In January 2020, the province began a five-year pilot project allowing municipalities to regulate the use of electric kick-scooters (Electric kick-style scooters (e-scooters) | ontario.ca).
In 2021, Toronto chose not to partake in the pilot project, largely because of concerns raised by the disability community about e-scooters being ridden and littered on the sidewalk. As a result, e-scooters are not for rent in Toronto, and cannot lawfully be operated in public space. Nevertheless, many individuals own and use them on city streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.
E scooters can offer a valuable micro mobility option that can help Torontonians get around in a congested city, and help Toronto meet its TransformTO climate goals. E-scooters are inexpensive, use very little energy, take less road space than other micro-mobility options, create no pollution at the point of use, can be used without physical effort and in virtually any clothing, and are widely considered fun to use. They can be folded and carried on transit when bikes and other “last mile” options cannot.
However, e-scooters pose serious risks to pedestrians, especially people with disabilities, particularly if they are operated and parked on the sidewalk, and they have often been operated without insurance. The city has no resources available to devote to enforcement of e-scooter compliance. There have also been a significant number of injuries to e-scooter riders, especially when riding without helmets. Toronto’s streetcar tracks and potholes pose a greater risk to e-scooters, with their comparatively small wheels and wheelbases, than they do to bicycles and larger vehicles.
Some e-scooter companies claim that, since 2021, they have developed technology that prevents their e-scooters from operating on the sidewalk, have obtained adequate insurance and have otherwise addressed these concerns. The onus of proof would be on the providers of the e-scooters, under realistic and representative Toronto conditions.
The Toronto Parking Authority is interested in exploring whether to add e-scooters to its very successful Bikeshare program, as some other cities have done. The opportunity to do so under the province’s 5 year pilot will expire in 2025.