New rules for “Vulnerable Road Users” and other MVA changes
The BC Government changed the Motor Vehicle Act (the MVA) to create some new definitions and to address new ways to use the roads. It’s always interesting to see how they approach changes to road use. In the last 20 years cycling has become more popular than ever. Bike lanes have made it more attractive to cycle and concerns for the environment have spurred on the government to encourage more people to ride for their commute.
But you can’t always ride your bicycle in a bike lane and now we also see one-wheel electric transport things, electric scooters and all manner of devices out there on the road. New rules have been under contemplation for years. Most interesting to us and what we expect to have implications for many motorists, is the creation of a category called “Vulnerable road users.”
Here are eight highlights
- New Definitions:
o “Cycle” is defined as a device that is human-powered and has wheels, excluding certain devices like wheelchairs, strollers, skateboards, kick scooters, etc. It also includes motor-assisted cycles.
o “Pedestrian” refers to someone who is not in or on a vehicle, cycle, or similar device, except if it falls under specific categories like wheelchairs, strollers, skateboards, etc., or designated personal mobility devices.
o “Vulnerable road user” includes pedestrians, cyclists, and prescribed individuals.
- Sentencing Considerations: When a person commits the offence of driving without due care or driving without reasonable consideration or speed relative to conditions and causes death or bodily injury to a vulnerable road user, it will be considered an aggravating factor during sentencing.
- Obligations for Drivers: The legislation introduces a new requirement for drivers to take proper precautions concerning vulnerable road users who are using a highway.
- Passing Restrictions: Motor vehicle drivers are prohibited from passing pedestrians or cyclists unless it can be done safely and while maintaining a minimum distance of 1 meter. Prescribed minimum distances may apply as well.
- Crossing Lane Lines: Drivers are allowed to cross over lane lines when passing a person in compliance with the passing restrictions mentioned above, as long as it can be done safely and without affecting the travel of another vehicle.
- Following Distance: Drivers must not follow pedestrians, cyclists, or certain other persons more closely than is reasonable and prudent. The minimum distance is set at 3 meters, or a prescribed distance may apply. However, this does not apply when the driver is overtaking and passing a person in compliance with passing regulations.
- Electric Assist Bike Definition: Motor-assisted cycles are defined as devices that allow a person to ride, have wheels, attached pedals or hand cranks, and an attached motor with specified output limits. Regulations govern their operation on highways.
- Powers of Peace Officers: Peace officers have certain powers, including the ability to require a person to stop using a vehicle or device, provide personal and ownership information, and carry out inspections. They can temporarily seize vehicles or require the person to take the vehicle for inspection if they have reasonable grounds to believe the device is being used in contravention of the law.
Some of these changes strike us as odd. For example, number 2 above changes the sentencing considerations for offences such as Driving Without Due Care where a vulnerable road user is injured or killed. It was not uncommon for a cyclist to be injured and then, when the matter goes to court, they would be angry and vocal about the punishment for the driver. The government felt they needed a change.
We disagree with the premise because we see the courts consider all the facts and dole out reasonable punishment. But consider for a moment that this only speaks of vulnerable road users. In other words, the enhanced considerations do not apply if, by your carelessness, you kill someone on a horse or in another vehicle. Or your passenger.
It seems very strange to us that there is only enhanced punishment if the injured or deceased party fell into this particular category.
Warning for electric bike riders
Number 8 above allows for the warrantless seizure and search of your bicycle, scooter, or other device. The only limit is the officer having reasonable grounds the device is being used or operated in contravention of the MVA or the regulations. There are no provisions regarding reviewing the officer’s decision to seize and there is no time limit for the detention in the MVA.
In other words, an officer might think you went too fast on your electric bike, seize it without a warrant or a police report, and there is no time limit on how long they can take it and basically no rules about what they do with it.
This poses a very significant possibility of abusive police overreach.