The Ontario government has announced a new pilot program that will allow e-scooters, such as those rented out by app-based services like Bird and Lime, to be ridden on public roadways.
The five-year pilot program will begin on January 1, 2020, and will pave the way for app-based scooter rental services to begin operating in major Ontario cities like Toronto and Ottawa. E-scooters are currently illegal to operate on public property in the province.
"With Ontario adopting regulations for its e-scooter pilot, we're excited by the momentum micromobility continues to gain across Canada," said Lime's senior director of strategic development in Canada, Chris Schafer. "This development means that Ontario's municipalities can now offer their residents new and sustainable ways to get around in their communities. We look forward to working in partnership with governments across the province and continuing to advance our shared transportation goals."
E-scooters can be ridden on all public roadways under the pilot program, though the provincial government is leaving it up to municipalities to decide if they should be allowed on municipal arteries such as park paths and trails. The pilot mandates that scooter riders must be 16 years of age or older and must wear a helmet if they are under 18. The scooters must also be equipped with a front light, a red rear-facing light and a bell or horn. They will not be able to exceed 24 km/h, either.
Ontario transport minister Caroline Mulroney says the e-scooter pilot "will help businesses expand, enrich local economies and offer people more options to get around safely."
Similar e-scooter pilots were introduced in Alberta and Quebec in 2018. Toronto also held a two-week e-scooter pilot project in September in its Distillery District neighbourhood, which was run by e-scooter rental service Bird Canada, while Waterloo held a short pilot project with Bird competitor Lime this past summer.
It's not yet clear when or where companies like Lime plan on launching in Ontario municipalities - but if you live in one of the province's larger cities or near a university or college campus, it may not be long before you see people whizzing past on a rented e-scooter.