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Scooter users vying for space face bumpy ride

May 16 2012

Mobility scooters bring freedom to the elderly and others who cannot walk long distances but they also bring frustration when utility poles and other obstacles block sidewalk access.

Representatives from various levels of government, B.C. Transit's HandyDart service and equipment vendor Medichair spoke to seniors - and listened to their concerns - about scooter-related issues during an event Tuesday afternoon at James Bay New Horizons.

Under the law, scooter users are treated as pedestrians and must restrict their travel to sidewalks.

Scooters don't require licences and there are not many regulations around the world pertaining to scooters, said Chris Foord, chairman of the Capital Regional District traffic safety commission.

Because of the high number of seniors living here, Victoria engineering staff are dealing with more requests than most Canadian cities to improve accessibility to sidewalk travel and provide parking stations and spots for people to charge the electric vehicles.

Todd Linski, manager of sales at Medichair, said Victoria's roadways have to change to accommodate the growing number of scooters that will be vying for space on sidewalks.

"We have to have wider sidewalks, fewer barriers and transition points have to be nice and flat," he said.

Scooters range from $1,000 to $5,000, Linski said. Buyers range from people who have never driven a car to others trading up for one with more bells and whistles.

Part of the vendor's job is to assess whether the buyer will be safe operating a scooter or whether an occupational therapist could help the buyer in learning its operation, he said.

Lillian Nesdoly and Samuel Nesdoly, 77 and 78 respectively, have owned their scooters for five years.

Samuel, a retired professor from Acadia University, fell off his scooter last year and broke his back. Now hitting bumps and crevices causes him pain.

"I've seen better suspensions on an 1898 wagon," he said.

"You can drive [the scooter] around a store and on smooth surfaces it's fine, but going over the edge of the curb, it goes boom."

He urged prospective buyers to get scooters out on various sidewalks to test their comfort on bumpy surfaces.

Lillian said she loves the freedom, the ability to get outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine.

Samuel said the enjoyment of getting outside includes "going along with the flowers at nose level.

We love Victoria, we really do."

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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