E-scooters will roll into Lacombe next month.
But the two-year pilot project to give Roll Technologies Inc. the exclusive right to run an e-scooter business in town had a bumpy road through city council.
Mayor Grant Creasey said offering exclusive rights “is very problematic for me.
“I just don’t know what would make us feel obligated to give anybody an exclusive on a business in this community,” he said, adding that is made clear to other businesses.
The proposed deal could harm the city’s reputation as a “market-driven and open place to do business”, adding that for him the exclusivity clause is a “deal-breaker.”
Coun. Cora Hoekstra was also strongly opposed to giving Roll Scooters sole rights, pointing out that Red Deer has numerous companies offering e-scooters.
Chief administrative officer Matthew Goudy said Lacombe Regional Tourism reached out to five or six e-scooter companies.
“The vast majority of them, all but this one, expressed either no response or concern that it wasn’t yet a viable market here in Lacombe,” said Goudy. “When we talked to Roll they felt that to offset their investment and make sure it was viable they wanted this exclusivity.”
Goudy said there was an advantage for the city too because as a pilot project it would be easier to work with a single company while working out wrinkles of the program before opening it up to competitors.
Hoekstra remained unconvinced.
“The exclusivity is a hill to die on for me because there must be a reason they want it and we are in essence endorsing a business as a city and I think that we should steer clear of that,” she said. “And they are the only one who responded, so why do they need exclusivity? They have it.”
Coun. Thalia Hibbs said while normally she would not favour an exclusivity agreement, she could agree for a limited two-year pilot project.
“That’s not to say it will continue in the future,” said Hibbs. “After that point, I assume that any business would be welcome to make bids. I would certainly be insisting that that would be the case.”
Hoekstra proposed an amendment removing Roll’s exclusive rights. The amendment failed 4-3, with Creasey, Hoekstra and Coun. Don Gullekson in favour.
After the amendment failed, Creasey half-jokingly introduced the original motion as the “unfair business practice motion.
“Forgive my comments,” he added. “This is absolutely bizarre to me that we are considering this as an exclusive thing. Quite amazing. But council rules.”
That motion, clearing the way for Roll to begin offering e-scooter service as part of a “shared micro-mobility program” in July, passed 5-2 with Creasey and Hoekstra opposed.
E-scooters were a big hit in Red Deer when introduced last year with more than 109,00 rides logged. Roll and four other companies are offering scooters this year in the second year of a two-year pilot project.
Lacombe’s scooters can go no faster than 20 km/h and are allowed on paved trails, empty sidewalks and roadways with a speed limit of 50 km/h or lower. Scooters are not allowed on highways and riders must be at least 16.
A Roll app connects riders to e-scooters through a downloaded QR code. Riders can go and park anywhere in the designated areas. The company is working with the city to determine slow-speed, no-ride and no-parking zones.
To ensure safety, riders can request a free helmet be shipped to them from Roll’s website. Roll says it uses cognitive tests to prevent drunk driving.
A team will patrol the city moving improperly parked scooters and making sure they are charged up. Roll also intends to promote local businesses through its app by sharing advertisements, offers and promotions.