British Columbia

'It's so insanely unsafe': Calls to clamp down on motorized skateboards, scooters in bike lanes

If you use bike lanes in Vancouver, you may have noticed more motorized devices taking up space on the street.

Vancouver police say they prefer to educate, using enforcement as a last resort

Toby Mitchell, salesperson at the Pacific Boarder skate shop in Vancouver, says electric skateboards are dangerous and doesn't sell them. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

If you use bike lanes in Vancouver, you may have noticed more motorized devices taking up space on the street.

It's illegal to use electric skateboards or other low-powered electric-powered devices, such as scooters and skates, on roads in B.C.

Toby Mitchell works at Pacific Boarder skate shop in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. The store doesn't sell the devices, and he says he's seen riders swerve in and out traffic, into other cyclists.

"I think it's a one-way ticket to people passing away," he said. "It's so insanely unsafe."

Salesperson demonstrates an electric skateboard remote control inside Boarder Labs in Vancouver on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Motorized devices are regulated by the provincial Motor Vehicles Act. The city regulates the use of park paths and the seawall.

Provincial and city regulations prohibit the use of low-powered vehicles, such as motorized hover boards, unicycles, scooters, skateboards and segways, on all public rights of way.

The exceptions are motorized wheelchairs and electric-assisted bicycles.

Who enforces the law?

Vancouver police say they prefer to educate, using enforcement as a last resort.

"We typically don't make it a priority to target and ticket people using these devices for recreational purposes, unless they do so recklessly or in a manner that endangers the public," Const. Steve Addison said.

David Hay, a lawyer who specializes in bike-related cases, says the law is not clear cut with enforcement.

"That specific breach of riding in a bike lane, on something that is not a bicycle, does not seem to have an associated enforcement provision," he said.

The City of Vancouver says it's waiting for direction from the province before regulating the devices.

Mitchell says e-skates are capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour. People who buy them underestimate the skill it takes to ride safely, he says.

Graham Peat, co-owner of Boarder Labs, holds an electric skateboard inside his store on West 4th in Vancouver on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

"It takes years sometimes to get the stability and the balance," he said.

"If they don't know how to stop their board ... or if they drop the [thing] that controls the speed ... the whole idea doesn't make sense."

Graham Peat is the co-owner of Boarder Labs, one of the few brick-and-mortar shops in the city that sells e-skates. 

Peat says the city must acknowledge the demand for these devices. He says he always encourages people to wear safety gear when they ride.

"We're trying to do our part to tell people to be responsible," he said.

"It would be ideal if the city and the province would recognize them as another form of green transportation."

If you use bike lanes in Vancouver, you may have noticed more motorized devices taking up space on the street. 8:17

With files from Matt Meuse and On the Coast

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