Technology
September 5, 2019

Minding the Scooters in San Diego

Has anyone at City Hall (hello, Transportation Advisory Committee) said anything about the wave of electric scooters that are starting to wash over Vancouver?

Here’s an example from yesterday on the Seaside at English Bay.  Notice the speed differential; the scooter on the bikeway is going faster than any vehicle on Beach Avenue.

Download video: Scooter at English Bay

We still have time to deal with the issues that have already emerged in other cities – notably San Diego, as reported here in the New York Times:

Since scooter rental companies like Bird, Lime, Razor, Lyft and Uber-owned Jump moved into San Diego last year, inflating the city’s scooter population to as many as 40,000 by some estimates, the vehicles have led to injuries, deaths, lawsuits and vandals. Regulators and local activists have pushed back against them. One company has even started collecting the vehicles to help keep the sidewalks clear. …

San Diego’s struggle to contain the havoc provides a glimpse of how reality has set in for scooter companies like Bird and Lime. Last year, the services were hailed as the next big thing in personal transportation. Investors poured money into the firms, valuing Bird at $2.3 billion and Lime at $2.4 billion and prompting an array of followers. …

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Another counter-intuitive study that offsets a reasonable expectation that more electric bikes and scooters will mean less fit users – kind of like the idea that ‘riding hailing will result in less SOV use and vehicle congestion’.  (Turns out Uber et al increase congestion and reduce transit use.)  But there are qualifications.

From treehugger:

E-bikers use their bikes more, go longer distances, and often substitute it for driving or transit. …

A new study, with a mouthful of a title, “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities,” finds that in fact it is true: e-bikers take longer trips and get pretty much the same physical activity gains as analog cyclists. …

But perhaps even more significant is the dramatic increase in exercise among people who switch from cars to e-bikes, a much easier transition than from cars to a-bikes.

It should be noted that this study looks at European pedelec e-bikes like my Gazelle, where people have to pedal a bit to get the 250 watt motor to kick in. Results probably don’t apply to overpowered throttle-controlled American e-bikes or scooters. Because, as the study authors note, with a pedelec, “using an e-bike requires moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, depending on topography.”

There is so much to unpack from this study. It also looks at how e-bikes are easier for older riders, keeping them fitter longer. It also reinforces my opinion that the Europeans got it right by limiting speed and power on e-bikes and mandating that they are all pedelecs rather than throttle operated; you don’t get much exercise on a motorcycle.

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One of the world’s most iconic vans is making a comeback…

But this time, it’s electric. Slated for production by 2022, the “electric microbus” is one of five new electric models in Volkswagen’s ID. series — a family of 100% electric vehicles, which includes a crossover, a compact, a sedan, and of course, the van.

Just like the classic VW van, there will be room for up to seven people with an adjustable interior that includes a table and movable seats. Volkswagen also intends on enabling all ID. series models with a fully autonomous feature option.

Distance, a major concern of many when it comes to purchasing an electric vehicle, is no longer an issue. The van will have an electric range of 400 to 600 km, comparable to pretty much any gas-powered vehicle. Further, Volkswagen has partnered with Electrify Canada (partnership formed by Electrify America in cooperation with Volkswagen Canada) to build ultra-fast electric vehicle charging infrastructure to give Canadians the reliability they need to confidently make the switch to electric. Planning and deployment are well underway, including network routes — you can check out the Vancouver to Calgary route here.

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Image: FT.com

Even The Economist is weighing in  on the fact that Vancouver is the special child, the one big city in North America that still does not have the common ride-hailing  services like Uber and Lyft.  There is the Kater service which uses taxi licences and is part of the local taxi association, which take a share of profits. Prices are similar to taxis, but there are a few Kater cars that are Karaoke cars. (We can’t make this stuff up.)

As The Economist observes British Columbia’s requirement of Class Four commercial licences may be deterring licensing  part time drivers for ride hailing. But the Province’s cautious approach to ride-hailing is also being lauded:

The regulators have reason to proceed cautiously. In many cities where ride-hailing has taken off, congestion has worsened and use of public transport has dropped. In San Francisco, congestion, as measured by extra time required to complete a journey, increased by 60% from 2010 to 2016, according to Greg Erhardt, a professor at the University of Kentucky. More than half of the rise was caused by the growth of ride-hailing. Population and employment growth accounted for the rest. Ride-hailing led to a 12% drop in ridership on public transport in the city. San Francisco’s experience is a “cautionary tale for Vancouver”, says Joe Castiglione, who analyses data for its transport authority.

