Bike-share program could return to Calgary if e-scooter comeback goes well

E-scooters are set to return to Calgary later this year after council agreed to let them operate permanently

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Shared e-bikes could make a comeback in Calgary, but there will be strings attached.

The city is looking at allowing e-scooter operators to add bike-share programs to city streets, with a higher cap on scooter supply to help companies cover the cost of supplying the bikes. The hope is that revenue from more people riding scooters would offset those costs so the city doesn’t have to step in with subsidies.

The company Lime brought a dockless bike-share program to Calgary in 2018, but ended it in 2020 saying e-scooters had proven much more popular and the bikes weren’t financially sustainable.

The return of bike-sharing is also contingent on first resolving e-scooter parking problems.

  1. E-scooter riders wear masks as they cruise along Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

    E-scooters on the road back to Calgary, but with new rules

  2. An e-scooter rider passes by a row of Lime bikes in downtown Calgary on Aug. 29, 2019.

    Calgary could increase e-scooter fleet to bring bike share back to city

E-scooters are set to return to Calgary later this year after council agreed to let them operate permanently. The city set a 1,500 cap on scooters, and will allow two companies to offer 750 scooters each. The limit will only be raised — putting bike-sharing back on the table — if the city is satisfied that parked e-scooters aren’t causing problems cluttering sidewalks, a common complaint in 2020.

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Operators will also be required to add transportation options to “unserved areas” and make an economic contribution by bringing jobs or research services to Calgary.

Companies Lime and Bird both operated e-scooters in Calgary during the city’s two-year pilot program. The city is still running the bid process to select e-scooter operators, but representatives from both groups told council’s transportation committee on Tuesday that they’re in favour of allowing more scooters to cover the cost of reintroducing bikes.

Lime strategic development director Jonathan Hopkins said the model Calgary is proposing will help solve the problem of costly e-bike operations.

“I am confident that as long as (bikes and scooters) end up paired, Calgary will be able to maintain bike-share for the long term,” he said. “The scooters survived COVID — they’re not going away. And bike-share tied with scooters has proven itself globally, and that’s not going away either.”

Coun. Jeff Davison said the plan looks like an effective way to get a shared bike program back on the road.

“There’s no cost to taxpayers on this. So if we can incentivize some of the ride-share scooter companies to potentially look at more scooters on the streets . . . then bring bikes along with it.”

The committee also asked whether the city can speed up the process of bringing e-scooters back to Calgary.

The current plan is to hand out five-year permits sometime in May, which Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said is much too long to wait.

“It’s not going to serve our citizens for the needs that they have now,” she said.

Acting transportation general manager Doug Morgan said he would look into whether there’s a way to get it done faster.

Twitter: @meksmith

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