One of the latest issues rearing its head in our community is that of e-scooter use and its potential impact on the accessibility and safety of persons with disabilities and older adults—particularly those with vision loss.
To date, electric scooters have been banned in many Canadian municipalities. However, as lobbying continues and summer approaches, some politicians are feeling the need to reconsider letting e-scooter sharing services operate in their jurisdictions.
Advocacy groups and individuals, keen to protect the safety of innocent pedestrians, walker, wheelchair and mobility scooter users and others continue to be fiercely opposed.
It might not be an easy battle. E-scooter use has been legalized in many EU countries with only traditional cycling-related legislation in place to guide operators. For example, since June 2019, Germany has required e-scooter riders to insure themselves through the purchase of an annual insurance sticker that must be displayed on the vehicle (similarly to mopeds and high-speed electric bikes that can reach 45 km/h). Here, e-scooters are obliged to be fitted with similar equipment to bicycles i.e. lights, brakes, reflectors and a bell. Germany’s rules also set out a no payment rule, minimum age of 14 and a 20 km/h maximum speed. In the UK, schemes are being tested and in France some municipalities are bold enough to allow riders as young as 12 years-old ride at 25 km/h with no mandatory insurance requirements. The Executive Director of the European Transport Council (ETSC) says, “The rapid rise of e-scooters, especially through sharing schemes, has taken policymakers and city authorities by surprise. There is precious little safety data, but ad hoc evidence of a rise in serious injuries and even deaths. Young, inexperienced riders, hopping on unstable, self-propelled vehicles in amongst cars and lorries are potentially creating a lethal combination of risk factors. We think a precautionary approach is needed and national authorities should be considering a full range of regulatory options.”
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission shows 41 Americans were killed and about 133,000 injured over a two-year period between 2017-19 in incidents tied to e-scooters, e-bikes and hover boards. But clear, up-to-date research is hard to find, as are documented concerns for the safety of PWDs and older adults.
Here in Canada, opponents are adamant that dangerous speeds, lack of rider training and liability insurance, along with the proven accessibility barriers caused by rental vehicles left to litter sidewalks, far outweigh the suggested easy transportation and eco-benefits. They feel that unleashing electric scooters endangers people living with disabilities and others.
Well-known disability advocate, and U of T professor, David Lepofsky, speaks for the AODA Alliance in an online video during which, amongst other things, he rails against influence of the mounting corporate lobby for approval.
Claiming Toronto already has too many disability barriers, Lepofsky highlights the hazards posed by uninsured, unlicensed riders and the nasty tripping and accessibility barriers caused by the public’s “left behind” scooters. Calling the e-scooters a silent menace, Lepofsky speaks of risks for both rider and pedestrian. An e-scooter approaching an unsuspecting child, person with a disability or an older adult from behind is an accident just waiting to happen, Lepofsky suggests, especially with its quiet and unpredictable operation.
My favourite opposition to the e-scooter approval however, comes in the form of a humorous YouTube video posted by Toronto’s Raging Grannies. Recorded by four costumed grannies singing a little diddy that calls out Mayor John Tory on the e-scooter issue, they make as fervent a case as Lepofsky for senior’s safety.
Thumbs up to people who aren’t afraid to speak up!
For more about the campaign visit aodaalliance.org and YouTube to see what the raging grannies are up to next.
Caroline Tapp-McDougall is the Executive Director of The Canadian Abilities Foundation and Managing Editor of Abilities.