Without providing data, the Economist article calls Vancouver “one of  North America’s most traffic-jammed cities, in part because its downtown is small.” 

The article rightly notes that ride-hailing can worsen congestion, but also observes that Vancouver is one of the few places in North America with public transit use increasing.

TransLink’s head of policy Andrew Curran states that high gas price, population and employment growth has helped boost transit use as well as car sharing, where people book vehicles that they drive themselves. Andrew notes that deferring Uber and Lyft in the province has helped transit and car share. Vancouver has 3,000 vehicles in car share, which is double the number of similar vehicles in San Francisco.

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They’re on their way, Vancouver is behind, it’s going to be messy, but it’s inevitable: electric scooters and, no doubt, a whole bunch of related technologies.

Thomas sends along a piece from The Economist that describes what’s happening in Europe.  (Unfortunately, the whole piece is behind a paywall, but here are the opening paragraphs):

Streets ahead

Europe is edging towards making post-car cities a reality

 Hurtling along a “cycle highway” by the River Scheldt in Antwerp recently, Charlemagne (the author) only noticed the electric scooter when it was too late. Spinning tyre met stationary scooter, British journalist separated from Belgian bike and Anglo-Saxon words were uttered. How irritating and obnoxious these twiggy little devices can seem with their silly names (“Lime”, “Poppy”, “Zero”) and their sudden invasion of the pavements of every large European city. Everywhere they seem to be in the way, abandoned precisely at those points where prams, pedestrians or speeding journalists need to pass.

And yet your columnist refuses to hold a grudge, because the rise of the electric scooter is part of a broader and welcome phenomenon: the gradual retreat of the car from the European city. Across the continent, apps and satellite-tracking have spawned bike- and scooter-rental schemes that allow city-dwellers to beat the traffic. Networks of cycle paths are growing and creeping outwards; that of Paris will by next year have grown by 50% in five years. Municipal governments are lowering speed limits, introducing car bans and car-free days, pedestrianising streets and replacing car parks with bike parks.

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In response to part 1 of this series, of which focused on the challenges in planning for electric micro mobility, part 2 presents the opportunities for doing so.

As mentioned in part 1, BC’s current Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) serves as one of, if not the primary barrier to accommodating these technologies. Accordingly, reforming such act is a critical first step in creating a more welcoming, legal, environment for electric micro mobility.

Thanks to the Road Safety Law Reform Group of BC, much progress on reforming the BC MVA has already been made. Comprised of representatives from the legal, health, and advocacy community, including HUB Cycling, BC Cycling Coalition, and Trial Lawyers Association of BC (among others), the Road Safety Reform Group published a position paper titled Modernizing the BC Motor Vehicle Act, that recommends the following key reforms:

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The wave of electric micro mobility: it’s happening fast here in Canada.

From e-bikes, to e-scooters, to e-boards and segways, increasingly cities in BC and beyond are speaking out about the need to accommodate such emerging technologies, while simultaneously grappling with how to do so.

Written in 1957, BCs Provincial Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), whose initial design was to regulate motor vehicles and their drivers, has proven to be a significant barrier in the creation of a more hospitable environment for these rapidly emerging technologies and their riders.

While e-bikes are now legally able to operate on BC roads (operators must be at least 16 years of age and wearing a helmet, with electric motors capped at 500 watts) how to accommodate users who wish to use different electric technologies — such as e-scooters and e-boards — remains a big question.

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July 17, 2019

Imagine being able to use a single app to plan, book and pay for all your transport services, across different modes. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is an emerging transportation concept that leverages technology and shared transportation – such as cars, bikes, scooters, and more – to provide mobility services.

The concept of MaaS started in Finland, where it now plays a key role in the national transportation policy.

What will it take to fully realize Mobility as a Service in Metro Vancouver? Join us for an evening of dialogue led by David Zipper and Catherine Kargas. David is a MaaS specialist and has been published in The Atlantic, Slate, Fast Company and WIRED. Catherine is a Vice President at MARCON where she specializes in transport electrification, vehicle automation, shared mobility and MaaS.

Wednesday, July 24

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Segal Business School – 500 Granville

Reserve tickets here.

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From Bloomberg.com, Sweden is experimenting with a road surface that actually recharges electric cars as they drive the highway. A one mile section of road in Gotland will be rebuilt with charging panels at a cost of 12.5 million dollars. If the trial is successful, Sweden plans to build more than 1,200 miles of this recharging road in the near future. You can find out more information and view a video on this project here.

And here is a video that describes the technology and its potential application in France.

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