Electric scooters causing conflict on area roads

Are they bikes or motor vehicles? Confusion over regulations make riders liable

While this scooter looks a bit like a gas-powered scooter

While this scooter looks a bit like a gas-powered scooter

If only he hadn’t removed the pedals.

On Feb. 2, Terrell Hall will be sentenced for driving while prohibited. The offence dates back to Dec. 24, 2010 when Victoria police Const. Andy Dunstan pulled him over on Belleville Street.

Hall was driving an electric scooter, which typically doesn’t require registration, licensing or insurance. For this reason, it’s known as the official vehicle for the DUI community, meaning those who’ve lost their driver’s licences for driving under the influence.

So Hall was within his rights to ride an electric scooter. He goofed, however, when he removed its pedals, thereby changing the scooter’s classification from bicycle to motor vehicle.

Dunstan sees it often. As a traffic cop, he scans the roads for scooters that have no licence plate or no pedals.

“A lot of people are taking these off,” said Dunstan. “People buy electric bikes but find the pedals get in the way.”

While convictions for this type of offence are rare, confusion over the regulations present many problems.

Although classed as an electric bicycle, electric scooters look almost identical to gas-powered scooters, such as the Vespa or the Honda Jazz.

“We sold electric scooters in the early days and then we got out of selling them,” said Michael Stevulak, of Scooter Underground, a retailer in Victoria. “Mainly there were quality concerns … The other thing we didn’t like was the clientele was pretty much just taking the pedals off which made them a non-conforming vehicle.”

When he first started selling them, he was surprised to see “all these macho guys buying these little wimpy electric scooters.”

Sure enough, Stevulak said, “these guys were all people with licence suspensions and they wouldn’t have been able to keep their job if they weren’t able to move around.”

People don’t ride electric scooters for fitness reasons because the machines aren’t good to pedal, he explained.

“Half the electric scooters you see buzzing around Victoria right now probably have the pedals removed,” said Stevulak, who estimates there are more than 500 on the roads in the region.

Electric scooters are allowed on the Galloping Goose regional trail, but Stevulak questions it.

“The electric scooters are in limbo right now. There is an improper regulation for them to be classed as a bicycle, it’s silly.”

The message hit home for Stevulak a few years ago, when he sold his first electric scooter to a woman, with much media fanfare.

“My phone started ringing off the hook as she was the woman who, about a year earlier, had killed a cyclist and had her licence suspended … I had no idea.”

From a police perspective, the problem is one of education about the regulations.

Police mostly give warnings when they pull over these offenders, rather than fines or charges.

“We are pretty generous,” Dunstan said.

And he’d been generous to Hall two years ago when he pulled him over for the first time and gave him a warning. When he pulled Hall over a second time that same day, however, he laid charges. Hall pled guilty Dec. 6, 2011.