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She was hit by an e-scooter despite Toronto’s ban. The city needs to step up regulation, she says

Thinking back on it now, Ashley Milton can’t say how long she was unconscious.

She remembers walking north on Jane Street in late June, on her way to work, when she heard the bell of an e-scooter ringing from behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw the rider quickly approaching. She tried to step out of its way, not quite sure how to predict its path. 

Then they collided. 

“I saw him, I heard him, but he was going so fast,” she said. “I didn’t have a chance to get out of the way.”

When she came to, the rider had his hands under arms and was trying to pull her off the sidewalk, where he had been riding. She told him not to move her as she tried to get a sense of how badly she’d been hurt.

When she was able to get to her feet, she asked the rider to walk her the 50 metres to her workplace, a nearby pharmacy, where her co-workers called an ambulance. Milton said she didn’t call the police because her memory of the man who hit her was so hazy.

“I had a big bump on my head, I had a fairly decent concussion,” she said. “I broke my collarbone in two places.”

Earlier this summer, Toronto city council voted to pump the brakes on the latest bid to study legalizing e-scooters. 

Councillors voted to roll a request for an e-scooter pilot program into work already ongoing by city staff. Staff are studying how different light-weight vehicle types including cargo bikes/trikes, e-mopeds and e-scooters could be used on city streets to reduce emissions and improve safety on Toronto’s roads.

Weeks after the collision, Milton is still dealing with her injuries. Her arm remains in a sling, she’s started physiotherapy and is just beginning to get back to work.

Until she started to do research on the vehicle, she didn’t even know e-scooters are banned in Toronto.

“The City of Toronto has been researching this but it’s been going on for a couple of years,” she said. “I think we need to step it up a little bit, because these are only going to be here to stay.”

Use of e-scooters has only grown

Supporters of the vehicles say they’re environmentally friendly because they can help people get to transit and take cars off busy city roads.

The latest bid to legalize e-scooters comes two years after council decided to ban the small motorized vehicles on city streets, citing safety concerns. But since that debate, the use of the scooters has only grown. Milton says her experience is an example of how seriously someone can be hurt when e-scooters are used improperly.

A man wearing red shoes rides an e-scooter
A rider steers an e-scooter on a street in Toronto. The small vehicles are currently banned in the city. (Aizick Grimman/CBC )

“The best option, in my mind, is to properly regulate them,” Milton said. “Make sure that they’re not on the sidewalk, make sure that they’re going at speeds when they’re around pedestrians that are safe.”

E-scooter rider Andre Morgan recently got one of the vehicles for his birthday. At $700, it was a cost-effective alternative to a car. He said the scooters are growing in popularity around the city, and easy to buy. He wasn’t aware they’re banned in Toronto.

“I’ve been riding it up and down,” he said. “Taking it to work. Taking it to friends’ houses. No one has ever stopped me.”

But Morgan said riders need to be responsible on the vehicles and stressed that it takes some practice to get used to the controls and brakes. 

“Not everyone hears the bell. I’ve run into experiences like that .. so I break ahead of time and say, ‘Excuse me’,” he said.

Morgan said he’d like to see the city build more bicycle lanes and give the vehicles access to them so they have a safe space to travel. Right now, he’s nervous about riding on the road with cars, he said.

“I would definitely ride in that bike lane,” he said. “I could go the speed that I wanted and know no one’s in the way.”

City and police should enforce ban: CNIB

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind has been among the groups speaking up about the dangers of e-scooters, especially for people with vision or hearing disabilities. The CNIB is urging the city and Toronto police to enforce the ban.

Nisha Mitchell, the program lead for advocacy, accessible community engagement for the CNIB in the Greater Toronto Area, said there must be mandatory technology to prevent scooters from being driven at high speeds and on sidewalks. Even bells don’t guarantee pedestrians will be alerted with enough time to avoid a collision, or at all, she said.

“The public seems to think that the features that we’re asking for are just for people who have disabilities who are maybe deaf/blind, or blind, or who are in a wheelchair,” she said. “But (Milton’s) case shows that regardless, it doesn’t matter, you can’t hear the devices because they are silent.”

A man rides an e-scooter.
E-scooter rider Andre Morgan says owners need to practice with the vehicles before hitting the road and make sure they move slowly around pedestrians. (Aizick Grimman/CBC )

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow said she often encounters e-scooters as she’s riding her bike on city streets. The vehicles can have a positive impact on the environment but more work is needed to regulate them, she said.

“We are examining different options,” she said. “And it’s never too late to do something. And they’re just mushrooming.”

Toronto Police Traffic Services Const. Sean Shapiro said e-scooters riders can be fined $110 under a city bylaw that prohibits the vehicle, but many officers are trying to educate the public about the ban on the vehicles. He acknowledges that their growing popularity makes enforcement difficult. 

“To some degree, we’d need a full-time unit just to police these things because they’re truly everywhere,” he said.

Shapiro said an e-scooter’s maximum possible speed must not exceed 24 kilometres per hour in order not to be considered a motorcycle under the law.

But some vehicles being sold go much faster and police have found riders trying to use them on busy roads including GTA highways, he said. 

“We’ve seen some tremendous collisions and injuries as a result of their use,” he said.

A report from city staff on e-scooters, which could contain a recommendation to hold a pilot for the vehicles, is not expected back until early 2024.

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