Saskatchewan is contemplating whether it’s time to let electronic scooters hit the streets.
The province is among the last in Canada that doesn’t allow the quirky conveyances on public roads.
The City of Saskatoon, a local rental business and multinational corporations are all hoping — and in some cases anticipating — that provincial law may soon change to give municipalities the power to approve the devices.
“It’s time to implement a framework in Saskatchewan for this,” said local entrepreneur Ben Quattrini. “They’re going to be used anyways.”
Under provincial law, e-scooters are considered a type of unlicensed motor vehicle. They’re legal to own, but illegal to ride on any public street in Saskatchewan; nor does the City of Saskatoon permit them on sidewalks or paths.
That hasn’t stopped enthusiasts. Quattrini said he sees plenty of people gliding on scooters from the front of one of his stores on River Landing. He has wanted to start a local e-scooter rental company for two years, after following their advent in cities across Canada and the United States.
In October, Saskatchewan Government Insurance began consulting police, businesses and municipalities about allowing e-scooters. A copy of SGI’s report provided to Postmedia says more than 60 per cent of 223 respondents were in favor of allowing them on roads.
Don Morgan, the minister responsible for SGI, was not available for an interview. In a prepared statement, he said no decision has been made.
However, businesses are bullish. Chris Schafer, vice-president of Bird Canada, the national arm of a multinational scooter sharing company, registered as a lobbyist in May and has been encouraging the government to approve the scooters and leave it up to municipalities to decide where users are allowed to ride them.
“The cities that I wish to explore that need the province to effectively grant them that ability, because they need to access the public roads in the municipality,” Schafer said.
Saskatoon is already laying the groundwork. The city is creating a draft regulatory framework for shared e-scooters, which would determine whether people could ride them in bike lanes or on sidewalks, streets or some combination of them, as well as rules around helmets, maximum speeds and other regulations.
“If approved, and subject to provincial legislation changes, a pilot project location will be chosen, and a comprehensive assessment and implementation plan will be developed to evaluate the pilot project,” transportation committee acting director David LeBoutiller wrote in a statement.
The city’s current target for that pilot is next summer.
The main concern expressed by respondents to SGI’s survey was safety. SGI does not collect specific data for e-scooters, but lumps them in with electronic bikes and mopeds, which were involved in a collective 191 collisions between 1988 and 2020, resulting in four fatalities.
Quattrini said safety education will be key. He also hopes cities permit a limited number of e-scooter companies to avoid a flood of competition, he added, noting other cities restricted the number of vendors after an influx of scooters created clutter.
“What you ended up with was a bunch of e-scooter debris all over the place, because you have too many for the population. It was just a total disaster,” Quattrini said.
Schafer said he sees a strong business case for e-scooters in Saskatoon and Regina, and is hopeful the province will open the door. People will use private scooters whether or not the government regulates them, he said.
“People are more inclined to follow rules if they can understand the rules.”
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