Emerging forms of personal transportation — including electric scooters and bikes, motorized skateboards and hoverboards — have forced Vancouver and B.C. to examine vehicle laws and policy in order to protect the safety of residents and visitors. Whatever type of new vehicle you choose, it’s important to know what is legal to ride in Vancouver.
Smaller, individualized modes of transportation gaining popularity include electric scooters, motorized skateboards, “mini-motorcycles” and hoverboards. They’re all similar — powered by a small electric motor with the rider standing. An electric scooter has handlebars, and many of the others rely on the rider’s balance.
They might seem harmless, but some of these small motors pack power. There are electric scooters on the market that can go up to 72 km/h, exceeding the speed limit on many Vancouver streets. Many electric skateboards top out at around 40 km/h.
All of these forms of transportation are illegal in Vancouver, except on private property. A 2017 memo from the city engineer noted that these low-powered vehicles are not designed to meet federal safety standards, which means they cannot pass the Provincial Commercial Vehicle Safety inspection or be eligible for insurance from the ICBC.
They are, however, defined as motor vehicles in the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act. Because of that classification, a person riding an electric scooter on a Vancouver street or bike path could be subject to a ticket for operating a motor vehicle without insurance — a fine of $598.
Limited Speed Motorcycles
Another popular form of non-auto transportation is a gas- or electric-powered scooter. The ICBC defines street-legal scooters as Limited Speed Motorcycles or LSMs. Specific characteristics of LSMs are:
- No more than a 50 cubic cm engine displacement or 1.5-kilowatt motor rating
- Does not need clutching or shifting after the drive system is engaged
- Has a maximum speed on the level ground of 70 km/h and weighs no more than 95 kilograms, excluding fuel and batteries
- Must have wheels that are 25.4 cm in diameter or more
Electric scooters can be driven on the roads of Vancouver, but you must register, license and insure the scooter, and have a Class 5 or 7 driver’s license. Driving an electric scooter in Vancouver comes with the same rights and responsibilities as driving a car, and they are not allowed on bike lanes, sidewalks or the sea wall.
Helmets are required when driving a motorized scooter in Vancouver, just as they are for bicycles. The fine for riding a motorcycle without a helmet in Vancouver and all of British Columbia is $138.
The only other form of transportation allowed to join traditional forms on Vancouver roads is electric bicycles, which are a relatively new fad. Motors must be electric, have an output of no more than 500 watts and a top flat-ground speed of 32 km/h without pedaling. You must be at least 16 years old to ride an electric bike in Vancouver.
For operators, the primary differences between motorized scooters and electric bicycles are:
- Bicycles may be used in protected bike lanes
- Operators need not be licensed
- Bikes need not be insured
Helmets also are required, though Vancouver has typically not enforced the law with tickets. According to the CBC, Vancouver police have handed out an average of about 25 tickets per year for not wearing a helmet, choosing instead to inform and educate. The fine for a ticket is $100.
Protecting Your Rights on the Streets
The growth of all these types of transportation on Vancouver streets and the various laws that govern them can increase the odds of negligence, accident, and injury. McLarty Wolf has experience with injury cases stemming from accidents involving bicycles and other forms of personal transportation. Contact us today for a free consultation.