Motorized Wheelchairs

Motorized WheelchairI 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?

Are Mobility Scooters Motor Vehicles?

This correspondent raises a good question. 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 or mobility scooter 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.

Mobility Scooter Operators Follow Pedestrian Rules

A disabled person in any type of wheelchair is considered to be a pedestrian and must follow pedestrian rules. This means using sidewalks or riding on the left facing traffic if sidewalks are not available.

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.

One scooter operator explained to me that her spine had deteriorated due to illness and riding over the joints in the concrete sidewalk caused significant pain. She chose to ride on the smooth pavement of the street instead.

For her, the sidewalk was not reasonably passable.

Operate Your Scooter Courteously

Travel at pedestrian speeds and don't follow those on foot too closely.

Be Visible to Other Traffic

Many correspondents 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.

If your mobility scooter has lights, use them at night. If it doesn't, consider adding them.

Advice for Drivers

Seeing a mobility scooter on the road could be an indication that increased care is required of you. There is a small possibility that health issues may make scooter operators unpredictable. Grant them a little extra leeway and consider how we might appreciate it if we were in their situation.

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.

So yesterday, I observed a senior gentleman on his scooter traveling northbound on Chesterfield Avenue in North Vancouver. The sidewalk was totally available, wide, no bumps or cracks, and accessible, but instead he had chosen to drive in the clearly marked bicycle lane.

How would/should a bylaws officer or police officer deal with this? Was the correct choice (if the sidewalk was bumpy or whatever) to actually drive his device in the southbound bike lane? At least from that position on the roadway he would have a clear view of oncoming bicycles or other oncoming vehicles!

Or, is the extreme left hand edge considered to be on the roadway adjacent to the outer white line defining the bicycle lane?

In updating this article today I visited the RCMP in BC's website and it mentioned that the bicycle lane is not to be used by these devices. It required some pondering by me to justify, so I did not include that tidbit in the article today.

Having thought about it, pedestrians are required to use either the sidewalk or the edge of the roadway, depending on the situation.

The roadway is for vehicular traffic and a cycle is specifically not a vehicle. I conclude from that a cycle lane is not roadway as it is not intended for vehicular traffic. Neither is it a sidewalk, so pedestrians are not permitted there. Since a mobility scooter is considered to be a pedestrian, they are not allowed on cycle paths.

That raises the question in my mind about all these new "regulated motorized personal mobility devices." They are essentially vehicles, but can be allowed to use cycle lanes. I guess that this is yet another example of the MVA and MVAR not keeping up with today's realities.

The roadway is for vehicular traffic and a cycle is specifically not a vehicle

Somewhere I got the idea that for the purposes of the MVA a cycle was a vehicle. This is not true?

"vehicle" means a device in, on or by which a person or thing is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, but does not include a device designed to be moved by human power, a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, mobile equipment, a motor assisted cycle or a regulated motorized personal mobility device;

I guess section 183.1 of the MVA is what caused my confusion:

In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.

In my mind I translated this as cycle=vehicle.  Does this cause weird consequences?  For example:  127.1:

127 (1) When a green light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) the driver of a vehicle facing the green light


(iii) must yield the right of way to vehicles lawfully in the intersection at the time the green light became exhibited, and

(b) a pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise, and has the right of way for that purpose over all vehicles.

so drivers of vehicles don't have to yield the right of way to cycles lawfully in the intersection when the light becomes green?

As mentioned in 183, a person operating a cycle has the same "rights and duties" as the driver of a "vehicle" so in your example above you can read "vehicle" to be interchangeable with "cycle" ... for all intents and purposes a cycle is treated as a vehicle while the legal definition is distinct

That's part of the issue that people who don't cycle have many times, they treat people on bicycles differently but yet complain when they act differently, i.e. not following the rules of the road ... they can't have it both ways

The best practice is to treat someone on a bicycle the same way as you would another car ... which means moving to the next lane to pass if they are not in a bike lane or other infrastructure ... safer for everyone

And yes, the BC MVA needs a serious update to help clarify things!

I only wish that people with scooters must get insurance- why ?? Last year a lady in Osoyoos was speeding down the main street sidewalk and drove over 2 young girls and kept going until her scooter tipped over when she tried to go up a sidewalk ramp on Main Street. One girl was very serious injured and people rushed to get it machine off her and provide shade as it was about 40 deg that day. So now two innocent you girls are going to have to live with these injuries and no compensation as insurance is not mandated. This is only one of many accidents in our area involving scooters.

Since they are wider than a bicycle and go slower than a bicycle I used to have issues with them in the bike lane or on the cycle track. Even hunted down the regulations they are supposed to follow.

Then I started having conversations with them. Some wouldn't respond, some said that when they checked with the RCMP or other authorities they were told it was alright. Most of the ones who responded explained that even the separations in the sidewalk were jarring for their suspension and caused a lot of pain.

Yes, in a perfect world they would abide by the rules placed on them, but since we don't live in a perfect world as evidenced by all other road users, I've realized that they do not pose a significant risk to me. They are typically slow moving and visible enough that I can operate safely with regards to them.

I do anything personally about their behaviour, but I can make sure my behaviour takes into account their existence. Requiring a scooter like that to get around is not something I would relish myself, I won't make it any harder for them.

