Riding an electric scooter can be a fun, cheap, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alternatives to public transportation have become more desirable over the last year, including the use of electric scooters. However, as one Surrey man has learned, it is crucial to know whether you require insurance and a driver’s license to operate your motorized scooter.
Mr. Ghadban was riding a Motorino XMr in the summer of 2018 when a police officer observed him on a public road in Surrey. When the officer asked Mr. Ghadban to provide his driver’s license and proof of insurance, he was unable to do so, as he possessed neither a driver’s license nor insurance. Although Mr. Ghadban stated that he had previously inquired about obtaining insurance, he was told that they did not offer insurance for electric scooters like his.
Mr. Ghadban was convicted in Traffic Court in the Provincial Court of British Columbia with two infractions under the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318: driving without a driver’s license (s.24(1)), and driving without insurance (s. 24(2)). After an appeal to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the conviction was upheld. The British Columbia Court of Appeal, who heard the case on February 3, 2021, and gave judgement on February 9, 2021, agreed with the previous decisions.
The court found that Mr. Ghadban’s scooter did not fall under the definition of a motor assisted cycle under the Motor Vehicle Act, and thus an operator required a driver’s licence to operate it. According to the Motor Vehicle Act, a “motor assisted cycle” means a device
To which pedals or hand cranks are attached that will allow for the cycle to be propelled by human power,
On which a person may ride,
To which is attached a motor of a prescribed type that has an output not exceeding the prescribed output, and
That meets the other criteria prescribed under section 182.1 (3).
Although the court found that Mr. Ghadban’s scooter technically did have “pedals or hand cranks attached that allow for the cycle to be propelled by human power”, they found that it did not comply with the “intention” of the legislation. In their analysis, the court stated that the scooter was not a motor assisted cycle because the operator could not utilize the electric motor while physically pedalling. If the motor was running, the operator could not simultaneously pedal. As such, the operator’s peddling was not actually “assisted” by the motor. Rather, the operator did one or the other.
Mr. Ghadban’s scooter was particularly heavy, weighing over 200 lbs. This made it difficult to move without running the electric motor. In fact, Mr. Ghadban stated that in the five years he had owned his scooter, he had never pedalled it before. It was clear that his scooter was designed to be propelled using the electric motor only, and not pedalled manually. As a result of this, the Court of Appeal found that Mr. Ghadban required a driver’s license to operate his scooter.