Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Where do non-traditional ‘vehicles’ fit in on the roads?

If the current confusion surrounding scooters is any indication, we are in for interesting times

By Tim Schewe

British Columbia’s view of what consists of acceptable methods of transportation on our roads has changed considerably since I started policing in the 1980s. Back then, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and feet were pretty much all that was allowed. Devices like rollerblades, skateboards, motorized bicycles and scooters were either strictly controlled or forbidden completely.

This is all changing today with the implementation of the Active Transportation Design Guide and an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act to recognize “regulated motorized personal mobility devices (RMPMD).” These devices may be subject to trial in three-year pilot projects conducted by local governments around the province.

If the current confusion surrounding scooters is any indication, we are in for interesting times.

Even the word scooter is not used clearly. Is it a motorcycle, Limited Speed Motorcycle (LSM) or a motorized bicycle? The category that it fits into is important to define as different rules apply.

All of these vehicles require that the rider be at least 16 years of age to ride them on the road and both the motorcycle and LSM require the driver to have a driver’s licence of the proper class.

Without some thought to restriction, LSMs can be used anywhere a regular motorcycle can. Riders, rightly so, fear drivers on roads with posted speeds above 60 km/h. The most common solution is to ride on the shoulder. The trouble is, riding on the shoulder is illegal.

Another solution is to ride an LSM in the bicycle lanes, further away from motor vehicle traffic. These are designated use lanes, and an LSM is not a cycle.

One of the first things some motorized bicycle users do is remove the pedals. Now the motorized bicycle becomes a motorcycle and needs a licence plate and insurance.

ICBC will not issue licence or insurance to some of these vehicles and that has managed to confuse the courts.

Depending on how these machines are operated, they are capable of causing significant injury to pedestrians. Should they be insured even if they cannot be licensed?

Use of both LSMs and motorized cycles require the rider to wear a helmet. (This topic was part of the Hansard discussion of RMPMDs.)

Hopefully these pilot projects are given serious thought before they are implemented. The rules must be clear, consistent and make sense to users before we start seeing Segways, hoverboards, electric kick scooters and other more exotic devices used on the roads, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

Everyone needs to know what the rules are before they start to share and enforcement needs to be done when they don’t obey.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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