Riders of motorized scooters and wheelchairs face new regulations

Lower local speed limits, scooter licensing proposed

UBCM poised to debate tricky transportation issues

B.C. cities will next month debate proposals to cut the default speed limit on municipal streets to 40 kilometres per hour and to force licensing and regulation on users of motorized wheelchairs and scooters.

The two proposals are among transportation-related resolutions that will be on the floor at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver in late September.

The City of Victoria is behind the proposed cut in default speed limits from the current 50 km/h – if the lower 40 km/h default limit is adopted by the province, municipalities could still selectively designate specific roads for higher speeds.

The resolution asks for provincial aid installing new signage, including signs for roads where the speed limit would be different from the default 40 km/h.

The current default is dangerously high on some residential streets, argues Victoria Coun. Shellie Gudgeon.

“Even laneways can be 50 km/h if it’s not signed,” Gudgeon told Black Press. “It’s far too fast for neighbourhoods and families.”

Ian Tootill of the motorist advocacy group SENSE BC predicts drivers wouldn’t obey a 40 km/h limit and said there’s little evidence of low-speed fatalities or injuries that could be prevented with an even lower limit.

“The people who are driving this agenda are the people who underneath it all are anti-car,” Tootill said. “A lot of these people don’t even drive.”

He said another example of bureaucratic overkill is the “laughable” proposal to regulate motorized wheelchairs and small mobility scooters.

Sidney council argues seniors drive them too fast on sidewalks without any regulation.

Their resolution to UBCM urges the province to regulate the use of motorized mobility aids, including wheelchair and scooters, and require training, testing and licensing of operators.

There’s currently no registration, insurance or licence required to operate them in B.C.

The province has indicated to UBCM it intends to develop a coordinated plan for safe operation of motorized scooters, including possible amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act.

The provincial coroner in 2008 issued recommendations supporting scooter regulation after several scooter-riding seniors died in crashes with vehicles.

The B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities opposes the idea.

“These are mobility devices that people need to get out into the community,” said executive director Jane Dyson. “Such a regulation would impede their independence.”

Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg said he doesn’t sense it’s a major problem but added “some authority” is probably needed, preferably through provincial law that lets individual cities regulate the machines if they deem it necessary.

“People are generally pretty well-behaved,” he said. “Public policy generally should not be developed for exceptions,” he said.

White Rock deputy mayor Grant Meyer questioned the impact enforcing scooter regulations would have on the city’s already busy bylaw staff.

But White Rock Coun. Larry Robinson said he’s all for it.

“There has to be some type of regulation, including you to be approved or prescribed to use them,” he said.

Robinson said he has seen people operating electric wheelchairs holding up traffic.

And he said he knows people who don’t have a medical need for the machines but just like to use them to get around.

“I don’t think you should be able to walk into a store and walk out with an electric scooter and just drive it wherever you want. There has to be some qualification for the use.”

Another potentially controversial resolution coming before UBCM is a call for the province to allow the use of photo radar to ticket speeders in school and playground zones.

The proposal from Penticton council argues that police-staffed speed traps and volunteer-run speed reader boards are labour-intensive and have had limited success in reducing speeding.

Revenue from fines would be shared on a negotated basis with local municipalities, Penticton suggests.

The UBCM executive hasn’t taken a position on the idea but the province has always firmly said it has no intention of reintroducing photo radar, which was eliminated in 2001.

– with files from Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News, Victoria News

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