British Columbia

'Mongrel' electric scooter highlights need for updated road rules, B.C. court says

Terrance Wojtkiw's Tag 500 isn't exactly an e-bike, but it's not a motorcycle either. It's what you might call "a mixed breed or mongrel," a B.C. court official wrote in a recent judgment.

Terrance Wojtkiw found not guilty of 3 offences because his ride is 'unregisterable and uninsurable'

Terrance Wojtkiw's scooter was not insurable through ICBC, so he couldn't be convicted of driving without insurance. (Shutterstock)

Terrance Wojtkiw's Tag 500 isn't exactly an e-bike, but it's not a motorcycle either. It's what you might call "a mixed breed or mongrel," a B.C. court official wrote in a recent judgment.

And so when Wojtkiw was ticketed for riding the scooter down the side of the highway in Saanich without a licence or insurance, it left the provincial court judicial justice in a bit of a pickle.

"If the legislation requires a vehicle to be registered and insured, it surely must permit a person to register and insure that vehicle," Judicial Justice Hunter Gordon wrote in a judgment last week.

But, he went on, "clearly ICBC says [that] cannot be done."

Because Wojtkiw's scooter was uninsurable, it doesn't meet the definition of a motor vehicle, and Gordon found him not guilty of three offences under the Motor Vehicle Act.

'Much has changed'

The ruling highlights gaps in B.C. rules that govern new transportation technologies like the Tag 500, which is marketed as an electric scooter.

Gordon points out that a B.C. Supreme Court justice called for a review of the regulations after hearing a similar case in 2012.

"It is now seven years later and, like cell phones, much has changed with electrically-propelled devices. I concur in the need for a review," Gordon wrote.

Electric scooters aren't considered motor vehicles if their speed is regulated to under 32 km/h and they can be propelled using pedals or hand cranks. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The sticking point in Wojtkiw's case was whether his scooter counts as a motorcycle or a motor-assisted cycle. If it's a motorcycle, he needs a licence and insurance; if it's a motor-assisted cycle, he doesn't.

Motor-assisted cycles need to have pedals or hand cranks so they can be propelled by human power, and they must not be capable of driving at more than 32 kilometres per hour.

'Unregisterable and uninsurable'

When Wojtkiw was pulled over on Highway 17 on July 10, 2018, he was driving 48 kilometres an hour.

And though his scooter had pedals, they were positioned so they were parallel to each other, pointed backward, and unusable.

The court heard that when Wojtkiw bought the scooter, it came equipped with a speed-limiting device that prevented it from travelling faster than 32 kilometres per hour. At some point that either malfunctioned or was disabled, but Wojtkiw denied doing anything intentionally.

As for the pedals, Wojtkiw said he'd rearranged them so they wouldn't scrape the pavement when he took a tight corner. He said he carried a wrench with him so he could flip the pedals if he needed to use his legs.

Under the existing regulations, therefore, the scooter "is no longer a motor-assisted cycle, but it remains unregisterable and uninsurable, even if the operator wished to register and insure it," Gordon said.

Though Gordon strikes a frustrated tone throughout his discussion of the issue, he ends on a more optimistic note, writing: " Perhaps … hope is on the horizon."

Just this month, the B.C. government introduced proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act meant to regulate things like electric skateboards, e-scooters and Segways.

"We know people are changing the way they travel, and it's important that our regulations match these changes," Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said at the time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a journalist for CBC News in Vancouver with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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