It seems I can’t get away from discussing what is happening on our roads and highways.
For the past couple of weeks it concerned E-bikes.
This week I find myself being concerned about the possible onset of E-scooters.
The provincial government is considering allowing electric scooters on Ontario roads wherever bicycles are permitted under a five-year pilot project and will accept public feedback on the new rules until Sept. 12.
Under the plan riders will have to be at least 16 years old and the scooters will not be able to travel faster than 32 km/h.
I say good luck with the latter requirement because that is the speed E-bikes are supposed to be limited to and we now know how that has worked out, the removal of governors allowing for much greater speeds.
And at any rate, I believe the 32-km/h speed is too fast for scooters. In other jurisdictions on this continent and in Europe, the speed limit ranges from 16 km/h to 24 km/h.
The complete list of rules proposed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation include:
•scooters will be prohibited from entering controlled access highways (such as the 400-series of highways) and passengers will not be allowed;
•riders must be at least 16 years of age, and bicycle helmets must be worn by anyone under 18;
•scooters must have a maximum speed of 32 km/h;
•they must have two wheels and brakes, a maximum 17-inch wheel diameter, and pedals and seats are prohibited;
•scooters must have a horn or bell, a front and rear light, weigh no more than 45 kilograms, and have a maximum power output of 500Watts.
Strangely, when it comes to speed and power output the E-scooter, far lighter than the E-bike’s maximum 120 kilograms, shares the maximum power output and speed limit with it.
I actually find it hard to believe that the government would propose turning people loose on these things at speeds up to 32 km/h with no training required and no helmets required for riders over 18.
E-bikes, which in the grand scheme of things have to be considered far safer, require all riders to wear either a motorcycle or bicycle helmet.
I think the Ontario government has to give a lot more thought to this proposal than it appears to have given it to this point. Actually, I think it should accept public input on it until the spring, rather than the Sept. 12 deadline that it has set.
The proposal has naturally been happily greeted by those selling E-scooters.
Luke Mydlarz, founder of Kitchener e-scooter startup Zip Dockless Inc., told The Kitchener-Waterloo Record he was very excited about the possibility of the province finally opening up roads to scooters, the use of roads previously being denied to them as they do not meet any federal or provincial safety standards for on-road use.
“This is a great first step,” he told The Record. “I’m very happy to see the province stepping up to the plate.”
Mydlarz said he likes most of the proposed rules, but he wants to see the age limit for riders increased to 18 and the length of the pilot reduced, two years being “more appropriate.”
Jamie Stuckless, executive director of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, was quoted as saying the coalition also recommended shortening the pilot to two years but also reducing the maximum speed limit to 24 km/h.
But let’s look at a place that has already experimented with E-scooters on roads and in traffic.
Global news reported last month that Electric scooters very quickly became a popular mode of transportation for Calgarians since their introduction to the city in July.
But it also reported that the new trend has been accompanied by a slew of scooter-related injuries.
“Given that you’re in that somewhat precarious vertical position, people are falling off of these things and as a result, we’re seeing mostly upper extremity injuries – people are hurting their wrists and elbows,” Emergency room physician Dr. Eddy Lang said.
“There’s a back bolt that people are catching their right ankle on, and we’re seeing lacerations related to that as well.”
Global quoted a tweet from Const. Chris Martin:
“Be careful if you’re out scooting tonight. I’ve seen a few people bail off of these this week.
PS. While I was typing this my partner & I watched a guy crash a scooter, he is OK, only bruised his pride.”
Lang, who is also an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, is leading a study looking at the number of hospital visits connected to e-scooters.
He said they combed through the electronic health record used in Calgary to see when the word “scooter” was used by patients as they described to how they were injured.”
What they found was that already, some 60 patients have visited Calgary emergency rooms with e-scooter related injuries. Of those, most were fractures but some were head injuries.
Lang told Global the data collected is on par with what other cities have been experiencing, noting a report out of Austin, Texas that suggested that city saw just under 300 injuries in a three-month period.
“I think, unfortunately, what we’re seeing is almost no one is wearing a helmet when they’re using these,” he said. “What we’re hoping for is that people will take notice of this problem [and] put a helmet into their backpack when they’re heading out in the morning if they think they might be using an E-scooter during the day.”
Statistics released by the City of Calgary indicate 80,000 e-scooter trips were taken between July 13 and 29, covering some 250,000 kilometres.
The maximum speed for the vehicles in Calgary is 20 km/h and it’s illegal to use them while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A story in The Washington Post said the early verdict for the scooters in Europe has been harsh. Commentators have decided they are a “dangerous” trend, “madness” and a “pest.”
But supporters say that the initial woes can be overcome and are outweighed by the potential benefits. They hope that the electric scooters will help reduce the number of cars in congested European cities that were designed long before the advent of motorized vehicles. In less densely populated areas, e-scooters could fill gaps in public transport networks, proponents say.
I suppose this could work in sparsely populated areas.
But I still have a problem that helmet-less people with no experience can simply climb aboard one of these little things and travel in traffic at a speed of 32 km/h.
With all the things it could do for us, I am surprised the Ontario government would even suggest this idea.
But then, some of its other moves haven’t been exactly brilliant either.