B.C. government looks to carve out rules for electric scooters

The B.C. government is moving to rewrite the laws around new technology on the roads. 

The NDP has introduced enabling legislation that will set the stage for rules covering Segways, hover-boards, electric scooters, electric skateboards and electric unicycles.

The province is proposing amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act that will open the door for regulations on emerging modes of transportation that don't fit into any category and are therefore 'unauthorized vehicles.'

Currently, a device that does not fall under the act's definition of a motor vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian is not allowed to operate on roadways or sidewalks.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena wants to change that. 

"At the moment, there are really no rules in place which is why we have this legislation coming through," she told reporters at the legislature Tuesday. "We're very excited."

Jeenah Moon/Reuters

The first step is allowing communities to apply for a three-year pilot project to act as a trial.

"This will allow us to test to see how they work best in a community — whether they should be on the road or on a bike path or on a sidewalk — and how best to make sure they're being operated safely," Trevena said.

The research will ultimately help to clarify how and where alternative vehicles should be allowed to operate.

"We already have processes for electric bikes, so this is looking at other new forms of transportation," she added.

Companies 'knocking on the door'

The news is being welcomed by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps who wrote a letter to the province requesting this legislative change. 

City staff are already developing a pilot project proposal which aims to focus on how to regulate commercial operators looking to come to B.C.

"We've had a number of companies knocking on our door saying, 'Can we operate in your city?' " said Helps, adding they want to use the city's existing network of bike lanes rather than allowing them on sidewalks. 

Kyle Bakx/CBC

"The demand has been built up with the bike lanes and I think companies see it as an opportunity to provide a service that hasn't been available until now because of provincial legislation." 

She points to other jurisdictions that have already introduced laws to allow companies like Lime, an electric scooter rental business, to operate.

"They're hugely popular in Calgary and San Francisco," Helps said. "We can look at policies from other places and we can see what's worked there, then make our decisions accordingly." 

She's hoping Victoria's pilot project will be given the green light to get off the ground by the new year.