My Segway is not a mongrel

Terrance Wojtkiw was ticketed as he rode his “e-bike” on a road in Saanich, B.C. It would have been a legal e-bike if it was limited to a speed of 32 km/hr and could be peddled but he was going 48 km/hr and the pedals had been altered so as to be unusable.

image: David Charbonneau

Wojtkiw was ticketed because, since it wasn’t an e-bike, police reasoned that it must be an unregistered motorcycle. The court ruled that it’s neither. The judge ruled that Terrance Wojtkiw’s “thing” was not an e-bike, not a motorcycle. The judge called it “a mixed breed or mongrel” and the case was dismissed.

It turns out that ICBC doesn’t even recognize such a thing. Wojtkiw couldn’t have registered and licensed it if he wanted to.

Lacking words to describe these “things,” I’ll call them Electrically-Assisted Transportation Devices (EATDs). Many such devices have no legislation to define them and/or regulate their use. They cover a rainbow of EATDs: e-scooters, electric unicycles, hoverboards, electric bikes, electric wheelchairs, scooters as mobility aids, and Segways.

In Canada, the feds hand over the registration of motor vehicles to the provinces. I first rode an X2 Segway in Hawaii. Upon my return, I bought one in Kamloops.  U.S. federal legislation ambiguously defines Segways as a personal transportation device which may, or may not, be like an electric wheelchair. The U.S. Federal Transit Administration says:

“The Segway is a two-wheeled, gyroscopically stabilized, battery-powered personal transportation device.  The Segway is not designed primarily for use by individuals with disabilities, nor is it used primarily by such individuals.  However, some individuals with disabilities may use a Segway as a personal mobility aid, in lieu of more traditional devices like a wheelchair or scooter.”

In other words, if a person has mobility issues the Segway is a “personal mobility aid.” If not, it is “personal transportation device.” What my Segway is classified as is in the eye of the beholder but as for me, I don’t have mobility issues.

Ah hah, you might say: “if it barks like a mongrel then it must be a mongrel.” But I don’t think my Segway is a mongrel. The pedigree of Wojtkiw’s electric Tag500 is even more uncertain –neither fish nor fowl.

The B.C. government hopes to bring some clarity to EATDs. In their news release they say:

“People who choose new types of transport, like e-scooters, electric unicycles or Segways, to get around will benefit from proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, introduced on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. These changes clarify how emerging devices are to be used and will ensure the safety of everyone who uses roads and sidewalks (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Oct. 7, 2019).”

If I want to go anywhere in Westsyde on my Segway, I have to travel on the sidewalk. To ride on Westsyde road would be hazardous to my health. Fortunately, the sidewalk is a shared pathway although whoever designated it as such probably never imagined the menagerie of EATDs that might travel it.

Even with provincial legislation, the regulation of EATDs will depend on the existence of shared pathways, bikeways, the volume of road traffic, and the number of pedestrians on sidewalks. Look for the mess to fall on the lap of Kamloops City Council anytime soon.

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