Today, it seems like there’s an “e”-everything. From eSports to eCards to the coveted semesterly McGill eBill, the integration of technology into every aspect of our daily lives seems to increase by the day. Just a few weeks ago, the city of Montreal saw its newest addition to its e-family, with the company Lime introducing e-scooters across the city. Lime, a rapidly growing micro-mobility company valued at $1 billion, has their scooters in over 100 cities across the world, and has introduced their products to other Canadian cities like Calgary and Edmonton over the past few months. The green and black two-wheelers, which can be rented through Lime’s mobile app, reside throughout various parking stations across the city, and can be utilized at any time of day.
But despite the excitement that one would expect with a new form of eco-friendly transport in a city like Montreal, residents have taken to the scooters rather negatively, with some calling the scooters “dangerous” and “hazardous.” The top complaint that comes from the presence of the scooters, however, is their abandonment in places they don’t belong – the Lachine Canal, inside the Papineau Metro, the middle of a construction zone.
In Montreal particularly, the abandonment problem stems from an inconsistency between the mobile application’s policy and the city’s transportation bylaws. According to the Lime app, users can dispose of the scooter anywhere as long as they submit a photograph of where they left the scooter. However, Montreal transportation bylaws state that with services such as Bixi and Lime, the bikes or scooters must be left in designated zones of the city. According to Councillor for Mobility and Urbanism Sophie Mauzerolle, this inconsistency is no longer something the city of Montreal can tolerate. “We’re hoping to see Lime work with a better understanding of our bylaw,” said Mauzerolle. “It was an obligation from our bylaw that the users know exactly where to park… we’ve been talking to Lime; we’re hoping that we’re going to see an improvement in this situation.”
The top complaint that comes from the presence of the scooters, however, is their abandonment in places they don’t belong – the Lachine Canal, inside the Papineau Metro, the middle of a construction zone.
In terms of scooter problems however, Montreal is not alone. Cities like San Francisco, Austin, and Los Angeles are all seeing similar issues. To University of California-Irvine researcher Sarah Catz, though, Lime is not doing enough to stem the issue. “There were these graveyards of scooters [in Los Angeles], and yet the scooters kept coming,” said Catz. “It was just the arrogance of the scooters–the scooters are going to be wherever we want to be.”
Alex Bigazzi, an assistant professor of Civil Engineering and Planning at the University of British Columbia, mirrors this sentiment, but believes cities just need to be patient. He contends that the scooters, “cluttering the streets, some of them getting destroyed, [are] part of a disruption that we…as an industry, [are] trying to sort out and deal with.”
Among the discussion about how to integrate the scooters, there are some Montrealers who don’t believe the scooters have a place at all.
“Ridiculous,” said resident Alex Halasz. “They just scream danger and a hazard. I haven’t seen one person wear a helmet yet… I’ve seen a bunch of underaged kids riding them.” Others have taken to Twitter calling the scooters “visual pollution” and Lime’s entrance into the city an “invasion.”
Lime has attempted to remedy the issue, with the hiring of 30 employees to make up a “Tidy Squad,” rounding up the scooters and attempting to remind riders to behave. The City of Montreal has also introduced a bylaw that mandates that the company takes care of unlawfully parked scooters within two hours on weekdays. There’s also been discussion of financial incentive from Lime for riders who return the scooters to the right places. With the right measures, riders and researchers alike expect that the e-scooters will not make an already packed downtown worse.
“I truly believe, if they’re used properly, and if the city has worked out ways so that the scooters can be left in designated zones, and that there’s a barrier between cars, I think scooters are definitely part of the (traffic) solution,” said Catz.
With the right measures, riders and researchers alike expect that the e-scooters will not make an already packed downtown worse.
Today, there’s no clear indication that the e-scooters are here to stay, as this year stands as a trial period for the company in the city. However, with all these problems and all these potential solutions on the table, it’s unclear as to which will win out the other. With Lime’s future in the city hanging in the balance, one can only wonder if Montreal’s newest form of eco-transport is a passing fad.