E-scooters are fast. Government regulations are slow.
In a bid to bridge the distance between the two, Coquitlam council voted unanimously Monday evening to have the city take part in the province’s electric kick scooter pilot project.
While micro-mobility vehicles such as e-scooters and e-skateboards are currently barred from public streets, the program would allow e-scooters to hit the road in Coquitlam until April 2024.
“It’s environmentally conscious, it’s innovative, it’s convenient, it helps decrease the use of a car,” said Coun. Teri Towner of the program.
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Approximately 33 percent of e-scooter trips would otherwise have been made by car, according to survey results in Kelowna.
Once implemented, the pilot would allow e-scooters on designated bike lanes or travel lanes but not on sidewalks, shared paths or on city land unless permitted through future bylaw changes.
Putting e-scooters on city streets aligns with the city’s stated goals of facilitating low- or zero-emission transportation, as well as helping out with the first and last kilometre of trips made on public transportation, according to a city staff report.
What counts as an e-scooter?
By definition, a scooter can weigh as much as 45 kilograms with a maximum speed of 24 kilometres per hour. Scooters must be equipped with light as well as a bell and a horn.
Riders must be 16 or older.
The pilot doesn’t apply to hover-boards, regular scooters, limited speed motorcycles, mopeds or motorized wheelchairs, according to a city staff report.
Coquitlam staff are now slated to submit an application to the province. Should the city be approved, Coquitlam council can then decide whether or not to move forward and implement the e-scooter pilot project.
The issue of insurance
The province needs to move quicker to regulate scooters and other e-vehicles, according to Mayor Richard Stewart, who told a story about bicycling down Barnet Highway at 30 kilometres per hour.
“I got passed like I was standing still by a fellow on an electric unicycle,” he said.
The incident was a reminder of the rapid advances in micro-mobility vehicles as well the need for new regulations.
“The province is going to have to run bloody hard to catch up to the technology,” Stewart said.
The regulations need to address both vulnerable road users as well as pedestrians and cyclists who aren’t being electrically assisted.
“They don’t feel safe when there’s a motor vehicle going quietly past them at the speed that a car might,” Stewart said.
Getting ahead of e-technology, natural selection
It may be crucial to have regulations in place as micro-mobility devices grow in popularity.
“We recognize that natural selection kicks in sometimes but that’s a tragic way to have regulations step up,” Stewart said.
Besides sending a letter nudging the province to: “get on with” regulating micro-mobility devices, council also agreed, in principle, to advocate for a change to ICBC policy.
Insured motorists should be able to apply their insurance to alternative modes of transportation, Stewart said.
While the wording has yet to be determined, council agreed to consider a resolution by which Coquitlam could argue for the change at an upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting.
That change would allow insured motorists to extend their ICBC policy, covering them for other modes of transportation including e-scooters.
Related: Two new cycling maps launched