Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors have agreed to have a look at e-scooters this summer, to determine their safety.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero suggested at Monday’s council meeting that town staff work with Richard Mell, owner of Grape Escape Wine Tours, to look at possible routes where the e-scooters could be tested for safety as part of a pilot project. She was looking for speedy action to be taken on Mell’s request last week that was deferred.
Councillors came close to approving a motion last Monday, June 13, put forward by Coun. Norm Arsenault 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 a 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 already discussed the issue this term, and it was decided to defer the motion and ask staff to investigate that discussion and make the information available.
Mell told councillors last week Grape Escape has purchased 10 electric kick-scooters for wine tours, and asked them to consider adopting a provincial pilot project to permit the scooters in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He said he had investigated to see if there was a town bylaw restricting them, and when he discovered there wasn’t, he went ahead and made the purchase.
He later learned the provincial program allows municipalities to pass a bylaw approving them, but without that bylaw in place they are not permitted.
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.
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.”
“You are essentially in control in NOTL,” Mell told councillors, adding that he would love for the town to become part of the provincial pilot project.
This Monday, Coun. Sandra O’Connor said the original motion focused on looking at the pros and cons, not just preferred routes, as Disero has requested.
Coun. Norm Arsenault reminded council there is provincial legislation regulating the pilot project, and those restrictions must be considered.
During this week’s discussion, Coun. Wendy Cheropita supported moving ahead with a pilot project in NOTL, and working with Grape Escape “to have some real live research to determine the pros and cons.” And since his winery tours are all staffed, there would people onsite to monitor them, she added.
Council approved moving ahead with plans to have staff work with Mell to test the safety of e-scooters on what would be considered safe routes through town.