Shared electric vehicle company Bird Canada gave an informative presentation to Town Council during yesterday's (May 3rd) town council meeting about what e-scooters could potentially look like in our community

Bird Canada's Director of Government Partnerships Michael Covato explained there are many benefits to e-scooters in the community, including cleaner air due to lack of carbon emissions, ease of transportation for community members, and economic benefits.

"We universally released a study two years ago that every single individual e-scooter contributes roughly $2200 USD over a six-month period of additional spending to local businesses," he said.

Covato engaged in a lengthy question-and-answer period with council members, which included several key issues frequently brought up by the community, including:

Q. Will the Town have to pay to bring e-scooters to our community?

A. "The popularity of these systems means they can be profitable without any kind of subsidy," Covato said.

While there would be no direct cost to the Town, Town of Strathmore CAO Kevin Scoble said this doesn't mean there is no cost whatsoever, as Town staff and council would still have to do work regarding potential e-scooters, including traffic bylaw amendments and community engagement sessions.

Q. How will Bird handle clutter? For example, if scooters are left lying around where they shouldn't be and/or get in the way of pathways.

A. "We have operational staff and partners locally based who are proactively checking on every single device that is within the community multiple times per day. That ensures if there is an issue, oftentimes we can correct it before it presents a nuisance to the community. Further, we have 24/7 contact information on every device so if for whatever reason between one of those checks if someone says 'this scooter is knocked over, I don't like where it is," they can report that to us and we will dispatch someone to go out there and correct that issue immediately."

Covato added he expects response times to complaints to be handled within 15-30 minutes in Strathmore, given that driving around Strathmore can be pretty quick and he doesn't expect there to be too many e-scooters in town given our smaller population. While Strathmore could have the capacity for 110-130 e-scooters eventually, if the Town decides to move forward with e-scooters we would see around 65 to start.

Q. Strathmore has several bodies of water including lakes and the canal, will our Town staff have to handle potential e-scooters thrown in?

A. Covato explained this responsibility would be Bird's, so the Town would not be responsible for this potential issue. Covato said Bird scooters have technology that allows them to be fully submerged in water for days without any damage to the scooter or environment, and Bird has equipment that helps them easily recover submerged e-scooters. Given that Bird does several checkups on every e-scooter a day, he says submerged e-scooters should be recovered in a timely manner.

Q. Is the Town protected from liability costs? And what do injuries/ fatalities look like regarding e-scooters?

A. Covato said the Bird user agreement and agreement with the Town would cover any potential liability issues, so the Town would not be expected to pay if any liability issue were to arise. As for injuries, Covato said e-scooter injuries happen at approximately the same rate as bicycle injuries. As for fatalities, Covato didn't have the official data available off the top of his head so he wasn't 100% sure about this but said out of hundreds of millions of rides taken on Bird e-scooters around the world, fatalities are only at around 100.

Q. How will Bird manage where e-scooters are driven or parked?

A. Bird institutes several zones digitally, including:

  • No-Ride Zones: if you enter one of these your e-scooter will start beeping and will slow down to around 3 km per hour. You will not be able to end your ride here and your credit card will continue to get charged, which would prevent someone from simply ditching the e-scooter.
  • No-Parking Zones: you can drive an e-scooter normally in these locations, but similar to the No-Ride Zone you can not end your ride.
  • Slow Zones: Bird can put a speed cap on certain areas they believe would pose safety risks if e-scooters are driven at full speeds. E-scooters typically can reach speeds up to 24 km per hour, but in these zones they would be limited to 10-15 km per hour. 

Since all of these are done digitally Covato said it is very easy for Bird to work with the Town on what they would want zones to look like, and amendments to zones can be done within an hour.

Additional details:

  • Bird e-scooters have an age restriction that can be decided by the Town. Covato recommends either 16 or 18 years old.
  • A typical ride may cost anyone between $5-$7. Discounts are available for seniors, healthcare workers, veterans, people under government assistance programs, and more.
  • Bird will provide all usage data on e-scooters to the Town for free.
  • Free helmets are given away at several Bird events for safety, and they will send a free helmet to your house for free, except you would have to pay shipping and handling which would be approximately $9.

Town Council directed administration to prepare a report on the Bird e-scooter system for council and that they determine an appropriate timeline within the next quarter to bring that back to council.

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