Rolling debate about alternative transportation choices, public safety in Maritime municipalities

Some Maritime municipalities are weighing the growing popularity of alternative transportation choices against public safety concerns.

Efforts are afoot in St. Andrews, N.B., to remove a bylaw dating back to 2001, prohibiting the use of in-line skates, skateboards, and push scooters in the downtown area.

St. Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said there are strong feelings amongst councillors for both repealing and retaining the bylaw.

"It’s been actually a subject with some controversy," he said. "It was originally brought in because of a number of collisions between people on skateboards and pedestrians in the downtown."

A town staff report recommended the bylaw stay in place, and divisions between town councillors became apparent during the topic’s initial discussion last month.

A new bylaw being tabled for debate would allow use of in-line skates, skateboards, and push scooters on Water Street, but not on its sidewalk. The town is turning Water Street into a one-way thoroughfare for the third consecutive year, allowing for more room (initially introduced to encourage social-distancing during the first year of the pandemic).

Regardless of any change, electronic bikes and electronic scooters would still be banned in downtown St. Andrews and mobility scooters have always been exempt from the bylaw restrictions. Henderson said bicycles are allowed downtown and also exempt from the bylaw restrictions because a bicycle’s braking mechanism was more reliable.

Meanwhile, a discussion last Thursday about the use of electronic scooters and electronic bikes within Fredericton’s trail system ended with no agreement on the question of whether the device’s speed and power should be regulated.

A city staff report recommended a ban on e-scooters and e-bikes travelling trails if the machines were able to reach speeds exceeding 32 km/h, and if it had a power rating of 500 watts or higher.

Fredericton Coun. Bruce Grandy, who chairs the city’s mobility committee, said the question isn’t going away.

"We’re all facing this common thing that people want to traverse in different manners," said Grandy. "We have to start to catch to these alternate devices coming into use."

Regardless of whether there’s a bylaw change, Grandy said education would be key, particularly with the expanded use of e-scooters and e-bikes.

"I think part of the mandate needs to be, and it doesn’t matter which municipality, that if you sell something like you need to educate the user," said Grandy.

In April, Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative government proposed changes to the province’s Motor Vehicle Act, which would set a minimum age for operation along with a speed limit.

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