Without the ability to go where they want, individuals are severely limited in their ability to do what they want. Mobility creates independence.
Such was the argument Vivian Strandquist of Blairmore presented to Crowsnest Pass council during the May 11 council meeting.
Ms. Strandquist originally wrote to council back in March requesting a municipal exemption for her golf cart so it could legally be considered a mobility aid or handicap vehicle, like the electric scooters typically used by senior citizens.
Council had replied that the municipality could not give Ms. Strandquist permission to drive her golf cart around town because the Alberta Traffic Safety Act categorizes golf carts under miniature vehicles, which can only be operated on private property and are prohibited from being used on roadways — though a special permit can be granted for use on a highway, which is legally defined as any means of thoroughfare like streets, roads and alleys.
Ms. Strandquist decided to appeal council’s decision because of a misunderstanding: she did not want permission for her golf cart to act as a vehicle, but to be considered a mobility aid. Under the act, mobility aid users are considered pedestrians and so do not require any licensing or insurance.
Although mobility aids can be driven on the street, staying on sidewalks is recommended. In comparison, miniature vehicles can be used in a pedestrian-like manner but are not legally considered pedestrians.
The problem with a regular mobility aid, said Ms. Strandquist, was its lack of a rooftop to protect her from the sun’s heat. The golf cart’s roof provided a convenient solution to her needs.
“I’ve not found anything else that will protect me from the sun, and I’d like to be able to go out and have some fresh air,” Ms. Strandquist said.
After speaking with provincial officials, Ms. Strandquist said she was told her golf cart could be classified as a mobility aid with the municipality’s permission. The exemption, she continued, would be an easy way for the municipality to support her needs.
“I have supported this community since 1970. I’ve put thousands of hours of volunteering in,” Ms. Strandquist said. “I’ve done Meals on Wheels for over 25 years so I know what difficulty there is for us as seniors and it just seems like everyone wants to put us in a corner and say, ‘Just wait there until you die,’ and I don’t want to do that. I want to be as independent as possible.”
Having Ms. Strandquist driving around town in her golf cart, said Mayor Blair Painter, would still raise concerns over liability.
“If we were to turn around and say you can drive your golf cart around town, we are contravening the highway traffic act, which puts 100 per cent of the liability on all the residents of our community,” he said.
“If something were to happen, they’re suing the municipality because we are allowing you to contravene the highway traffic act. That’s where we have a concern.”
The liability issues, said Coun. Dave Filipuzzi, might not apply to Ms. Strandquist’s request.
“I think I understand what she’s trying to get us to do. She’s trying to get us to say that her golf cart is a handicap vehicle, which exempts it from the highway traffic act,” he said.
“I think we should do a little bit more research on this and see where it takes us, and we’ll see if some of the presentation that she put forward does have merit.”
Checking with the RCMP, added Coun. Lisa Sygutek, was also a good idea to ensure any exemption would even be recognized.
“My worry is that we could exempt you but as soon as you drive it on the street you’re going to get a ticket,” she said to Ms. Strandquist. “In order for us to get this to work, we have to make sure that all of the people who need it to work are on board.”
Council unanimously approved contacting the province about the possibility of a golf cart being used as a mobility aid, as well as discussing with the RCMP whether they would approve of such an arrangement.
Information on the Alberta Traffic Safety Act can be viewed online at bit.ly/sm_vehicle-law and bit.ly/AB-traffic.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze