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Access and inclusion Canada general

Pedestrian Guidelines for North America

Pedestrian guidelines are firm and aim for public safety. Even for some electric mobility devices. It starts at home, with children, and walking to school. As a child, you might have had an authoritative figure who walked with you. You might even have been that authoritative person yourself. Cool. Life went on. You may have inspired other pedestrians, knowingly and unknowingly. Some of us stumbled while walking suddenly. Like one sunny day late in May, when I encountered a wall in 1999, then I was diagnosed with a chronic illness in mid-June 2000.

Bang. A few years later, you might be using a mobility device, if that happened to you. What’s with this? Stairs become your barriers, many places you can’t live, and it begins there. There are so many barriers! Freedom of the road and all conflicts with public safety. There are so many cars! Legal weed (in Canada). The doctor and the prescriptions. Freedom and discretion in many areas of North America, and open-air consumption are all good many times, even here, where it’s legal. Makes sense of it all, don’t you know? Am I the same on one of those devices as I was walking to school? My mother and older sister were my walk partner in that younger me. We walked facing those big deadly cars. “Stay out of their way”, they would warn. “You cannot see them coming behind you on that other side. Walk like this, you little bra…” I’d scare my sibling, scaring at least one driver too with me darting the traffic lane, terror on a bike. You never win against a vehicle. But life I found is fun when challenging that ‘fear factor’. Yes, some folks never made it past that life of thrill. They refused to walk with me after a few close calls, and I picked up some bad habits. Meh. Darn walls. I met some RCMP officers and the Road Safety Department of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia a couple of years into my life on a mobility scooter. Medichair Northern BC has always supported pedestrian safety along with me… We learned together, adding to the legend in my mind. Gave a community speech for the community. I was also pulled over a few times by young officers suffering from unfamiliarity with mobility device travel after it, just educating them on the road, backing up perhaps a supervisor advising of sightings of ‘people like us’ driving unsafe because of weather conditions.

Looks like snowplows passed on this winter morning in Prince George BC on Third Avenue. Pedestrian safety begins with me, along with you, in the active transportation network of Prince George.

Long and short of that story, there are several classes of 2, 3, and 4-wheeled electric scooters. For the afflicted, our scooters travel no faster than 10 kph or 6 mph. This is a pedestrian-class scooter or power wheelchair, and it usually comes from a medical supply place. It is often authorized in BC by an Occupational Therapist (OT). Other places exist, like online retailers and Walmart Scooters for example, 1-800 Wheelchair is a website too c/w no cost shipping. Some people have health insurers that pay for one. Donated items show up. An OT will provide guidance and basic instructions for safety inside and out in the wild, when new and when devices are renewed. They wear out after about 5 years of hard long-distance riding in any community. Many funding sources depend on an OT being involved. But if you have the means, you could purchase one without a health need to replace a vehicle or to gift an ageing relative or partner. At the end of the story, mobility devices incapable by design of travelling faster than 10kph (6mph) are pedestrians and have no actual rules. They face the traffic in multiple forms of mobility, as a safe way of travel on road surfaces. Pedestrians are not supposed to travel on provincial and national highways. Where accessible pedestrian infrastructure exists (sidewalks and paths/parkland, they should be utilized by all forms of pedestrian movement.

Challenges to Pedestrian Safety

  1. Why do we only use a mobility device? Good question. You must be comfortable with our transportation devices to feel safe inclusively. 7 days a week, 24 hrs a day 365 days a year you might see us living our lives outside our homes. We are a class of the diverse pedestrians that you see in your daily travels along a sidewalk or a roadside as you drive or walk by. Many of us use one as an accessible vehicle’s cost is prohibitive to many, or perhaps we don’t realize a vehicle we might or perhaps not own now can be adapted with hand controls. That also requires a driver’s licence review in British Columbia, perhaps elsewhere, for recertification of safety. That might be a challenge for many before the cost of ownership. Perhaps the licence was legally lost or age took it away. Most often, we live in a larger community, like a city. Our reasons are diverse. We were electric long before it was cool in vehicles. On a sidewalk, we travel, respecting other pedestrians. We love it when you respect us and clear the path of your body when you notice us behind.
  2. What about the direction of travel against traffic? Doesn’t that conflict with bike traffic in that lane?: That’s 2 of the questions that come up the most often. As a power mobility device travels in a small footprint, and the bike cannot see traffic behind, a smaller footprint, it makes sense for the mobility device that stays out of the way of oncoming traffic with awareness, to travel closer to the traffic flow as the bike passes safely next to the sidewalk. We can all share a road surface. We should not travel on roadways where bikes are banned. I always go wide tight against the traffic lane, making it obvious for a bike to pass on my right. Some will veer wider and try to pass on my left, putting themselves deep into traffic flows. I then dart in to pass them on the inside, allowing them safety.
  3. Parked cars: Sometimes a rider on the road will encounter a line of cars parked. Always be looking for a running vehicle or one that appears to be pulling out. If vehicles are oncoming, proceed only if safe to go, or duck between the parked cars, proceeding when safe until the end of that line hopping cars. Also if a bike is coming dart in-between the parked cars till the bike passes.
  4. The safest and most recommended way of travel is on sidewalks. In a perfect world, that is true. Always try to keep on sidewalks. But in reality, some sidewalks are not in the best shape. Sometimes, they are so crowded with many people. Some are not curbed at the intersection. Sidewalks are rough on sensitive bones, as those devices have no shock absorbers. Sidewalks don’t exist everywhere. There are a diverse amount of reasons people ride on the road. If you follow the same guidelines as pedestrians, you will be safe and unhindered. If you interfere with vehicular traffic, you will catch the attention of an RCMP officer or other emergency responder in Canada for a much longer story… You won’t face charges doing anything pedestrian but that’s loose as you might have a legal charge applied. You can keep your weed now, lol.
  5. Seasonal: Extreme weather is always a challenge, particularly for someone who uses a mobility device. Winter, short story. Snow is a much longer story with temperature challenges; spring flooding and frozen drains follow… Snowmageddon events
  6. The city I live in is Prince George BC. We have a civic committee for access and inclusion. It connects to the city’s active transportation network of pedestrians among vehicular traffic, inclusively. Society’s definition of ‘disability’ for people with an affliction is those who require accessibility changes. Those changes are inclusive and benefit everyone once realized. An App we use gives the civic committee information from your eyes, about civic issues of concern from taxes to potholes and sidewalk challenges. Even those frozen spring drains are fixed fast. It’s part of a civic program called CityWorks. It can be downloaded on all mobile devices. The city of Prince George highly recommends all civic residents and participants of the local active transportation network download it today.
Information by WalkNRoll