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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Electric Vehicle Show, Roundhouse.

The wave begins.  From day to day, the arrival of the electric scooter is visible, as more and more appear on the streets, bikeways and sidewalks.  In the face of disruptive technology, we are as usual in no way prepared, still maintaining the illusion that their use is dependent on their legality.

By the way, if you’re interested in the meaning of “West Pacific,” you can find out more on this podcast that I did with Jeff Wood of the Overhead Wire for a Streetsblog Podcast – beginning at 28.06.

Episode 249: Gordon Price and The Village at the Edge of the Rain Forest

Aug 29, 2019

This week we’re joined by Gordon Price, former Vancouver City Council member and former director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University. Gordon talks about Vancouver’s historical importance as well as its future. We chat about transport, the great west coast melting pot, and what folks should check out if they go visit the city.

 

 

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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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While in Tel Aviv, I signed up for ‘Lime’ – one of the scooter-share services in Israel.  Within about ten minutes, I loved it.  The electric scooter filled a mobility niche I wasn’t quite aware of: short trips for which even bike-share seemed excessive.  Or when transit and taxis were infrequent or unavailable.  Or just because it was the most accessible mode to choose when leaving the apartment, often right there at the curb. 

(Here’s what scooter-use looks like along the waterfront.)

But it was also was apparent that scooters were too successful for their own good: lots of road user conflicts, parking problems, safety issues, a general sense of anarchy after only a year or two of their introduction.

It seemed that the City didn’t quite know what to do with this popular but uncontrolled mode of transport, or so far hadn’t had effective enough enforcement – no doubt to considerable complaint from the populace.

I therefore wasn’t at all surprised when the following notice arrived in my inbox today from Tel Aviv Lime.  My guess is that the City has come down heavy on scooter-share companies (insider perspective welcome from TLV) and these ‘guidelines’ are the result . PT prints them in full as a helpful guide for this Province and City, which so far has made the scooter effectively illegal everywhere. 

 

TLV Shared Mobility Regulations

Dear Limers,

We, as Israel’s largest micro mobility service provider, take upon ourselves the responsibility to help all users of the urban space adapt to this mobility revolution and to reduce any disturbance that may be caused by our scooters.

On August 1st, new regulations will come into force and we want to tell you about them and the requirements of the law. Let’s all respect them and act accordingly:

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During this time of good weather, late nights and less clothing, I search for an agreeable public space along a greenway, to stop for a while to nurse a coffee and watch the passing parade.  I look for one specific thing.

Electric bikes. And the occasional electric scooter.

Here’s the curious thing: there aren’t any.  Well, hardly any – at least nowhere as many as you’d reasonably expect in a city as cycle-friendly as Vancouver, particularly one with hills.  Especially, say, North Vancouver.

At the opening of the Shipyards this weekend, I looked for any bike that had a battery pouch.  None – not too surprising in a pedestrian-heavy area.  But Tony Valente, the CNV councillor, also confirmed that there aren’t as any many electric-assist bikes as you’d expect in a community whose main street, Lonsdale, is essentially a hill.  He thinks they’re on the way.

But why aren’t they already here, given how popular they are – along with a tidal wave of electric scooters – in other cities as near as Seattle?

Perhaps it’s our culture.  We think battery-assist bikes are somehow cheating.  If you ain’t sweating up that hill, you’re a lazy weak person.

And we’re law-abiding.  Since electric scooters are illegal everywhere but in parking lots and your backyard, we’ve held back the inevitable.

But if what I saw in Tel Aviv is indicative, along with other global cities, the electric scooter is on its way, proliferating in traffic in a mere two or three years to the point where they often seem to be the traffic.  Here’s a typical scene along the beach front in TLV:

IMG_2383(1)_HEVC

And on Allenby Street, a major avenue through downtown.

IMG_3047(1)_HEVC

I welcome your theories.  And an answer to the questions: where should electric-assist cycles and scooters be?  On bikeways, separated routes, side streets, in any traffic? Or anywhere unless very specifically prohibited, like sidewalks and seawalls?

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When it comes to the inevitable disruption that will be caused by the proliferation of electric bikes, scooters and every possible hybrid, we are so not ready.  It’s the one big thing I learned from last month’s trip to Tel Aviv, and saw this:

Scooters (and electric bikes) are everywhere in Tel Aviv – by the thousands.  Like an invasive species, it took only two years for them to fill a mobility niche, and there’s likely no possible way to exterminate them now.

Though there is the occasional sighting in Vancouver, so far the private scooter-share companies – notably Lime and Bird – have been prevented from taking root.  Like Uber, the Province has kept them at bay by making their use functionally illegal.  Here’s the situation as described in the new Active Transportation Design Guide:

Legality of E-Scooters and Other Small, One Person Electric Vehicles

At the time of writing, e-scooters (and similar small, one-person electric vehicles such as hoverboards, motorized skateboards, and self balancing electric unicycles) are not permitted on public roadways or sidewalks in B.C.

The B.C. MVA defines these vehicle types as motor vehicles, but they do not meet provincial equipment safety standards for on-street use. E-scooters and similar vehicle types may only be operated where the B.C. MVA does not apply, such as on private property that does not have public vehicle access, and on trails or pathways (if allowed by municipal bylaw).

Many of the laws that ban e-scooters were developed under different mobility contexts. As demand for these technologies and others grow, the policies may need to be updated.

Um, ‘may’?   Scooters, in particular, are gaining global popularity.  They’re cheap, compact, flexible, zero-emission, noiseless, practical, fun and hip.

There is no way to stop people from buying them.  And if the law says there’s no legal way to use them, then the law will be seen as irrelevant unless rigorously and punitively enforced. And why would we do that when this is exactly the kind of transportation we want to encourage in a ‘climate emergency.’

There will be more to come on the particular circumstances in Tel Aviv.  But we need to prepare ourselves now for the impact of this new mobility.  May I suggest we send the necessary authorities to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks with instructions that, during that time, they cannot use a car.

 

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Spotted on Georgia, a scooter (non-electric).  This one struck me as odd only because it was so rare.

 

Why hasn’t there been a sudden inundation of dockless electric scooters like Lime, Bird and others that have appeared in cities from San Diego to Seattle?  It’s surely only a matter of time.

To councillors (who would like to avoid having to make decisions on any more bike lanes), get ready for their presence on sidewalks.  If you want to avoid that conflict, then that may mean making provision for scooter/bike lanes.

 

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Sandy James Image

Price Tags Vancouver has been discussing how and when Vancouver will be addressing scooters. And we mean all things about scooters~where they are left, where they will be allowed to  operate, and what the restrictions will be on companies bringing them to Vancouver. .

In a city that does not have a surplus of taxis and with taxis unwilling to do short trips, and with no ride share options on the immediate horizon, other alternatives are needed. There is definitely a latent demand  for short trips, and scooters are one way to go. The Seattle Department of Transportation”s definition of “shareable mobility devices”  include “tricycles, handcycles, tandem cycles, electric scooters, and others” with a view to providing transportation options to disabled residents. Seattle is also looking at hefty licencing fees of  up to $250,000 if four vendors apply. The Reuters clip below shows that vendors make their money back in two to three weeks with scooter shares.

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They’re back in San Francisco.

As locals hop aboard, complain about the scooters taking up street space, compete to collect and charge them, and hurl them into lakes, municipalities are left to wonder: How do we manage these things? Some, like Austin, have decided to let the companies be. Others, like San Francisco and Santa Monica, have cracked down, limiting which companies can operate, and how.

As with Uber, Vancouver is apparently being cautious.  Or has it just not had to confront the scooter reality when some venture-bro decides to dump them on us?

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