British Columbia is trying to hammer out some regulations for electric kick scooters, and Langley Township will be one of the pilot communities testing out new rules.
The scooters in question aren’t the three- and four-wheeled mobility scooters commonly seen on sidewalks, which allow people to sit down and drive them.
These are similar to the kick scooters used by kids – usually just two wheels, a board, and a set of handlebars.
Over the last few years, several companies have started selling electric versions of these scooters, which can move at up to 30 km/h. There are a wide variety of brands, usually selling for between about $400 and $1,500. Some companies have sprung up offering “scooter share” programs.
A local merchant of the kick scooters said they aren’t a big part of local transportation infrastructure.
“They’re still sort of a novelty,” said Jason St. Germain, general manager of Cit-E Cycles.
The electric scooters sell to teenagers and adults, but they’re not that commonly used for commuting to work or school, he said.
“There are a small number of people who do use them for transportation,” he said.
Much more common for regular trips are the electric-assist bikes that Cit-E and a number of other Langley stores sell. Those give you extra power when riding, but still use a cyclist’s muscles most of the time.
St. Germain said that’s because the two devices are just not comparable when it comes to being useful for getting around.
“You don’t have the hill climbing ability [with a scooter] that you would with an electric bicycle,” he said.
He also noted that the electric scooters aren’t really designed to stand up to rain.
The pilot regulations have yet to be adopted in the Township, where council will have to vote to amend its traffic bylaws.
Vancouver has already put in place its bylaws for the use of scooters, allowing them to be used on local streets and protected cycle lanes. They’re banned from city sidewalks, major streets, and the Seawall.
The provincial requirements for electric kick scooters include a speed limit of not more than 24 km/h, a braking system, lights after dark, and it must have a bell or a horn.
Once Langley Township has amended its regulations to officially allow the use of electric kick scooters, it will have to send an annual report on the pilot project to the provincial government.
The pilot program is expected to run for three years.
St. Germain said the best things for people using electric scooters safely would be education and safe bike infrastructure.
“I think just having better cycling infrastructure in general is where it’s at,” he said. That would benefit cyclists, e-cyclists, and scooter users.
The last few years have seen an explosion of new mobility devices.
Some, such as hoverboards, came and went as fads and weren’t really suitable for taking out on the streets and using for commuting or local errands.
Others have proved more popular. Sales of electric-assist bicycles have surged around the world.
In North America, St. Germain said it was the influx of high-quality European electric bikes that helped drive an explosion of users.
There are also scooter-like devices such as electric skateboards and electric unicycles.
Regulations have not kept up with the introduction of these new mobility options.
A 2019 TransLink plan for shared micromobility projects notes the number of new options.
“New modes of transportation including electric-assisted bikes and scooters as well as ride-hailing Transport Network Companies (TNCs) have emerged in recent years to supplement public transit, and the pace of innovation is high,” the report said. “The municipalities of Metro Vancouver are increasingly interested to pilot demonstrations of these new modes in order to determine if they show promise in providing residents with more convenient and reliable options to move around.”
Although there are often no regulations for specific devices, the provincial government and TransLink are trying to vastly increase the number of people making trips without using cars – whether that’s by transit, on foot, or by bike.
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