E-Scooters: Road Hazard or Planet Saver?

Electric scooters are the most recent mode of transportation to enter our network of sidewalks and roadways. Much like bike rental companies, (e.g. Bike Share Toronto) and ride sharing companies (e.g. Uber and Lift), commuters are seeking out faster, cheaper and energy efficient modes of transportation. Electric scooters are one of the latest advents of cheaper and environmentally friendly means of travel, but they bring with concerns for road safety, insurance and regulation.

So, what is an E-scooter? Picture your toddler flying down the sidewalk on a 2 wheeled scooter, scaring dogs and causing people to dart out of the way. Now place a grown adult on the scooter and add a 30 km/hr motor.

Electric scooters offer a less expensive mode of electrical transportation. For a few hundred dollars a e-scooter can be purchased online or for a few dollars a day they can be rented through a ride share program. Companies such as Lime and Bird have attempted to set up rental programs in various major cities around North America. A pilot project was recently implemented in the distillery district in Toronto. They are easy to park. In fact, GPS technology allows users to leave them anywhere. As a result, many complaints have been made about users littering the streets with e-scooters, creating hazards on the sidewalks and roadways.

Presently E-scooters are not legal to operate in Ontario. As a result, there are no licencing costs or requirements, nor are there insurance costs.

As can be expected, E-scooters pose a significant safety risk to their users. A recent study found that users in Calgary were 95,400 per 100 million trips or 600 times more likely to be injured than riding a bus. The risk of injury seems very evident when one considers the concept of balancing on 2 wheels, over potholes and sharing the roadways with cars and bikes at 30 km/hr. There will no doubt be significant increased medical costs associated with E-scooters. Which leads to the question of who should bear these costs. Placing that burden on users will made them less attractive from a financial perspective. Whereas, creating no means of economic regulation could lead to more reckless behaviours.

The Ontario government is currently considering options for regulating E-scooters and has been seeking consultation. Some questions that will have to be answered as part of any legislation include:

  • How old do you need to be to operate an e-scooter? (early suggestions are 16 years old)
  • Do you need to wear a helmet? (yes)
  • Are they permitted on sidewalks, roadways or bike lanes? (likely wherever bicycles are permitted)
  • Do you need a licence or insurance to operate one? (no)
  • If you rent an E-scooter, will that company’s insurance pay any claims? (yes)
  • How do we avoid having countless scooters litter our streets? (enforcement)

Opinions to date have been muted on the e-scooter influx. It remains to be seen if this trend is a fad or the beginning of a new major mode of transportation.

Written by

Jason Singer is a founding partner of Singer Katz LLP. His practice is dedicated exclusively to acting on behalf of plaintiffs in the areas of personal injury, insurance claims and medical malpractice. Jason is recognized as a Certified Specialist in Civil Litigation by the Law Society of Ontario. He was selected the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) Outstanding Young Lawyer Award winner for 2013 and was awarded a Distinguished Service Award in 2018.