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Nanaimo will amend traffic bylaw to regulate e-kick scooters

City will accelerate bylaw’s adoption to meet provincial deadline
The City of Nanaimo must have regulations regarding e-kick scooter use in place by April to meet the province’s deadline to continue allowing the devices to be used in B.C. communities. (Stock photo)

As electric kick scooters become a more common mode of transportation in Nanaimo, the city will put bylaws in place to regulate them.

The topic was on the minds of city staff and councillors at a governance and priorities committee meeting Feb. 12. The discussion came up as part of a report updating the status of active transportation, electric vehicles, other transportation issues and micromobility, including electric kick scooters.

The province started a three-year e-kick scooter pilot project in March 2021 to test the devices in 13 B.C. communities, including Nanaimo. That program is ending and in April it will become illegal to ride the devices in communities that don’t have bylaws in place regulating their use.

Amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act will also come into force, such as power and speed maximums for the devices, operator age minimums, personal safety gear requirements and designated areas where they can be ridden.

While the government wants to regulate e-kick scooters, the devices are becoming more popular and a potentially more important arrow in the city’s quiver of alternative and active transportation options that can help achieve its goal to have all trips be carbon emission-free by 2050.

Jamie Rose, city manager of transportation, said since Nanaimo joined the pilot program, staff have watched how other communities have managed e-kick scooter use to glean information and help determine best practices.

“However, the province has also decided it wants to extend the pilot project and so if we want to continue to be part of the pilot project they have required municipalities to take a step to updating their bylaw to include e-scooters as a defined and approved mode of transportation,” Rose said. “At this point there’s a growing presence on our streets.”

Rose added that there are pros and cons to the devices, but they’re a low-impact, appealing form of transportation.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong, meeting chairperson, said there are a “lot of issues” with the kick scooters, but their use persists even in cities, such as Toronto, that have banned them.

“I think they’re going to be there no matter what we do, so I think the regulations are important, especially around ages and speeds,” Armstrong said. “Some of them are doing 40 and 50 [kilometres per hour], which I think is scary. It’s going to come down to enforcement anyhow, whether it’s bylaws or police.”

She asked if Nanaimo’s bylaw will include regulations around age and protective equipment. Rose replied the government has already outlined those requirements, but e-kick scooter safety will also involve public education and training.

“It’s not unlike learning to ride a bike,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of folks are jumping on these when they’re more advanced in age and … there is a learning curve to it. So there’s opportunities to explore training and helping people transition to them.”

Armstrong also asked if the advisory committee on accessibility and inclusiveness could also be consulted regarding regulations.

“I know that’s where a lot of the big issues are coming from because people with accessibility issues are getting struck down, people that have hearing [impairment] are getting hit, so I think it would be interesting to hear what their perspective is and if they see any solutions,” she said.

Bill Sims, general manager of engineering and public works, reminded the committee that the bylaw must be drafted and in place by April, so full consultation within the remaining time might be difficult.

Coun. Paul Manly moved that the council direct staff to bring the city’s traffic and highways regulation bylaw, amended to regulate e-kick electric scooters, before council.

“People are using these things already. I think we’re better off to regulate rather than just have a free-for-all … because we do want to make sure people are safe when they’re using them,” Manly said.

READ ALSO: B.C. pilot study to allow e-scooters to operate legally in 6 cities

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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