E-scooters could join bikes and hikers on Red Deer’s park trails this summer.
On Monday, city council gave initial approval to a two-year electric scooter (e-scooter) pilot project to start July 1 and go to Oct. 31, 2023, shutting down over the winter months. For the trial, e-scooters will only be permitted on trails and sidewalks.
But no limits were put on the number of e-scooter companies that can apply to operate in the city. Amy Fengstad, parking and licensing supervisor, said this will allow for the market in Red Deer to determine the demand.
“We are excited to bring this initiative to Red Deer and test to see if e-scooters are something that our community wants and needs,” said Fengstad.
The pilot project “opens the door for new opportunities,” Fengstad added — such as allowing visitors to explore more of Red Deer’s extensive park system, and giving residents an alternative way of enjoying the trails. It will also bring more businesses to the city.
Council heard that over the past year, several e-scooter businesses expressed an interest in entering the Red Deer market. This prompted administrators to take a detailed look at Calgary and Edmonton’s pilot programs and what went right and wrong.
Fengstad admitted that some e-scooters did end up in the rivers in these cities, but she said the companies carry insurance and are responsible for retrieving any trashed scooters. These companies must also provide a minimum $5,000 deposit to the City of Red Deer to cover any draws on municipal resources.
She learned it would be hard to use them to commit crime as e-scooters are signed out with an app, and require credit card verification to be activated, otherwise their wheels lock.
Fengstad told council they have GPS tracking and QR codes. Their 20-km per hour speeds can be set to slow down at certain locations and to stop before entering restricted areas. The Sorensen bus station or skatepark would be no-go areas for safety reasons. (E-scooters are not designed for stunting, Fengstad added.)
Through public feedback and data collection, city administrators will determine whether e-scooters will be permitted to continue operating after the pilot ends.
Council saw a lot of potential in Red Deer, with its kilometres of park trails, becoming the third city in Alberta licenced for e-scooters. “It makes sense. The benefits outweigh the risks,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee.
“It’s fantastic. Let’s get at it,” added Coun. Buck Buchanan.
Several bylaws needed to be amended to accommodate e-scooters in Red Deer, including the traffic and business license bylaw. These were given first reading on Monday.