All Politics is Local

Council swerves away from electric scooters

Could electric scooters be on their way to Vancouver? Not likely, if the city council’s less-than-enthusiastic response to the idea during their annual goal-setting retreat on Friday was any indication.

Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes broached the idea with the council, trying to gauge their interest in pursuing the scooters — or, as he called them, “dockless micro-mobility” units. He’d been approached by a few e-scooter firms looking to get a toehold in the market across the Columbia River.

“I see some shaking heads,” he sighed. “If we don’t want them on on our streets, just say so now.”

The daylong, expansive work session at the Firstenburg Community Center last week covered every major upcoming project the city might face this year, from Vancouver Strong to the Heights Master Redevelopment Plan. While scooters weren’t exactly the most consequential discussion item on the agenda, they did stir up some strong reactions.

Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said she had safety concerns not just for potential scooter-riders, but for the pedestrians and vehicles they might collide with.

“I don’t want them on my sidewalks, and I don’t want them on my streets,” she said.

There’s also the issue of infrastructure. Street space in downtown Vancouver comes at a premium, if the reaction to the Westside Bike Mobility Project has been any sort of indication. E-scooters are safest when used on low-traffic streets and bike lanes, but they’re not well suited to busy roads or sidewalks.

Last year, Portland tried a 4-month e-scooter pilot program, featuring a limited number of Bird, Lime and Skip scooters that top out around 15 mph on the city’s streets. It was modestly successful — riders took more than 700,000 trips on the scooters over the trial period, with the Portland Bureau of Transportation receiving 43 reports of collisions. PBOT is recommending a second, more expansive trial this year.

And if you had any fantasies about the wind in your hair while you scoot along the Waterfront Vancouver? They aren’t dead forever. But might be wise to shelve those, at least for the time being.

“I am all about a community for the young,” said Councilman Ty Stober. “But I also listen to my friends who live in Portland and are ready to start throwing them in the river.”

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