I was surprised with Obie Olson’s complaint when he showed up at the newspaper office one day last week.
Wilson, a local senior who has been driving his scooter around the streets of Duncan and the Cowichan Valley for three years, had concerns around the safety of scooter drivers in the area.
But it wasn’t the car and truck drivers that scooters have to share the road with that bothered him; it was the driving habits of the other scooter drivers.
“I’ve seen a lot of near misses involving scooters,” he told me.
“It’s only a matter of time before something really serious happens here.”
In fact, unlike most other motorized vehicles on our roads, people don’t need to be licensed to drive a scooter, and the scooters themselves aren’t required to have safety features like lights and blinkers.
The only laws governing scooters are those set out for any pedestrian; which requires them to obey all traffic-controlled signs and use sidewalks as much as possible.
While no one I’ve talked to on the issue can recall any serious injuries or accidents involving scooters in the area, it strikes me how few laws there are to govern the use of one of the machines in the Valley.
I took to the streets of Duncan a while ago on a scooter with other able-bodied people who had been asked to feel what it was like to be disabled and attempting to get around on the streets and sidewalks in the community.
It was an eye-opening exercise for all of us, and I realized that there is a lot more expertise required to operate one of those things than is apparent to non-users.
They are faster than you think and can get away from you when not paying attention.
I found that out the hard way when I crashed into the back of another scooter while trying to cross a street when the crossing light was still green.
They can also be hard to manoeuvre, which can be trouble for the inexperienced.
There are also few things as frustrating and scary as trying to drive a scooter onto a curb after crossing a crosswalk.
The curbs are lowered on crosswalks to allow wheelchairs and scooters access onto the sidewalks, but it’s sometimes hard to get those front wheels over the lip of the curb, leaving you in front of a car while the vehicle has the green light to proceed.
But all of these concerns stem largely from just not knowing what to do in certain situations, as opposed to there being any technical problems with the scooter itself.
That’s why it bothers me that scooter riders don’t require a licence or any kind of formal training to learn how to operate them safely.
The police urge new drivers to take their scooters to an abandoned parking lot or some other out-of-the-way place to learn how to ride them properly.
But there’s no official to confirm that the skills have been learned properly and the rider is considered capable of taking to the streets and sidewalks with other traffic and pedestrians.
Most of the scooter riders in this area are seniors with loved ones who worry about them, so it would be horrendous if something should happen to them on their scooters while doing their daily chores.
I don’t think scooters should be treated entirely like other vehicles on the road.
But, and I repeat, it would be a benefit for everybody if scooter riders were required to demonstrate that they can operate their machines with at least some proficiency before they are released on the streets.
Robert Barron is a reporter with the Cowichan Valley Citizen. He can be reached at Robert.Barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com.