A recent collision in the City of Victoria between a vehicle and a man in a wheelchair near the municipal border with Saanich has raised questions about licensing requirements for personal mobility devices.
The Saturday evening incident left a man with unspecified injuries after his hand-pushed wheelchair collided with a vehicle on East Gorge Road near the Robin Hood Motel.
Const. Matt Rutherford of the Victoria Police Department said the man was travelling with his wheelchair in the street when the incident occurred. The driver — contrary to social media postings — remained on scene. Rutherford said the investigation into the incident continues.
Traditional wheelchairs do not require a license under the existing regulations of ICBC, which considers their users’ pedestrians.
Looking at other types of devices that assist personal mobility, the rules of the road vary.
ICBC, for example, treats users of motorized wheelchairs similar to pedestrians. As such, their users may operate them where rules permit pedestrians to walk, such as sidewalks, walkways, crosswalks and paths. This status means that users of motorized wheelchairs do not require registrations, vehicle licences, insurances or driver’s licences.
This said, ICBC’s safety tips for operating motorized wheelchairs read very much like those for traditional vehicles, including the appeal to avoid using motorized wheelchairs, while using medication, drugs or alcohol that may affect skills or judgment.
Motorized wheelchairs fall into the category of low-powered vehicles. What ICBC calls “limited-speed motorcycle” can operate on roads provided they are registered, licensed and insured with operators holding any class of driver’s licence. Riders are required by law to wear a motorcycle helmet.
Electric motor-assisted cycles can also operate on roads, but do not require registration, vehicle licence or insurance. Operators do not require a driver’s licence, but must be 16 years of age or older and wear bicycle helmets. Operators must not only follow bicycle safety rules, but are also subject to the same rights and duties as the drivers of motor vehicles.
While the exact number of such bikes on local roads remains a guess at best, they have proliferated, creating a potential conflict with more traditional cyclists.
When asked whether electrical bikes have been using Victoria’s designated bicycles lanes, Rutherford said any evidence would be “anecdotal.”
Scooters, motorized skateboards or self-balancing boards, meanwhile, may only be operated where B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act doesn’t apply, such as private property that does not have public vehicle access or on a trail or pathway, provided municipal bylaw has sanctioned their use.
Pocket bikes or mini choppers, are also not permitted on public roads, and are not permitted under Motor Vehicle Act Regulations because of their wheel size, wheelbase and seat height.
Looking at injury statistics, ICBC does not track specific statistics for these types of low-powered vehicles. But it includes mopeds, limited speed motorcycles, scooters and trikes in the category of motorcycle/moped. Over the last five years between 2012 and 2016, this category recorded an average of 480 incidents on Vancouver Island, 300 injuries, and six fatalities.