When it comes to the inevitable disruption that will be caused by the proliferation of electric bikes, scooters and every possible hybrid, we are so not ready.  It’s the one big thing I learned from last month’s trip to Tel Aviv, and saw this:

Scooters (and electric bikes) are everywhere in Tel Aviv – by the thousands.  Like an invasive species, it took only two years for them to fill a mobility niche, and there’s likely no possible way to exterminate them now.

Though there is the occasional sighting in Vancouver, so far the private scooter-share companies – notably Lime and Bird – have been prevented from taking root.  Like Uber, the Province has kept them at bay by making their use functionally illegal.  Here’s the situation as described in the new Active Transportation Design Guide:

Legality of E-Scooters and Other Small, One Person Electric Vehicles

At the time of writing, e-scooters (and similar small, one-person electric vehicles such as hoverboards, motorized skateboards, and self balancing electric unicycles) are not permitted on public roadways or sidewalks in B.C.

The B.C. MVA defines these vehicle types as motor vehicles, but they do not meet provincial equipment safety standards for on-street use. E-scooters and similar vehicle types may only be operated where the B.C. MVA does not apply, such as on private property that does not have public vehicle access, and on trails or pathways (if allowed by municipal bylaw).

Many of the laws that ban e-scooters were developed under different mobility contexts. As demand for these technologies and others grow, the policies may need to be updated.

Um, ‘may’?   Scooters, in particular, are gaining global popularity.  They’re cheap, compact, flexible, zero-emission, noiseless, practical, fun and hip.

There is no way to stop people from buying them.  And if the law says there’s no legal way to use them, then the law will be seen as irrelevant unless rigorously and punitively enforced. And why would we do that when this is exactly the kind of transportation we want to encourage in a ‘climate emergency.’

There will be more to come on the particular circumstances in Tel Aviv.  But we need to prepare ourselves now for the impact of this new mobility.  May I suggest we send the necessary authorities to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks with instructions that, during that time, they cannot use a car.

 

Comments

  1. I used quite a few in Austin, TX the other day. Awesome. Zipping all around downtown in hot humid June in Texas beats walking even a block. But they clog up sidewalks and are so fast and quiet that they can be a nuisance to pedestrians. Some were out of juice too, so maintenance and charging an issue.

    Unclear if they can be used on a sidewalk or on road here in BC.

    Love to see e-bike sharing too or this here for inclement weather http://www.velometro.ca [ A Vancouver pre-IPO start-up, btw ]

    1. Actually, it is quite clear. They are not legal, either on sidewalks, roads, or in bike lanes.

      They can be used on private property.

      Push scooters are allowed in Vancouver City bike lanes, but not e-scooters.

      1. Like Uber, BC is WAY behind the times. How come, for such an allegedly green and progressive province ?

        No wonder, car is still king, even in walkable downtown Vancouver where a completely car free environment could happen TODAY.

        Why is that ?

    1. Typical useless helmet study – full of facts and figures but not the most important one. What is the risk? There were 100 head injuries over a one year period in all of southern California, but how many rides? One company alone racked up 10m rides (globally) in it’s first year so a year later and several more companies and (so we’re always told) huge growth could make many millions of rides in SoCal plausible. So not such a high risk and probably in the same league as other things for which we don’t require, or even encourage, helmets: hiking, basketball… It’s also something really quite new so, by definition, there’s a lot of inexperience out there. The risk will decline as more people get more practice.

      Since a helmet will only reduce potential head injuries by 40-60% and becomes increasing less effective the more severe the injury and you’ve got the potential for yet another Pacific plastic gyre in old discarded helmets with very little gain.

      But for all the hype, I can’t help but think this is mostly a passing fad anyway.

  2. One of the issues as indicated in the article is that BC’s antiquated Motor Vehicle Act has not kept pace with other jurisdictions. Many of us have been pushing the province to make changes for years. While there have been some minor changes, the major review and updating hasn’t happened and that is why we are so far behind. Fortunately, the province recently said they are going to do a full review, but that will likely take years. I hope that during this time, they will make some quick changes like this.

