Calgarians are taking more trips, more often, and to some places that people might not expect according to one of Calgary’s micromobility providers, Bird Canada.
Users travelled 1.6 million kilometres in 2022, scooting 22 per cent over the 2021 numbers, according to the firm.
That figure includes an increase in the number of riders, and the types of destinations riders are visiting due to changing behaviour after the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This was the fourth season for micromobility in Calgary, and what we’ve actually seen year-over-year since 2016, is that fundamentally the pie keeps growing,” said Bird Canada Chief Operating Officer, Alex Petre.
“What that means is more and more people are adapting micro mobility as a way of transit, so this increase of 22 per cent between last year and this year is new riders, as well as people who rode with us last year riding more this year than they did last year.”
Petre said that among Calgarians, the trend is shifting away from pandemic use of scooters as a way of getting outdoors for pleasure, and more for avoiding car trips and as transport from Calgary Transit stops to their destinations.
“We’ve seen this year with the fact that people are actually back into offices—downtown is busy again, and it’s hard to find parking sometimes in downtown Calgary—these trips have become a lot more utilitarian in their purpose and a little bit shorter,” she said.
“What that means is people are truly using them for either last mile integration, for connecting to other modes of transport, or running those quick errands when it doesn’t make sense to take the car.”
The average trip length for users in 2022 said Petre was 2.12 kilometres. This was down from 2.8 km in 2021.
An alternative to car use
The company has promoted the eco-friendly aspects of using their e-scooters, and recently as of this year e-bikes as an alternative to using gasoline powered vehicles.
Bird Canada said that by their own calculations, based on internal trip data and survey results, they’ve calculated that their products helped Albertans avoid 483,323 car trips, resulting in a reduction of 571 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
“We treat our service exactly like a transportation service, so we take it very seriously,” said Petre.
“We really want to encourage people to make that modal shift between cars to scooters, whether it’s scooters plus public transit, or whether it’s scooter or bike plus walking.”
Other data to come out of the 2022 usage from Bird Canada is that 60 per cent of riders are connecting from some other form of transportation.
“What you’ll see is, sometimes you can park really far away… and actually take a scooter all the way down, sometimes you decide to integrate that trip with public transit, and sometimes you decide not to drive at all, and maybe you walk for a little bit and you’ll see a scooter or a new bike,” she said.
“We really like to see how creative our riders have gotten in terms of really using these for that last mile purpose as they’re designed.”
Local economic impact from last-mile transportation
Petre pointed out how Calgarians were heavily using their e-scooters during the Calgary Stampede as a way of avoiding driving and parking. But, she said, Calgary is also among the top five cities world wide for scooter usage in general.
“That really shows you how much people have embraced the scooters.”
One of the less-recognized usage patterns for scooter use in the city is that 45 per cent of trips end up in one of Calgary’s business improvement districts. Places like Inglewood, Kensington, or Stephen Avenue.
“There’s actually a lot of hotspots of activity throughout the season, not necessarily just just during big events,” Petre said.
“We see that people are actively taking them to a place where they’re making a purchase, which also means that they’re having a really positive impact on our local economy.”
From the City of Calgary’s own micromobility data for 2019 and 2020, BIA destinations, which include all of Downtown Calgary and not just Stephen Avenue, saw at 2.5 per cent increase during those two years. The Downtown Core made up 24 per cent of trips, but locations like 17th Avenue, Chinatown, and 4th Street SW saw significant increases in end-trip locations.
And although Bird Canada said they couldn’t release data on how many average users per day use their service, Petre did say that the average Calgary rider takes more than five rides per month.
“I do think that shows you, at a minimum of right one ride a week, people have truly integrated this into their suite of options for how they move around the city,” she said.
Snapshot shows usage for more than just downtown during November
A snapshot of current e-scooter locations across the city, as provided by the City of Calgary, showed that on the morning of November 17, riders were using scooters and e-bikes in the communities of Kensington, Hillhurst, Sunnyside, Bridgeland, Downtown and the Beltline, Scarboro, Mount Royal, Bankview, Cliff Bungalow, Mission, and Ramsay.
Petre said that part of that widespread usage was due to the City of Calgary being the first city in Canada to adopt e-scooter usage. The City formally allowed for the use of service provided e-scooters from Bird Canada and Neuron in 2019.
“They’ve had a really healthy approach to it,” said Petre.
“The City of Calgary has been very nice, very collaborative, and really good to work with, and I think that really shows in the results.
“We’ve embraced this so much, and people are actively thinking about it as a way they can get from point A to point B.”
Petre said that Bird Canada is expecting to see further growth in Alberta for e-scooter and e-bike usage in 2023.