Canadian Manufacturing

Micro-mobility on the rise, policymakers and regulators try and keep up

The Canadian Press

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Academics and doctors are also scrutinizing the opportunities and the safety challenges that micro mobility devices present.

Since Gabriel Kwok started riding an electric unicycle on Vancouver’s streets nine months ago, he estimates he’s logged about 2,000 kilometres on the briefcase-sized vehicle.

The 21-year-old Emily Carr University film student has a car to haul people or cargo, but his “wheel” is his main means of commuting to school and getting around the city.

Kwok said he has taken a couple of spills and had a close call with a truck that forced him to hop a curb, but otherwise had no issues, with police giving him a nod or a friendly wave.

That was until Kwok was stopped by the Vancouver Police Department in mid-February — and given a $598 ticket.


His experience speaks to ambiguity about the rules governing electric micro mobility vehicles including unicycles, scooters and bikes, as policymakers try to reconcile encouragement of their use, with police enforcement and disputes with other road users.

Kwok said he was riding on Vancouver’s Main Street when officers in an unmarked cruiser stopped him and ticketed him under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act for having no insurance.

“Wherever I ride, usually I try to stick to neighborhood streets and bike lanes, but sometimes I occasionally have to get on main roads,” Kwok said. “Even then, (police) haven’t had any trouble with me.”

His initial anger and confusion over the fine soon turned to disappointment, Kwok said, but he plans to dispute the ticket. The officers who gave him the ticket were not receptive to his questions and explanations, he added.

Bradley Spence, co-founder of Vancouver e-vehicle retailer Eevee’s, said he made a point to ask every police officer he encountered about traffic laws and micro mobility devices before opening the business.

“I didn’t want to open a store that is selling illegal products, and when I did my survey, every single officer thought it was really cool,” he said.

But one officer did warn him that reckless riding could net a violation ticket, and now that warning has turned into a reality for several riders, Spence said.

The province says that under B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, small electric transport devices remain illegal on roads and sidewalks, except in a dozen communities that have allowed the use of electric kick scooters under a pilot project. They include Vancouver and other Lower Mainland cities.

The scooters must meet specifications related to power, speed, wheel size and braking.

Kelowna is also a participant city, and since launching in April 2021, the municipality has seen a “tremendous uptake” in electric mobility trips by both tourists and residents, said transportation planner Cameron Noonan.

The pilot project brought many early challenges, Noonan said, because “it was a lot of change very quickly for our community.”

Academics and doctors are also scrutinizing the opportunities and the safety challenges that micro mobility devices present.

Simon Fraser University sociology professor Travers, who goes by a single name, started riding an electric unicycle about four years ago.

The professor did more than 2,000 deliveries for Uber Eats on their unicycle as part of research into such devices’ use, motivated by the “legal grey area” they occupy.

For Travers, the electric unicycle has been transformative, replacing 80 per cent of car trips and improving their mental and physical health since a nagging knee injury that keeps them off conventional or even electric-assisted bicycles.

Travers has had no issues with police, but says food delivery workers who rely on micro mobility devices face risks from not only cars, but also law enforcement, as traffic rules remain unclear on exactly what’s acceptable.


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