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Sweet, slightly awkward, ride

"Whether e-scooters end up making a permanent stay in St. Albert remains to be seen, but for now I know I had a good time."
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St. Albert's trail system was abuzz Sept. 10 with residents biking, skateboarding, walking, and of course, e-scootering. RACHEL NARVEY/St. Albert Gazette

The gentle warmth of late summer air. Leaves only just beginning to change their colour to a soft, fall yellow. The river’s quiet calm. The faint whir of an electronic motor.

With e-scooters newly available in St. Albert thanks to the city’s new pilot, it only seemed appropriate for me to take one for a spin. 

I began my tour one Friday night on Perron Street, and wasn’t starved for choice — a selection of scooters waited for me on every corner. I’d had the foresight to bring along a helmet for my journey, but noticed quite a few underprepared people stopping by the scooters and looking remorseful before continuing on their way. 

Getting ready to ride was fairly straightforward; the longest part of the process was waiting for the app to install on my phone. 

After receiving a text with a confirmation number and scanning the special QR code for my e-scooter, I was motoring over to St. Albert Place. 

The handling felt slightly awkward, with some extra weight that slowed what would have otherwise been straightforward turns. Things also felt a little off-kilter every time I hit a slight variation in the pavement, perhaps a sign of trepidation more than a genuine risk of falling. 

Given that, the brakes were excellent, and the 15 km/h speed limit felt appropriate, so much so that I wondered how I’d ever felt safe zipping by at 20 km/h in Edmonton. 

When I reached the trail headed toward Lions Park, I saw several St. Albertans walking, biking, and skateboarding alongside me. Piano music was playing across the river, making the night feel serene. 

I hadn’t spotted any fellow e-scooterers yet, but soon spotted two women across the river who later joined me on the path. They introduced themselves as Ingrid Tenkate and Nicole Swanson, and both described their ride so far as “fabulous.”

“It’s a nice way to cover a lot of ground in a short time,” Ingrid said. 

The two had begun their trip in Boudreau and looped back, following the river. Ingrid noted that her wrist was slightly sore from keeping the acceleration button down all the time. 

“Other than that, it’s fantastic,” she said. “We were happy when we saw the scooters were here.”

While Ingrid and Nicole zoomed off into the distance, a couple who introduced themselves as Betty and Joe had been trying to use the scooters, but ran into some difficulty. 

“We like to come downtown to eat, and it’s a beautiful night out, so we thought we’d drive a scooter,” Betty said. 

Betty, who didn’t have her phone on her, was having trouble finding a way to rent two scooters at once with the same phone. Joe added he thought it didn’t quite make sense to them that a phone can only rent one scooter at a time.

“We just spent eight bucks on nothing,” Joe said. 

Despite the slight mishap, the two said they wouldn’t be giving up on their e-scooter dreams. 

“We live in Lacombe Park, so it would be easy to just drop them off there and continue on our journey,” Betty noted. 

Later in my travels, I ran into Arda Ertürk and Richard Cao, chief communications officer for Roll Scooters and the chief executive officer respectively. 

Cao said it was unfortunate the pilot had started close to the end of the season, but noted it could be a “good teaser.”

“Now people can figure out how the sharing is going to work, and hopefully other people enjoy them, and in the summertime they can return,” Cao said. 

The pilot is set to run from now until the end of October 2022. 

The night seemed to be winding down, but a happy surprise was in store. Cao added that he and Ertürk had just encountered a couple trying to use their scooter.

“They wanted to use two scooters, but they couldn’t get the second one using one app,” Richard said. “I gave the man a refund because he didn’t even ride the scooter.”

I felt happy knowing Betty and Joe weren’t losing out for a ride they didn’t take. 

As the sun began to set and the night grew colder, I decided I would retire my ride for the time being. I had some slight trouble popping the kickstand to take a photo of the e-scooter parked safely away from traffic — as is required by the app — but eventually got my picture. 

Ultimately, my leisurely journey cost me $5.46. The app gave me an opportunity to rate my ride in terms of safety, speed, price, and accessibility. My e-scooter ride was fairly smooth, and a quick way to get from one place to another with minimal effort.

Whether e-scooters end up making a permanent stay in St. Albert remains to be seen, but for now I know I had a good time.