For the safety of users of electric motorized wheel chairs, carts, scooters, skate boards, single wheel thingies, e-bikes and conventional bikes.  By law equipped with a LED red flashing tail light and white front light, to be operational when ever in use day or night.  Manufactures and vendors compelled to equip all such vehicles as standard equipment. A good quality front white light & rear red flashing LED set can be purchased for under $25.00.

As these vehicles operate silently a warning bell or horn should also be mandatory to warn pedestrians in their path, because they will ride on sidewalks no matter what the laws are and they will ride on the road as well. 

As a vehicle driver I like it when I can see a cyclist riding a long distance ahead of me displaying a flashing LED tail light. This would or could make the increasing popularity of e-vehicles much safer for all users.

So you want other vehicles to do your work for you?

Lights and bells/horns sounds great (punny eh?) but they are useless if someone isn't paying attention. Studies have shown that when we get behind the wheel and start going faster our ability to see something smaller than another 3000lbs vehicle is limited. We actually have to train ourselves to see things like motorcycles, bicycles, people on foot, etc.

I joke with people that I run the lights on my bike 24/7 because I have to do the job for people in cars but too often I don't feel that it's really funny, just a sad commentary. 

Long live hi-vis vests! Hand 'em out to the preschoolers.

I am a physically disabled person with a background in municipal governance and disability transport issues in small BC Cities.

I am just suggesting, if you wish to have a contact here in Kelowna that works, uses and deals with the issues you mention, try the men and ladies at Accessible Okanagan website. They have an Accessible Okanagan Facebook Page and are active in the community in these issues.

A couple of the members are professionals in mobility devices in their businesses.

Friendly and active group here in Kelowna.

The part in your article of particular interest to me is the sidewalk comments.

In the last few years of navigating across my city (Kamloops) - I would like to make note of shortfalls of this area of “scooter friendly” placings of cross walk accesses (the lowered parts of the curb where the dip forces a scooter operator to drop onto the road/crosswalk with little clear meaning to motorists as the “dip” has been made to face both side of the street so without the clue of the controlled lights at the intersection- we are forced to actually enter facing the diagonal of the intersection then correct to which direction we are actually going.

The access poles at many controlled cross walks are great for bicycles or pedestrians but very difficult for someone on a scooter. Some are set quite a distance from the curb of course and on a little hill which is very difficult to maneuver over and make the circle back to the cross walk, some so bad there is a tip danger!

A LOT of sidewalks end with no “dip” for the scooter to get off the walk.

The bike and pedestrian walk ways - one over the Overlander Bridge in Kamloops are very painful to navigate in a scooter.

The trip over the main river part is much like getting punched in the neck and back every few feet. The lower part near the park entrance is being destroyed by tree roots coming through the pavement. Lovely to hit with a scooter which is not equipped with shocks and springs .

The bike path along the river is extremely painful for scooter users with tree roots pushing through. they are ok for bikes but very painful for scooter riders.

I could keep going on and on but suffice to say Kamloops cannot be the only place that needs a serious look at the condition and/or lack of sidewalks along with access for a growing mobility scooter population.

One of our malls here has signs on the doors now telling scooter operators to slow down.

They should also have a sign telling the pedestrians to watch where they are going and use common sense “rules of the road” in aisles etc instead of darting out of isles onto the main ones without looking. I can’t remember the number of times someone has very nearly (and has hit me) with their carts because they just barge through.

Thankfully there are plenty of really helpful people that offer assistance as well.

Here's an interesting puzzle.
I was recently driving my 49 cc scooter to the grocery store. It's licensed and insured. I follow the rules of the road on it, as required by law. As I was entering a local shopping mall parking lot from a pubic roadway, and coming down their entrance ramp, I heard the distinct sound of an electric motor behind me, then hard braking, as a 3-wheeled electric mobility scooter came off the same roadway, then charged up to within a few feet behind me. I was braking, as an SUV was exiting a dead-end portion of the lot into the portion of the lot that traverses it. I was very nearly hit from behind by the mobility scooter. He then proceeded onto the walkway that services the stores (basically a mini-mall), and raced along it to the doorway of one of the stores.
I parked my scooter in a parking space. He parked his on the walkway just past the store's entrance.
As I walked in, he walked in right behind me.
With a big grin, he commented that 'I came up pretty hot behind you, didn't I?', sounding proud of himself. "Yeah, you did".
I looked up his 3-wheeler online. It's an electric mobility scooter with a range of over 70 km and a top speed of 29 kmph.
This operator was driving it both on public roadways like a motor vehicle, and on pedestrian sidewalks like a mobility scooter.

A machine like this lands in pretty unregulated territory in BC, as far as I can tell. We might want to look at how some other countries deal with these. The following excerpts are from a 2008 Mobility Scooter
Research Project performed by the University of the Fraser Valley with funding from the province of BC.

'France distinguishes between two classes of “powered vehicle” by reference to:
Maximum speed.
Driving location

Slower Class: Those that have a top speed of 6kph are allowed to be used on the pavement and also on the right-hand side of the road.

Faster Class: For scooters with a top speed above 6kph to a maximum of 45kph, the regulations that relate to motorcycles and motor scooters apply.
Other Regulations
Insurance is required for the higher speed vehicles (6 km/h and over) in France, but not for the lower speed vehicles.'

Based on how quick these machines are getting, perhaps BC ought to rethink how we treat them so that they are correctly rated, licensed, and insured where necessary.