The Rise of Electric "E-Scooters" in Ottawa (and Ontario)

Three Lime Green E-Scooters Parked Outside an a concrete sidewalk stock photo with caption that says "The Rise of Electric E-Scooters"

Electric "Kick-Style"scooters or e-Scooters really "rolled" into Ottawa this summer, with riders zipping through the downtown core streets after weeks of quarantine. The dockless e-scooters can be rented by your phone app and are typically rented per minute.

The release of e-scooters in Ottawa follows the Ontario government's 5-year pilot project launched in January 2020 to find more "sustainable" means of transportation. Individual municipalities are responsible for where they scooters can be driven, parked and managed. The province also released a "best practices" for cities welcoming the e-scooter fleets.

As the popularity of e-scooters rises, many advocates, doctors and lawyers are cautioning riders and questioning the safety and legal liability aspects of electric scooters in Canada and the U.S.

Are e-scooters safe?

Since e-scooter companies have launched in major cities like Calgary, injuries to riders have been reported in hospital emergency rooms. Dr. Eddy Lang, one Calgary ER doctor, said there has been an influx of injuries of scooter riders, after its Calgary pilot launch in spring 2019, with injuries including fractures, head and facial trauma. In fall 2018, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Austin Texas, released a comprehensive study of e-scooter injuries.

In Ottawa, the scooters are set with maximum speeds up to 20 km/hr and can only be driven on roads. This means scooter riders are riding along with motorized traffic, potentially a danger in and of itself - particularly as motorists adapt to e-scooters. While the e-scooter companies recommend wearing helmets, they are not mandatory for e-scooter users in Ottawa. Ottawa e-scooter rules:

  • E-Scooter riders must be 18 and older;
  • Passengers are not permitted on the scooters;
  • Scooters are not permitted on sidewalks, National Capital Commission pathways, in the City of Gatineau, in OC Transpo facilities, on buses and trains, and streets with a posted speed limit of more than 50 kilometres per hour;
  • Scooters must be equipped with a bell, brakes and lights;
  • Scooters can be used between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. 

We recommend that riders opt for wearing protective gear such as elbow and knee pads and helmets to reduce the chances and impact of any injuries. Ensure the scooter is equipped with a working bell, brakes and lights before riding. Do not carry any passengers.

What are the rules of the road?

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Highway Traffic Act rules will apply to the operation of e-scooters similar to bicycles. There could also be penalties, including fines, for breach of the pilot's regulations.

Do you need insurance to ride an e-scooter?

As of now, there is no "e-scooter insurance" available to users. People commonly have two types of Insurance: auto and home (property) insurance.

It is important to note that your car insurance will likely not protect you if you hurt another person while operating a scooter. This could leave you personally liable. Currently, liability for e-scooter accident lawsuits remains unknown territory.

If you are injured by a vehicle on the roadway while using a scooter, you may have protection under your statutory accident benefits (auto insurance). However, we advise that you consult with a lawyer or your insurance company to understand your rights first before riding.

If you are protected by home or property insurance, you may have liability coverage if you hurt another person while using an e-scooter. We recommend checking with your respective insurance companies before operating an e-scooter to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage.

Giving up your right to sue?

Major e-scooter companies like Bird and Lime in Ottawa require users to agree to their lengthy user agreements terms before riding. Users may not always take a closer look before clicking to ride.

By choosing to ride an e-scooter, you could be waiving your right for any potential claim against the company, even for defective machines. These tricky conditions could potentially leave a rider without any protection if their scooter is defective, injuring themselves or another. You may also agree to resolve any legal disputes through a final arbitration and waive your right to file a lawsuit in court.

Gluckstein Lawyers are here for you

It remains to be seen if the scooter injuries seen in Calgary will follow in cities like Ottawa and Toronto and what it may mean for riders who are injured on or by an e-scooter. At Nicholson Gluckstein Lawyers, our commitment to full circle care always begins with a free initial consultation.

If you have been injured on or by a scooter, please contact Danielle Bartlett for a legal consultation. Danielle Bartlett is a civil litigator who specializes in complex personal injury matters. Her practice is devoted to all areas of Personal Injury litigation on behalf of plaintiffs, including motor vehicle accidents, catastrophic injuries, acquired and traumatic brain injury, product liability, wrongful death, and spinal cord injury.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign me up