Clinicians at Kelowna General Hospital have observed a rise in injuries among users of shared e-scooters in Kelowna.
And Interior Health is working on getting data that might back those claims up.
“Interior Health is currently exploring the feasibility of utilizing administrative data sources to assess the impact of the shared e-scooter program,” reads a letter from medical health officer Dr. Silvina Mema that accompanies a report on the program headed to Kelowna city council on Monday, June 14.
That local data, however, will take weeks to compile, said Mema. But statistics from other jurisdictions show increases similar to what doctors have observed anecdotally in Kelowna.
Mema’s letter mentions evaluation of e-scooter share programs in the U.S. and Australia estimated there are between 20 and 28 injuries that require medical attention per 100,000 rides. The data suggests 90 per cent of those injuries were to the riders themselves and 70 per cent were fractures or head injuries — with head injuries more than doubling the rate experienced by cyclists.
“The safety of the e-scooter program is a top priority, as well as ensuring no undue burdens are placed on our health care system or enforcement partners (i.e., police and bylaw),” reads city transportation staff’s report to council.
At the end of May, council requested that staff provide a report on how the program has played out in Kelowna since its launch in mid-April. By most metrics, the service has proven popular, with an average of 1,700 rentals a day, each ridden for around 18 minutes travelling about two kilometres. A total of 77,000 scooters were booked in the program’s first 45 days.
But several issues have presented. RCMP and bylaw officers have issued around 260 warnings — the most common issues observed being failure to wear a helmet, sidewalk riding, underage riding, and impaired riding.
Proper parking has also been a commonly expressed gripe, with scooters limiting sidewalk accessibility in some areas. The city is implementing preferred parking areas and parking audits show the rate of improper parking has decreased drastically since the program started.
Work is underway to implement new restrictions on the service, including a ‘pledge’ that users are sober, restrictions on late-evening scooting and limiting the speed of first-time riders.
“E-scooter safety research highlights that 29 per cent of e-scooter injuries occur during first rides. Staff will require that e-scooter companies limit first-time e-scooter rides to half speed to lower the likelihood of injury,” reads the report.
Despite the issues, city staff remain firm on their stance that e-scooters will help take cars off the road and reduce emissions.
Of an 850-rider city survey, people who took three or more e-scooter trips used them 58 per cent of the time for transportation-related purposes and 40 to 56 per cent of those trips replaced driving trips.
“This means the e-scooter program has the potential to take approximately 274,000 km of vehicle travel off our road network each year, reducing an estimated 50 tonnes of direct vehicle emissions annually.”
City councillors will discuss the report at their Monday meeting.
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