelty-type rental, especially along the promenade in City Park and Stuart Park. To be honest, I’ve found it to be intrusive to people’s enjoyment of that promenade.”
Sieben said while the fun of the scooters isn’t a bad thing, there are better ways to do it. He cited Dropbike, the bike-share program that nixed its deal with the City of Kelowna after less than a year, as a good example of balance between recreation and transportation.
“(Dropbike) was actually being used to get from point A to point B and for fun and recreation. This is more recreation; less of a viable transportation option that I’m seeing,” he said.
“There’s been an absolute void without bike share this summer and it’s been a shame to not have what was so successful last year. Certainly, the e-scooters, in my opinion, have not replaced or enhanced that. I wish it wasn’t an either this or that situation but if I had my choice I’d take bike share, for sure.”
Sieben also lauded bike share programs as a good way to get some exercise, something which he said is lacking in the e-scooter programs.
Sieben said several council members share his sentiment but he is keen to have city staff write a report on how the programs have been used throughout the city for a more in-depth look from council.
OGO Scooters co-owner, Chris Szydlowski said he is open for conversations with the city regarding the scooters.
“We’re always trying to find ways to improve,” he said.
“It is a pretty new transportation option for people, so there’s a certain amount of excitement. There’s room to improve where we can ride and as the laws develop, to make it safer. Long term, I really think people are looking at e-scooters and other electric devices as micro-mobility to reduce the biggest danger in our city, which is cars, trucks and congestion.”
In response to the lack of helmets, Szydlowski said initially they had helmets for every scooter but after a short period of time, they were all missing.
“Another challenge with the helmets is hygiene,” he said, adding that people don’t want to wear helmets full of somebody else’s sweat.
“We’re exploring all avenues, including partnerships, to have helmets available. We also will have helmets available through our waterfront team that is out there helping customers on an ongoing basis.”
Founder of Zip Scooters, Luke Mydlarz, shared a similar sentiment.
“I don’t agree with (Sieben),” he said. “You can look at the world market and see that these scooters are helping lots of things: from reducing cars on roads to reducing emissions and pollution in the atmosphere — especially in congested areas.”
Mydlarz said e-scooters are projected to be a $25 billion industry by 2025 and he doesn’t see it at all as a novelty.
He cited a 2018 case study by the City of Portland, which found 71 per cent of Portlanders most frequently used e-scooters to get to a destination. The report also said six per cent of users reported getting rid of a car because of e-scooters and another 16 per cent considered it.
“Before councillors make these kinds of comments, they should probably do some research or feel free reach out to operators such as myself,” he said.
Bunny Scooters could not be reached for comment.