While the City continues to debate the merits and struggles of introducing bike lanes to Revelstoke, online forums have exploded with community members on both sides of the issue. Adapting to this change will be difficult, but as cyclists and motorists meet in the middle to educate each other to the rules of the road and learn to compromise on our streets, the bike lanes will prove to be a great investment in our active community.
However, while we contemplate a cyclist’s right to not wear a helmet, or a motorists right to sideswipe a cyclist who is encroaching a vehicle lane, the true menace to society has gone overlooked completely. No, it is not skateboarders. The true menace to our city streets are the hooligans riding around on motorized “mobility” scooters.
The Internet tells us that a mobility scooter is a 3 or 4-wheeled automotive device that is used by people to facilitate travel and day-to-day activities. Mobility scooters can be great tools for people with barriers to physical mobility, but they can also be a hazard to others around them.
Have you ever found yourself casually strolling down the sidewalk, calmly doing some window shopping,
when creeping up behind you like a great white shark is a silent running battery powered scooter of death? Before you know it, you’ve nearly been run down by a 4-wheeled vehicle that is capable of reaching top speeds of 16km/h on a pedestrian only sidewalk. Should motorized vehicles such as these be allowed on sidewalks when a bicycle or skateboard is not?
A friend of mine recently told me a story about how he witnessed a motorized scooter cruise along the sidewalk terrifying pedestrians and having them leap out of the way, prior to debarking the curb and zipping across 2 lanes of rush hour, Revelstoke traffic on 4th Street and Victoria Road. One minute the scooter driver was determined to own the sidewalk, the next they were resolute in ownership of the road, traffic safety be damned.
In the era of regulating everything around us, perhaps it is time to regulate the use of motorized scooters, or at the very least enforce regulations that currently exist. Cyclists are required to wear helmets or risk a hefty fine by Revelstoke RCMP, what about these folks on scooters? I’m pretty sure if they dart across traffic as some cyclists are known to do, and I hit them with my car, they’ll skip across the pavement just as much as a cyclist. Under constant persecution cyclists have seemingly cleaned up their ‘act’ a little more these days. Perhaps it is time to cut them some slack and turn our attention to why we allow motorized vehicles on our sidewalks.
One might think that a vehicle that has such a low top speed cannot do that much damage, but you would be wrong. A two year old girl in the United Kingdom was dragged by a mobility scooter and suffered enough damage to require a plastic surgeon (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1218394/Police-powerless-prosecute-hit-run-pensioner-left-girl-2-seriously-injured-mobility-scooter-collision.html) and because the mobility scooter is not classified as a motorized vehicle in Britain, the 70 year old woman was let go with just a warning. There seems to be a grey area with mobility scooters that no one is attempting to deal with.
The fact is that mobility scooters are not just a danger to others, but also to those operating them. There is no formal training required to operate a scooter, and no known ‘rules of the road’ to follow. As mentioned earlier, it is commonplace to witness someone on a scooter driving on a road and putting them in danger by expecting all those operating cars and trucks to yield right of way.
As our population continues to age, we will see more and more mobility scooters on our streets and sidewalks. Sooner or later there will be more stories in the news of tragic accidents that could have been prevented with a proactive approach to regulating motorized scooter usage. Perhaps it is time to ease up on poor cyclists who seem to be the scapegoat for all our transit problems, and focus our attention on cleaning up the ‘wild west’ that is the mobility scooter epidemic.