illustration: Bird.co

How to Use Alberta E-Scooters Safely and Legally

By Cailynn Klingbeil

There’s a zippy new way to get around central Calgary and Edmonton. Micro-mobility companies Lime and Bird Canada now offer rentable, battery-powered scooters after Alberta’s provincial regulations were amended to allow for their use.

Launched last summer, the pilot programs mean anyone 18 or older can rent an electric scooter on a short-term basis. Riders use a smartphone app to locate, pay for and unlock a scooter, then ride it to their destination (at a maximum speed of 20 km/h) and park it when they’re done.

Users in both cities have already made hundreds of thousands of trips, which help to reduce short-trip car use, thereby decreasing emissions, traffic congestion and parking demands.

“I’m happy to see people being given a choice and then choosing to use scooters,” says Sarah Hoyles, executive director of Paths for People, an Edmonton non-profit that advocates for people who walk, roll and cycle. “Scooters are an entry point to understanding active transportation and how it can fit into our lives.”

In Calgary, the arrival of scooters follows dockless electric bicycles, introduced by Lime in 2018 as part of a two-year trial. (The app-based bike share works the same as Lime’s scooter system.) Edmonton doesn’t yet have bike sharing, though city council approved such a program last July.

RULES OF THE ROAD
Like other forms of motorized transportation, scooters are subject to laws governing safe usage. But those laws vary. Calgary scooter users can ride on sidewalks but not on roads. In Edmonton, it’s the opposite: Riders are prohibited from sidewalks but allowed on roads with speed limits of 50 km/h or less. Both cities permit scooters on paved pathways and in bike lanes. It’s notable that these rules specifically apply to rented scooters. If you own one, currently it can only be used on private property.

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Unlawful sidewalk riding has been a particular problem in Edmonton, though Stewart Lyons, CEO of Bird Canada, says the company’s app educates riders about the laws. The app also outlines safe-riding practices like wearing a helmet and not riding with a passenger. And Bird has hosted events to promote safe, legal scooting.

Improper parking is another concern. Being dockless, the vehicles can be left anywhere. Cities in the U.S. and Europe have seen them cluttering streets and pathways, obstructing storefronts, even thrown into rivers and pools. They should always be parked upright on sidewalks in a location that doesn’t impede the movement of pedestrians, cyclists or drivers. Users must also upload a photo to the Bird or Lime app, indicating where and how they parked their scooter.

CONSCIOUSNESS AND COMPASSION
When you’re riding a shared scooter, you’re also using shared infrastructure. “It’s about being conscious of your surroundings and thinking about the other people who are out there too,” says Ryan Lemont, manager of AMA Driver Education. He adds that scooter users—like all road users—should always make safety their top priority, and learn and follow the existing bylaws.

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Though scooters were stowed for winter, when they return to use in spring, Lemont advises Edmonton motorists to be aware of their surroundings and give scooters some space. “Scan your mirrors every five to eight seconds, because scooters can be harder to see, even compared to cyclists.”

Though his work focuses on cars and driving, Lemont has used a Lime scooter in Edmonton, and says the experience was easy and fun. “The world of mobility is changing. It’s nice to have another option out there to help people get around.”