I have grave concerns about the safety of those driving battery operated wheelchairs and about the dangers involved for car drivers in dealing with their activities on the road. For instance, are those wheelchairs allowed legally on the roadways? I'm all in favour of personal navigation being available for those unable to drive anymore....but isn't that the reason the cities make our sidewalk curbs manageable for wheelchairs?
This is a good question, as a motor vehicle is defined as a vehicle not run on rails, that is designed to be self propelled or propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires. A motorized wheelchair fits this definition and can be considered as a motor vehicle for the purposes of the Act.
However, this does not mean that all wheelchair users have to worry about drivers licenses and such. In section 2 of the Act it states that the Motor Vehicle Act and it's Regulations shall not apply to the driving or operation of a mechanically propelled invalid's chair which is used only for the purposes for which it is designed. Only an able bodied user would have to comply with the usual motor vehicle rules.
A disabled person in any type of wheelchair is considered to be a pedestrian and must follow pedestrian rules. A quick examination of section 182 MVA will show that if the sidewalk is not reasonably passable, a pedestrian is not required to use it and then would be entitled to use the extreme left hand edge of the roadway. I have never driven one of these devices so I cannot offer an opinion as to what might be passable and what might not.
Unless the behaviour of the wheelchair driver is clearly dangerous, this might be an appropriate situation to grant them a little extra leeway and consider how we might appreciate it if we were forced to use one.
Many of the people making this column request have also pointed out that it is wise to use a flag to increase the height and visibility of the wheelchair and its operator. Without the flag it is difficult to see the person on the wheelchair in parking lots and behind cars parked beside sidewalks.
Section 1 MVA - Definition of motor vehicle.
Section 2 MVA - Act and Regulations do not apply to motorized wheelchair when used as intended.
Section 119 MVA - Definition of pedestrian.
Section 182 MVA - Walking by Pedestrian