By Andrea Arnold Associated Editor/Reporter

We have now had some time to recover from Pioneer Days in McBride, and as always, there have been things pointed out that the community can learn from. Often there is feedback to organizers regarding events, timing, and food services.

This year, there was a new element that brought with it a fair amount of concern. Electric scooters were zipping around the streets of McBride, operated by all ages. The main concerns being raised were that they were being driven by kids, not wearing helmets, and by individuals not obeying traffic laws.

Before these scooters were rented, the waiver/agreement that was required stated that these rules would be followed. There were even helmets available to go along with the rental. However, as evident to anyone in town, much of the time, few of the agreement rules were followed.

Following the weekend’s events, the matter was brought to the local RCMP. They were aware of the scooters being used, but prior to Pioneer Days, they had been operated, for the most part, in a safe and respectful manner, not drawing attention.

Following the weekend and mass presence of the small electric vehicles, several complaints were brought forward. The matter was looked into both by the RCMP, and myself as we looked for provincial regulations.

It turns out, electric scooters are illegal for most communities in BC, but that information wasn’t even available on the first possible website I found when I looked it up. I actually had to do a bit of searching to locate it.

The province of BC has in place an electric kick scooter pilot project. Until that pilot is over, and provincial regulations are in place, it is illegal to use one on a road or highway in any community that is not participating in the pilot project, as well as a participating community that has not enacted pilot project bylaws. At this time, there are only 12 municipalities where e-scooters are legal, when used with regard to safety regulations. The pilot project is at its midpoint, set to wrap up in April 2024. Following that, B.C. could make permanent changes to the Motor Vehicle Act regulating e-scooters provincewide.

The pilot project website says that the purpose of the project is to explore the potential of e-scooters. 

“We’ll learn what’s needed to keep everyone safe on these, and similar devices, so we can update our plans and regulations,” it says. One of the biggest issues that has come out of the project so far is that they are too fast for sidewalks, but too slow for roadways. 

Looking at the big picture though, this seems crazy to me. We are being encouraged to think beyond gas powered vehicles, and choose clean methods of transportation. E-bikes are permitted across the province with safety regulations in place. How or why are e-scooters any different? For the areas that are allowing e-scooters, there is a limit of a max 24km/h max capability. I’ve seen e-bikes exceeding that on public walkways. I understand the need for regulations, but am unclear why the need to reinvent the wheel.

There have been pilot projects across the province over the past several years. Would it not be possible to compare notes, and come up with a plan using data collected from other areas? I also note that the communities participating in the pilot are all larger centres. There are no small town voices to be heard.

I can see some real value in them. They are a more affordable option to get around quickly, and travel greater distances in small communities where riding a bus is not an option. The availability for short term rental for locals and visitors to experience the community in a different way is an exciting prospect as well.

Also, what baffles me is that companies can freely sell these vehicles without mentioning that they are not legal in much of the province, or a gentle reminder that there is the possibility that they are not legal to operate everywhere. 

Unable to continue, the small e-scooter rental business in McBride has closed its doors. It isn’t just rentals that have to be taken off the streets. RCMP Corporal Colin Bissell says that in the Robson Valley, they are not legal at all. That includes those that have been privately purchased.

“There is a fine schedule for those who disobey,” he said. “To be fair to all, since the rentals have been shut down, private use offences will be enforced.”

Maybe we will see a change next spring.