Talks continue over bikeshare in Kelowna

Electric bike in a park. (Shutterstock)

Talks continue about how electronic mobility services will be run in Kelowna this year.

As of now, e-scooters are off the table.

"Staff are waiting on the province to make changes to the Motor Vehicle Act before bringing any amendments to the Traffic Bylaw or anything of that nature. We've highlighted that e-scooter services would not be available before the province makes that change. We should have more information soon. The province highlighted that their target was last summer for this to happen and we're still working with the staff at the province," said Mobility Specialist, Matt Worona.

Back in June 2020, council directed staff to come back with a report outlining implications of granting exclusivity over the e-mobility market.

On Monday, council heard that report, which highlighted the fact that only one company has experience delivering both shared e-bikes and e-scooters in Canada.

"We have discussed with many of the operators in this space. That specific provider has highlighted that it would take some kind of subsidy to bring that kind of service here. They had a pilot in Calgary that they've discontinued because of market factors and that's a much larger city with much more activity so we can imagine that something similar would have to happen here," said Worona.

There are currently no unsubsidized bike share programs in Canada and while dockless e-bikes still exist, Worona said companies offering those services essentially don't anymore.

The city's current model allows multiple operators to provide fleets of small electric vehicles on a yearly basis and many companies currently hold permits.

Worona explained that granting exclusivity over popular types of e-mobility would impact cost, variety and force the city to cancel existing permits resulting in reputational damage.

"I think the goal was to make sure that whomever is providing services, it's financially viable and that's why restricting how many players in the marketplace would actually make it viable. I know competition is great for the end user but here one year and gone the next year was a bit of the concern," said Councillor Brad Sieben.

He suggested capping e-scooter providers in the city to three or four.

Worona added that there is more interest and competition in the Canadian market now from international players.

He recommended reserving exclusivity only for shared e-bikes to attract companies who offer lower demand vehicles and to leave the rest of the market open.