Are electric scooters legal to ride in Toronto & the GTA? In short, No.
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The use of e-scooters in Canada is not regulated, however in 2019, a pilot program was presented to the Toronto city council. This pilot program set out strict guidelines for electric scooter usage in the city on roads and public property. When electric scooters first hit the market, there was a sudden boom in sales. Electric scooters provide a great alternative to commuting to work and are generally fun to use. Unfortunately, when something as enjoyable as electric scooters is introduced to the world, there’s always a group of people that come along to mess things up for everyone else.
Electric scooters, just like any other vehicle or mode of transportation, need to respect the rules of the road and adhere to specific government regulations. Some people however choose to ignore these rules and use the devices in an unsafe manner, which leads to a sharp increase of electric scooter related injuries. This is where the pilot program comes into play, it set out specific rules that riders had to follow to ensure the safety of both riders and pedestrians.
The Pilot outlined the following rules & regulations:
- Keep Speed to a maximum of 24 km/h (Canada's legal limit is 30km/h)
- Wear a helmet
- Ride like a bicycle (all HTA rules of the road that apply to bicycles apply to e scooters)
- Use a front white light, rear red light and reflective side materials
- Use a horn or bell
Although the pilot program was accepted by parts of the GTA (Brampton/Mississauga) it was declined by the Toronto city council.
Why was the pilot program rejected in 2021?
This initiative was brought to light during the height of the pandemic, hospitals were overflowing with Covid-19 patients and there was such a strain on the medical system in the city that the council thought it unwise to introduce electric scooters due to the stigma of related injuries. During the pandemic, hospitals (specifically ICUs) were unable to effectively keep up with the vast amount of Covid patients, this is what led to the contract lockdowns and travel restrictions. This also directly impacted the decline of the pilot program. The ONLY reason the pilot was rejected was that the city council was worried about an influx in hospitals of patients with e-scooter-related injuries on top of the high Covid-19 overflow.
Electric scooters are used successfully around the world, in Canada, cities like Brampton, Vancouver, and Ottawa have all passed the same or similar pilot program with great success. In parts of the United States and Europe, you can easily rent an electric scooter such as a Lime (they are pretty much on every corner in places like California) and enjoy the scooters with no legal repercussions. Is there the possibility of being injured while using an electric scooter? Yes… but there is the same chance of injury on a regular bike, so are E-scooters that bad? The answer: no, electric scooters aren’t as dangerous as the stigma would have you believe. The pilot program was just introduced at the wrong time, and the pandemic scared the Toronto city council into opting out of the program.
What does this mean for current and new riders in Toronto?
Nothing really. The Toronto city staff have identified multiple times that they do not have the resources readily available to enforce the E-scooter ban, thus, as long as the rules of the road are respected, there is NO legal deterrence from using electric scooters. If you were to walk around Downtown Toronto for a day, you would easily lose count of the number of electric scooters that are still being used, why? Because the city of Toronto has no intention of enforcing the ban unless the rider is outright disobeying the rules of the road or causing harm to others or their property.
How can you, as a new or experienced rider, ensure that you’re safe on the roads? Check out our E-scooter safety tips blog at https://tdotwheels.com/blogs/news/safety-tips-for-riding-an-electric-scooter and be sure to always wear a helmet, being protected is more important than looking cool!
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