The “micro-mobility” conveyances have been growing in popularity, and the city’s new mobility strategy specifically emphasizes creating non-auto options for getting around.
Here’s what you should know before you decide to go for a scoot.
What are the rules?
You do not need a driver’s licence to ride e-scooters, but you must be at least 16 years old. Helmets are mandatory.
The scooters themselves must have a maximum speed of 24 kilometres per hour and their motors cannot exceed 500W of output. They must have brakes, lights, and a bell or horn, and riders must also ride single file and slow down when near pedestrians.
Only the stand-up models with handlebars are allowed. Hoverboards, electric skateboards, and one-wheeled devices are not permitted.
Where can you ride them?
The City and District of North Vancouver have harmonized their rules for where people may ride. They are permitted on local streets that do not have a solid line separating lanes, any mobility/bike lanes, and paved multi-use paths like the Spirit Trail or Green Necklace. They aren’t allowed on arterial roads unless they’re within bike lanes. In the city, that means there are no legal north-south options between St. Andrews and Chesterfield avenues. In the district, there is no legal way to ride from Parkgate to Deep Cove.
Sidewalks and plazas are strictly off limits.
Because the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) was not included in the pilot, it will still be technically illegal to ride scooters through the Mosquito Creek segment of the Spirit Trail.
Enforcement for those scooting around the rules will be done by the RCMP with violators subject to a $109 fine.
West Vancouver also voted to join the pilot project in 2021, but as of May 2022, council hadn’t yet come up with rules for where they may be allowed, so they remain illegal there.
Tony Sun, owner of Reckless Shipyards, which sells and rents e-scooters, warns that a lot of folks crash.
“Too many,” he says, deadpan.
Because the wheels are relatively small, there’s minimal surface contact, which means every little bump on the path is going to give you quite a jostle. People most often crash when they’re trying to take corners too fast, when the roads are wet, or when there are bumps or debris on the road.
Beyond the mandatory helmet, Sun advises people to wear elbow pads, knee pads and gloves especially.
“In those accidents, your hands become the brakes,” he said.
Who are e-scooters ideal for?
Sun will be the first to tell you, e-scooters aren’t for everyone.
He doesn’t recommend them if your trip is more than five kilometres, or 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Beyond that, the ride tends to become uncomfortable. When it comes to stability, comfort and visibility, e-bikes are a much preferable option, he said.
They are ideal for “last mile” commutes. They fold up easily, which means they can be carried on transit or fit in the trunk of a car. If you have a 15-minute walk after getting off the SeaBus, an e-scooter can get that done in about one minute.
If you are planning to tackle steep hills like the ones found across the North Shore, a 500W model will be necessary, Sun said.
Most entry level e-scooters will have 20 kilometres of range, but higher end ones can go as far 50 km on a charge. A decent model will start at about $700, but you can pay as much as $3,000.
They have their fans though. On dry days, Blueridge resident Nick Toren has already been making the 13-kilometre commute to his job at Park Royal, mostly in bike lanes and on the Spirit Trail.
Toren was already a scooter fan, simply because they’re fun, but when gas prices crept above $1.90 per litre, he made the switch.
“It's a really easy ride. It only takes me half an hour, 35 minutes, which is not a bad commute at all,” he said. “I get to skip all the traffic and have a nicer ride.”
To get a feel for the latest mobility option, I took a test ride from Reckless Shipyards to my office on Brooksbank Avenue and back along the Spirit Trail.
I got off to a wobbly start. You’ve got to lean back when you hit the brakes, as it’s remarkably easy to make these things endo.
By the time I’d reached East Esplanade, I’d gained a bit of confidence and at this point, it was just plain fun. I might have even uttered ‘Weeee!’ while passing by Moodyville Park.
Sun is absolutely correct though. Every bump makes your ride go a little squirrely. The scuffs and dings on my rental scooter tell me some folks have learned this the hard way.
And even though the electric motor does all the work, my legs and arms got fairly fatigued from standing/holding on.
Basically, anything an e-scooter can do, an e-bike can do better, but the scooters are an entertaining, carbon-free, congestion-free way of getting around.
Throughout my test ride, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a nagging suspicion: Do I look a bit silly on this thing?
On my drive back home, I hit bridge traffic on Third Street at Queensbury Avenue. On the radio news, they were telling me that gas is $2.22 per litre and likely to jump another five cents.
Now who looks silly?