Richard Mell, the director of Grape Escape Wine Tours on Niagara Stone Road, asked Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors Monday evening to consider adopting a provincial pilot project to permit electric scooters in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Instead, no action was taken or decision made, and as a result, e-scooters are not permitted in town.
Mell told councillors he had investigated to see if there was a town bylaw restricting them, and when he discovered there wasn’t, he went ahead and purchased 10 e-scooters.
He later learned the provincial program allows municipalities to pass a bylaw approving them, but without that bylaw in place they are not permitted, the opposite to how most bylaws work.
Mell described the electric scooters as two wheels with a board between them, with handlebars. They must have a working bell and a light, riders must be 16 years or older, with one rider per unit, standing at all times, and wearing a helmet if under 18. Any accidents must be reported to a police officer, he said.
If a municipality joins the provincial pilot project, it can decide where they can be used, he added, suggesting the town might not want them on sidewalks, or in the busy heritage district.
He also mentioned helmets could be required for everyone on an e-scooter,
Mell asked council to consider implementing a licensing program that would bring in revenue that could fund bylaw enforcement, and also help to maintain paths and roads.
“You are essentially in control in NOTL,” he told councillors, adding that he would love for the town to become part of the provincial pilot project.
The province says, in its explanation of the program on its website, that municipalities wanting to allow e-scooters to operate on their roads “must pass bylaws to permit their use and set out specific requirements based on what is best for their communities.”
“There are a few benefits and concerns I’d like to raise,” Mell said. Given the cost and how accessible scooters are, “they would be a good mode of transportation for younger people to get to work.” He noted he has already seen people on the path through Virgil to the Old Town.
Also, he added, they would be beneficial for people with accessibility concerns, such as problems with hips or knees, who want to join their friends on bike tours.
He said with 10 scooters, he could envision one tour with scooters, or one person joining a bicycle tour. They would all be guided by tour staff, who could ensure all protocols, safety guidelines and rules of the road are followed.
“I don’t like the idea of hundreds of these whizzing around,” he said, but could foresee having a small number available, at the most 20, “less than 10 per cent of our fleet.”
He also ensured councillors that liability insurance would be covered.
The provincial pilot began in 2020, and sets out requirements for such issues as helmets, minimum age for riders, and speed restrictions. They must also follow all rules of the road.
Coun. Norm Arsenault moved a motion that the issue of e-scooters be referred to staff to review the pros and cons, especially relating to safety issues. It called on staff to review the provincial requirements for the pilot project and bring back a report to the new council to adequately assess recommendations for a decision in time for the 2023 tourism season.
But without discussion, and before a vote could be taken, Coun. Erwin Wiens said he felt that council has discussed the issue this term, and it was decided the first step would be to ask staff to investigate whether that is the case.
Mell says he is hopeful for something more positive to come up at next week’s council meeting, although he understands councillors “have a lot on their plates right now.”
He was disappointed there was no discussion about e-scooters, which he believes to be as safe as any transportation mode.
As far as the 10 he has purchased, just waiting to be used, he plans to hold on to them for now, at least until after next week, hopeful councillors might make a different decision.