I’ve got a huge beef with electric scooters in Canada. First off though, I do want to discredit the myth that I dislike them. The opposite of this is true; I prefer electric scooters. Far over gasoline, I would rather have an electric scooter.
But there is a problem, and it has to do with the law here in Canada. When electric scooters and bicycles were introduced to Canada someone made the decision to lump them together with bicycles. “Power assisted Bicycle” is not a new term, many gasoline scooters and mopeds of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s fall under this category as well. Where the primary power train of the cycle is human, pedal power, they retain an assist, gasoline or electric, to help for lets say, climbing hills. However, as technology changes over time these assists improved and eventually the human pedal power became secondary to assist power equipped on the cycle.
Now this shouldn’t be a problem, and at first it didn’t seem like one to me. However, we have a repeating culture with these assists. What happened in the late 70’s for gasoline assisted bicycles, is repeating for electric assisted ones. As the technology improves, as the power assist becomes the primary propulsion, the range and top speed increase. What doesn’t change with these slow improvements is the laws.
Many electric scooters now resemble, almost visually identically, their gas counter parts. The Honda Ruckus and Jazz, and Yamaha Vinos and BWS, among others have visually identical electric clones for sale here in Victoria and for the most part, the rest of Canada as well. To the average person, seeing the two side by side, they are the same. This is true to most motorists as well, and even some motorcycle and scooter riders. Even from a close distance it’s difficult to tell the difference. However the laws for the two are vastly different.
A gasoline scooter requires a minimum license in almost all provinces. You either need a learners motorcycle or learner car license. You also need insurance and a license plate for your gasoline scooter. You may not ride in the bicycle lanes, you, by law are considered a motorized vehicle. Just like a car or Motorcycle. The electric scooter, does not require these things. By law it’s a bicycle. You need a front and rear facing light, and a bike helmet. A slogan from a local electric scooter retailer “Our slogan NO LICENSE…NO INSURANCE…NO GAS…JUST HOP ON AND GO”
This to me is appealing. I don’t like dealing with gas, insurance or licensing. However, this presents a problem between observation and application. There are now two identical scooters, a Gas scooter, and Electric scooter both driving on, or near the street. One rider has a completely different set of rules than the other. The gasoline rider has a license proving they’ve passed a test on basic safety knowledge, the electric does not. One is allowed to ride in the bike lane, while the other must operate within the regular traffic.
This lack of a test is the reason most electric scooter riders ride electric scooters. Some of these riders were unable to pass the written motorcycle and/or car license test, but still needed to get around town quickly. These are often the people you see riding their electric scooters with their feet dragging on the ground, no helmet, no working lights and often riding on the sidewalk. These scooters also take up the entire bicycle lane.
When other people see this, they associate this type of riding with all scooters, electric or gasoline. I’ve even seen gasoline scooters with “electric” written on them to avoid licensing or insurance. What happens is now I get a bad rap on my gas scooter, although I managed to jump all the hoops that are not required for the electric scooters. Power assisted bicycles, they are not, even if they are equipped with pedals.
On a similar rant I recently saw a kickstarter for an improved electric scooter. This is great! Finally an electric scooter that can match or beat my current gasoline scooters performance. Watching the video there are a few cheesy points, like dragging his family into the picture for some reason? I don’t quite think being a ‘family man’ has anything to do with business anymore as being a successfully married adult with well loved offspring makes you a minority these days. However, this scooter seems kinda rad on paper, but the moment I saw it I was put off as a buyer. It looks exactly like those cheap Chinese ruckus clones. I don’t care how much it’s “made in America”, I can see the entire front end, seat and rear axle are straight off the boat from Shanghai. Not only does it make me question the quality, but even if the quality is far superior than the $800 ruckus clones, I still can’t fathom paying 6 times the price for a Banana when I can just buy a cheaper Banana.
They really missed an opportunity as the exterior visual impact doesn’t represent the quality that may lie within the drivetrain. Had they provided something more progressive and futuristic, or just something with less visual association to cheap chinese scooters, they may have a better chance at success.
You can see what I’m talking about here.