E-scooters have gained popularity as a convenient mode of transportation on the streets and sidewalks of British Columbia’s urban areas. However, concerns over speeding e-scooters on New Westminster’s sidewalks may soon prompt regulatory changes if a motion presented at the upcoming city council meeting gains approval.
Councillor Daniel Fontaine is advocating for a bylaw that would establish speed limits for motorized vehicles, including e-scooters when operated on sidewalks. Fontaine’s proposal addresses a perceived safety issue in the city, where pedestrians are increasingly sharing walkways with electric scooters travelling at potentially hazardous speeds.
Fontaine pointed out the irony that while New Westminster’s streets typically have posted speed limits of 30 kilometres per hour, no such limit currently exists for e-scooters on sidewalks. As a result, riders have unrestricted freedom to travel at any speed they desire, potentially endangering pedestrians.
Despite acknowledging the challenges of implementing a complete ban on motorized vehicles due to the city’s inadequate network of bike lanes, Fontaine is determined to introduce speed regulations as a crucial first step. While the specifics of the proposed speed limits and associated penalties remain unclear, he emphasized the importance of devising an effective enforcement plan alongside the bylaw to ensure its practical application.
Fontaine expressed concerns that failure to develop a comprehensive enforcement strategy could undermine public confidence in the local government’s ability to enforce such regulations effectively.
Currently, e-scooters fall into a legal gray area in British Columbia, as they are neither permitted on roads nor sidewalks. Instead, e-scooters are only allowed on roads and highways in select pilot communities—an authorization New Westminster does not possess.
Despite their technically illegal status in the city, authorities rarely issue tickets for e-scooter riders, leading to concerns among residents about their safety. Some residents have shared apprehensions about encountering e-scooters on sidewalks, particularly when riders approach from behind, potentially resulting in accidents.
Advocates for pedestrian-friendly urban environments argue that regulating e-scooters on sidewalks is imperative, as the current situation resembles the “Wild West” with no established rules or regulations. Joanne Folka, representing the New Westminster and Burnaby Walkers’ Caucus, highlighted the absence of rules governing e-scooter use. She emphasized that e-scooters currently operate without adhering to traffic signals, fail to provide advance notice to pedestrians, and can be disruptive and unsettling for those on foot.