In response to part 1 of this series, of which focused on the challenges in planning for electric micro mobility, part 2 presents the opportunities for doing so.
As mentioned in part 1, BC’s current Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) serves as one of, if not the primary barrier to accommodating these technologies. Accordingly, reforming such act is a critical first step in creating a more welcoming, legal, environment for electric micro mobility.
Thanks to the Road Safety Law Reform Group of BC, much progress on reforming the BC MVA has already been made. Comprised of representatives from the legal, health, and advocacy community, including HUB Cycling, BC Cycling Coalition, and Trial Lawyers Association of BC (among others), the Road Safety Reform Group published a position paper titled Modernizing the BC Motor Vehicle Act, that recommends the following key reforms:
Section 1: Change the Name of the Act
Renaming the Motor Vehicle Act to the Road Safety Act would be a symbolic step in support of the BC Government’s “Vision Zero” plan and increase public awareness by emphasizing safety.
Section 2: Amend Rules of General Application
Addresses amendments to rules of general application, including:
- adopting appropriate classifications for different road user groups, and
- empowering (while reducing the burden upon) municipalities to set suitable speed limits within municipal boundaries.
Section 3: Add Rules to Improve Cyclist Safety
Proposed reforms include:
- a safe passing distance law
- clarifying rights of way in commonly problematic situations, in particular where motorists turn across cyclist through traffic; and
- clarifying when a cyclist may pass on the right.
Section 4: Add Rules for Cyclist-Pedestrian Safety
Section 4 is specific to cyclist-pedestrian interactions as they occur on sidewalks or in crosswalks.
Section 5: Add Fines for Violations that Threaten Vulnerable Road Users
Section 5 proposes amendments to the fines for violating MVA provisions that relate to vulnerable road users. The proposed reforms would increase safety for vulnerable BC road users while promoting clarity, awareness and compliance with laws among all road user groups.
While this paper does not explicitly speak to electric micro technologies, proposed reforms can certainly help move the needle on welcoming these forms of technologies.
In addition to the reforms proposed in the position paper, the new BC Active Transportation Design Guide acknowledges that reforms may need to be made in order to accommodate these emerging technologies. Unfortunately, no verification was offered in terms of when, and what kind of reforms may be made. That said, there has been some speculation that changes to BC’s MVA may be happening within the next year.
While BC residents await changes to the provincial MVA, or, in the case of Vancouver, changes to the city’s bylaws, a number of Canadian cities and provinces have already begun to make legal reforms to welcome these technologies. To demonstrate how BC and the City of Vancouver could approach reforming its current laws, the following is a brief look at a number of Canadian cities who have already begun reforms. Surely if they can do it – so can we.
The City of Kelowna, BC
While the City of Kelowna is restricted by the regulations set forth by the provincial MVA, the city is permitting e-scooters to operate on trails and pathways – something the City of Vancouver is yet to allow.
The City has also just approved a permit for Spin, an e-scooter sharing program, that will deploy 400 scooters throughout the city. Kelowna is the first Canadian city to welcome Spin. Release date cannot yet be confirmed.
The City of Calgary, AB
Thanks to a recent exemption in Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, a new 16 month e-scooter pilot will soon welcome sharing companies to apply for a permit to operate within the city (provided they meet the City’s safety standards). This pilot comes in addition to the two-year dockless bike-share pilot approved in September 2018.
The city will permit these technologies to operate on sidewalks, bicycle paths, and trails, however, users must be 18+, and the maximum operating speed will be 20km/hr. Users are also reminded that it is illegal to operate these technologies while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. With that said, the provincial exemption to operate e-scooters only applies to the electric scooters owned by Permit Holders operating in the Pilot. Personally owned e-scooters are therefore still illegal to operate anywhere on the road right of way, including sidewalks, bike lanes, or roadways.
E-Scooter share programs are now eligible to apply for an operating permit within the City of Calgary. More info on Calgary’s E-Scooter Pilot can be found here.
The Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal
While other Canadian cities are making headway in reforming municipal bylaws and provincial MVAs, the province of Quebec was the first to pass a province-wide pilot governing the use of e-scooters on both public roads and paths. Under this pilot, e-scooters are primarily governed by the regulations applicable to bicycles under Quebec’s Highway Safety Code. In addition to the regulations set forth in the Highway Safety Code, users must be 18+, have received e-scooter training from the manufacturer or distributor, and must carry proof of such training while operating an e-scooter.
As a result of such reforms, the City of Montreal welcomes JUMP, Uber’s dockless e-bicycle and e-scooter share program. While the province will now allow these technologies to operate on roads and paths, the City of Montreal will be responsible for passing additional bylaws to further regulate these technologies, such as helmet requirements, speed limits and designated parking.
Montreal will be the first Canadian city to welcome JUMP. E-bicycles and scooters are set to launch this summer.