Editor’s note: once a week for the next bit here at Transforming Edmonton we’re sharing some of our favourite places in the city. The pandemic has shortened the travel horizon for many. And that’s okay, because there are plenty of gems in different parts of our city that are worth a visit. Each week a different City of Edmonton team member gives you a story about a fave spot closer to home. This is Sarah Lysakowski’s view.
Back in the days before COVID-19 changed how we live and move, I was on my way back to the office after lunch. It was the first time an e-scooter called my name.
A line of e-scooters was neatly parked along the sidewalk. I like neat. I was with a co-worker who thought it would be a clever and easy way to get back to work. I thought about it. And thought more. But I was too nervous. I was worried it would go too fast or be unbalanced. I walked back.
Recently, I got a second chance, and I walked back that decision. I was on Whyte Avenue, and there were quite a few people using them. Many of those people were smiling.
They were right. I got on board. 🛴😀
It was a piece of cake, actually.
First: add either the Bird or Lime app to your phone and enter your payment information. Once you choose the scooter you’d like to ride, scan the QR code. (When you’re done, you choose the end ride option and that’s that.)
Then: hold on to the handles, step on the scooter with one foot, take a nice big stride with the leg and foot that are still on the ground, press the go button and be prepared to be delighted. I admit it, I squealed the first time the e-scooter took off. This is such a great way to move around our vibrant city.
It made me think about cities. Cities are places full of encounters. Encounters with people, whether friends or strangers. With parks, businesses and with novelty and the unexpected. Scooters allow you to discover or rediscover all of that in a fun, safe, zippy kind of way. In a physically distanced way, too.
And in a polite way.
In chatting with Olga Messinis, who is the City’s Director of Traffic Operations, I learned that, yes, e-scooters contribute to the spirit of Edmonton, and, yes, they have come with some challenges and troubleshooting.
It’s important to work with the e-scooter companies (currently Lime and Bird) to make sure the scooters don’t block sidewalks or paths while parked. And important to remind people to not ride on sidewalks. Parking that way, riding that way makes pedestrians uncomfortable and makes visually impaired pedestrians unsafe.
“We all have a shared responsibility to look out for each other on our streets,” Olga told me.
Scooters move quickly and quietly. This is part of what makes them fun, but quick and quiet may not be so fun for others around you—like people walking. Use bike routes instead of sidewalks, slow down to pass others and use the bell. These little actions go a long way.
Why we scoot scoot aboot
It appears I’m not the only one giving it a whirl.
I asked Lime what they know about why people ride. Fun, fast and convenient are at the top of the list.
I also learned that In Edmonton, e-scooter trip length is around 2x longer this year compared to 2019, and the average ride duration in 2020 is approaching 20 minutes.
Keep in mind
Scooters are disinfected more frequently than pre-COVID days, but they’re not cleaned and disinfected between customers. So: wash or sanitize your hands before and after using the equipment and avoid touching your face during use. Maintain physical distancing when using e-scooters. Bring a face covering with you when you get off to explore indoor public places or stop at a restaurant.
A bit of joy
Olga told me that e-scooters fit into the big picture of safe mobility in the city.
“E-scooters help us diversify mobility options in areas where a short quick trip has a greater benefit to individuals AND the traffic network, versus increasing pressures around the movement and storage of a single passenger vehicle,” Olga said.
For me, they make our city interesting to explore. And fun.
See you out there.
(Here’s more info on where you can find and ride e-scooters in Edmonton.)
Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows Sarah in front of the Purple Hair Girl wall, which is at the back of the Varscona Hotel, near 82 Avenue and 106 Street.