E-scooters: Pedestrian ally or anti-hero?  

by | May 15, 2023 | Opinion

In Edmonton, there are a few signs spring has sprung. The frozen ice sheet on the North Saskatchewan River turns into floating icy lily pads. You may be enjoying a Bulldog at a popular place on Whyte Ave when you hear the sounds of obnoxious revving of motorcycles at a red light. Finally, as you walk past the old post office wondering why the old clock never works, you hear the menacing “ding ding” of e-scooters as their riders expect you to move aside as if they are the King of England.

I have worked on Whyte Ave for the past 12 years. During that time, I have seen many things. From the nude cyclists riding down the Ave as I wait for a bus in front of the place that was once ‘Chapters,’ to a guy walking his tortoise on a sunny afternoon as I walked towards the University LRT station. One of the more annoying things I have had to deal with, other than trying to avoid the patches of green vomit after St. Patrick’s Day as I walk to work, are the people who ride e-scooters.

Teenagers on scooters crossing the street.
Photo via Natasha Riebe/CBC

The e-scooters have been around for a few years. According to CityNews, in 2021 at the start of the season, there were 4 000 e-scooters in Edmonton. The e-scooters would be parked along the sidewalks in the morning in groups of 3-5; by mid-afternoon, they would be strewn across sidewalks, blocking access for people in wheelchairs or people who have difficulty walking. It seemed as if the people who rode the e-scooters ignored any and all laws related to them. They would constantly ride on the crowded Whyte Ave sidewalks, refusing to travel on the roads as the law says they should.

I remember one particular day in 2021, after leaving a day of working in a sweltering kitchen, I decided to take a walk to the Fringe grounds to catch a show or two. While walking two blocks, I witnessed a careless rider almost run over a dog on a leash. Another rider constantly used his bell to get people to move as they casually enjoyed a street performer at the Fringe grounds. The spectators and the performer were annoyed, but I do not know if the rider was breaking any rules by riding his e-scooter at the festival. The number of scooters in that year was numerous and unnecessary.

E-scooters are not pure evil. They do have some benefits. First, they are much quieter than the motorcycle that makes you pause your conversation until they pass. Second, they are fantastic for short trips; one of my coworkers was running late for a shift, but they made it on time by taking a quick trip on an e-scooter. Finally, according to Joyor Scooter, riding scooters offers health benefits such as improving your mood and your body balance. According to CBC, e-scooters in 2022 dropped to 1500 from the previous 4000. This action is a good move for the City of Edmonton. In a CTV News article, complaints about e-scooters dropped from 125 in 2021 to 52 in 2022. The percentage of complaints about scooters is about the same. This year alone, I have noticed fewer e-scooters on Whyte Ave and fewer riders. I’m happy about this. I don’t want to take away anyone’s fun, but the number of scooters four years ago was excessive.

I am not against e-scooters as long as people ride them on the roads per the Edmonton bylaws. I am happy to know Edmonton has limited them to a reasonable amount. It is beautiful to see one or two every block instead of the dozen per block a few years ago. The City of Edmonton has found a happy medium for the e-scooters. There are not too many for us who despise them, but they are still there for those who enjoy them. Please stay off the sidewalk; it’s for regular walking and not fancy scootering.

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