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Scooter brings heat

Robert Lee Coughlin and his electric scooter have received unwarranted police attention, he says. - Neil Corbett photo
Robert Lee Coughlin and his electric scooter have received unwarranted police attention, he says.
— image credit: Neil Corbett photo

Robert Lee Coughlin’s scooter has zero emissions, scarcely makes a sound, is cheap to run, zips him around at a max speed of 32 km/h, and occasionally gets him into trouble with the law.

Coughlin has a ticket for $598 from his latest run-in with police. He was caught in an RCMP roadblock on Old Yale Road, and the ticket was issued for driving without a vehicle licence and insurance.

“The cop tried to tell me I had to push this thing home,” he said, shaking his head.

He contends he doesn’t need a licence or insurance for his vehicle, as he has told police officers in the past.

ICBC’s regulations appear to absolve Coughlin. Under Section 152 of the Motor Vehicle Act, the Motor Assisted Cycle regulation, a rider does not require vehicle registration, licensing or insurance provided that his bike: has a motor of 500 watts or less; has a max speed of 32km/h on flat ground; Has bicycle pedals

Early electric bikes looked like a bicycle, but included a small motor. Coughlin’s Motorino XPn looks more like a scooter, but it includes pedals so that it can operate under the same regulations as electric bikes.

The other provision in the law, which came into force in 2002, is that the driver must be 16, and wear a helmet.

He said he showed the cop the sticker on his bike that lays out its specifications, and showed him the battery under the seat so he would know it wasn’t gas-powered.

But the RCMP officer still wrote him up. He will fight the ticket, but says the whole process is a waste of court resources.

Tony Ferreira, owners of Scooter King in Langley, said a frequent complaint of his customers is that police officers don’t know the laws around scooters, mopeds and electric bikes. He said the Motorino XPn, as it comes from the factory, is no different than buying a bicycle.

Ferreira said the improving electric bikes have been the subject of television and radio news stories, and are getting increasingly popular.

“It’s the way of the future. We should be promoting these things – it’s an amazing approach.”

Despite the legal hassles, Coughlin is a big fan of his electric bike.

“They’re good for getting around town – if you plan your route around hills,” he said, “and I can keep up to my dog running on the dike.”

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