    As for the parking issue, there needs to be some rules of how and where they are allowed to be parked, so that sidewalks can be clear and easily used especially by those who are visually impaired or have other challenges . If they are parked illegally, the vendor should be fined, which of course they should pass on to the last person to use it. With technology, they should know who used it last, where they parked it and if it has been moved since it was parked by the last client.

  3. Why on earth would one want to stand for a long travel ride? and have no where to put one’s shopping/books/children except on one’s back? And does it really burn off calories so one can follow a healthy lifestyle? it’s a self-centered form of transportation, fun but of limited use for the whole of society. Let’s think of our whole community and the limited roadways we have to share. That’s my opinion, as a 69 year old grandmother who travels a lot in Vancouver to visit students needing tutoring, doing COSTCO shops every other month and carting young children back and forth to parents and outdoor activities.

    1. Every vehicle has their sweetspot. It’s like a skateboard, for older folks, i..e a skateboard with a handlebar. You see skateboards A LOT at UBC .. mainly guys but some young women too .. others prefer a bike, or trike, or e-bike, or e-skateboard, or moped, or one seater solo car or SmartCar or this here, made in Vancouver http://www.velometro.ca or a bus or a car ..

      I’d say if you are reasonably mobile and agile you can handle a rucksack with groceries .. maybe not a CostCo run .. that’s what ZipCar or Modo is for, but a load for 2-3 days on your back .. try it .. its fun !

      1. A Costco run? Who says you have to buy a huge amount at Costco each time you go? That’s a suburban lifestyle thing. One thing I learned from having a Costco downtown is that you can go to it for just one or two things and it’s worth the effort. It’s next door to a Skytrain entrance. The bike rack is almost always full. Outside of peak times you can pop in for one item and get out quickly.
        But maybe it was a metaphor for the type of shopping done in the suburbs and rural areas, not necessarily that store.

    2. It’s true that this is of little use for a Costco run, picking up the kids, or taking an elderly parent to the doctor. But all of these criticisms apply equally to cars.

      I see short hops in the car as the target here: driving up to Safeway to grab a forgotten ingredient, heading to the drug store to pick up a prescription, dropping down the liquor store for a bottle of wine. When a trip like that could be done in 30 minutes (return) on foot, or 10 minutes in the car, most people will drive.

      A scooter going just over three times the speed of a pedestrian increases the accessible area by a factor of ten (area = pi r squared). That’s potentially ten times the shops, ten times the services, ten times the parks and community centres, ten times the friends and neighbours.

      I’ve heard that transit planners expect people to be willing to walk about 500 meters. That’s not terribly far. We can say it’s lazy, but that doesn’t change the fact. If you’re living at a town centre like Edmonds, Metrotown or Coquitlam Centre, especially near the edge (where most people live, because pi r squared), you’re not in range to reach most of it comfortably on foot. The increased range of a scooter is about right for putting the entire town centre in range.

      Brentwood town centre, where I live, is nearly 2.5km end to end, from Gilmore to Holdom. That’s about 30 minutes on foot. A scooter collapses to 10 minutes. That puts almost all errands in range – even a minor Costco trip to.

      Transit magnifies the effect even further. A scooter probably puts the vast majority of the population in range of a frequent transit route, and gives them many more potential destinations at the other end.

      It might be a fad. But wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t? If we limited them to sane speeds and kept them from cluttering the sidewalks? My family do our shopping and errands close to home, take transit when we have to go somewhere individually (e.g. work or school), and walk for some errands. When we experience the increasing insanity of Vancouver traffic, we are shocked: the experience is that rare. Sure, we need the car for many trips – but because there’s always an alternative for whomever gets left behind, we have no need of a second car. In the long run, I think this is the solution to congestion: not making traffic better, but limiting the amount of time a person has to spend in it.

  4. I’m with you 100% but…

    “May I suggest we send the necessary authorities to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks with instructions that, during that time, they cannot use a car.”

    In the age of a climate emergency, I think the time has come that we should be able to learn from other places without necessarily releasing the 4.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivilant that an economy-class plane ticket from Vancouver to Tel Aviv would produce.

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