Letter to Premier about legalizing Segway's in Alberta

by edouin  

Premier Ed Stelmach
MLA Fort Saskatchewan/Vegreville


I am a member of your constituency and have a slight problem and ask your assistance as my MLA in helping me become more mobile. I am a 23 year veteran of the Canadian Forces, and had to retire in 2003 with a medical disability at the age of 42! Due to this same disability, I have a Handicap Placard for my vehicle. However, I cannot stay seated for any length of time, preferring to either lie down or stand if given the option. I take several medications for pain control and at times am fearful when driving my mid-sized car, even for short distances. I detest going to Shows, Trade Shows, Public Events at parks and downtown shopping. I have become a "home-body" whereas before I loved going out and socializing, visiting, shopping and just taking in the outdoors! Not anymore.

Recently, I also wanted to do my part to become more ecologically friendly but still find a method for me to get around "The Fort" without having to start and stop my car every 3 minutes, so I started investigating my options. They were very limited! Public Transit is out. Taxi's too expensive for such a short distance, and I still end up having to walk a lot.

Then my wife and I took a test drive at the West Edmonton Mall sales area of the Segway "Human Transporter" vehicles, and found that I could stand - and move around - quite fine and safe with minimal pain and discomfort. Even after riding around the Mall for 90 minutes, my leg was well behaved and I was still quite pain-free! However, when I got home and upon further investigation, I find that the Province of Alberta has lumped the Segway "Human Transporter" style of vehicles into the provincial definition of "Prohibited Vehicles", but companies, corporations and even municipalities can use them on their own "private property" for any reason they want.

I find this is a very sad and unenlightened situation. A large percentage of the US states and many Provinces in Canada have enacted legislation specifically to allow these vehicles to operate on sidewalks and pathways (only); The Insurance Bureau has the Segway listed as an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device (EPAMD), the same classification as Electric wheelchairs and seated scooters (Mobility Aids) that many seniors and disabled people use to get around; Were it not for the "Mobility Aid" designation, they would also be on the "Prohibited Vehicle" list here in Alberta.

The Governments of Canada, Europe and the United States have all passed legislation recognizing the unique characteristics of electric bikes which the Segway HT/PT fall into: their quiet, clean operation, ease of use and their environmentally benign nature. Most jurisdictions recognize these as distinct from existing moped and motorcycle classifications because they are more akin to bicycles than their heavier, faster gas-powered cousins (the moped, motorcycle etc.). Electric bicycles are known by several different names, including "Power-assisted bicycles" (PAB's).

Despite "National" laws defining electric bikes there is still confusion. In Canada, the Federal laws define what safety equipment is required for all electric bicycles, but it is up to the Province to properly determine the legality of using electric bicycles on the roads.

Just recently (2006), Canada's most populous province - Ontario - passed legislation allowing PAB's (Segway's) in a 5-year trial. Quebec allows PAB's (Segways) on their sidewalks (and roads!) There is even mention to Letter Carriers having certain exemptions so as to better (and faster) deliver mail! (see Links below - Ontario Regulation 488/06)

The Canadian Paraplegic Association also comments on the Segway as a device for Disabled persons to use, and mentions the Segway "...is gaining more legal endorsement", but "Persons with disabilities interested in using a Segway should contact their local city councillor or municipal public works department to determine what the by-laws are regarding motor vehicles on sidewalks in their community, before purchasing one of these devices". That's like saying "Hey, here is a great aid for the Handicap to get around with, but your local governments most likely don't want you to be able to get around more efficiently", eh?

Why is that?

Unfortunately, our (Segway users) hands are tied because Local (City/Town) legislation/laws cannot over-ride Provincial Legislation, and cities such as Fort Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Calgary are powerless to allow Segways on the city streets due to this Provincial Legislation. See Edmonton Sun article link below about Edmonton city Councillor Ed Gibbons stating that the "...rules of the road must be brought up to date..."

Finally, there is still ONE more aspect that the Province should look at if it wants to be a leader in our Carbon Footprint and Ecological stance.

The Segway can travel at a Maximum speed of 20kph - well below the limits of 35kph legislated for PAB's, and also the same speed of most of the motorized wheel-chairs.
The Segway (i2 model) can travel 32km(+) on a single charge.
The Segway uses about $3 of electricity each month to fuel it, making it a HUGE Environmentally Friendly vehicle. (Segway Literature)
The Segway is Very maneuverable, has a smaller footprint than a bicycle and is actually fun to drive!
It's clean, it's green. It's light and environmentally right.

Please be a forward-looking Leader, and have this out-moded and overly-restrictive legislation amended so thousands of Segway users, including those of us on the sidelines waiting to buy one, can join the majority of North America in using this Economical, Environmentally friendly and Disability Assistive mode of transportation.

I think you are a "How can we do this" type of guy and not a "We cannot/don't want to do this" type of guy. I ask you to prove me right. Get this legislation changed for us handicapped people.

Look at how it is changing the lives of the handicapped in the U.S. (see Attachment)



Action Plan for Electric Mobility in Canada

Pilot project for evaluation the Segway HT Motorized Personal Transportation Device in Real Conditions (Quebec/Nat'l Project)

Highway Traffic Act - Ontario Regulation 488/06

Canadian Paraplegic Association

Edmonton Sun Article

Rules and Regulations Applying to Small Vehicles - Alberta, February 2007 - (see graphic Chapter 7, Page 22)

Quotes from Segway Users:

"My Segway PT makes shopping and errands so much more fun, efficient and comfortable. I can get everywhere I need to go without the hassles of traffic and parking, plus I can stop and visit with people along the way" - Pam Gotcher, Niceville Fl.

"If I had a Euro for each time I heard "cool" while riding, I'd be rich. My commute to work is refreshing and fun - Segway brings life back to life."
Ana Rodriguez, Madrid, Spain

"The Segway PT has really improved our visibility and response time - we can see what's going on and cover more ground in less time. Plus we're more approachable. People are less hesitant to come up and ask for assistance." Lt. Richard Ricko, Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

Germany’s 16 states have appealed to the federal government for the right to use Segways on sidewalks and in bike lanes. German police and other workers who do a lot of walking are major advocates of the Segway and have given high praise to the PT (Personal Transport). Article here

"It was a spunky 10-year-old named Andy who gave Tom O’Reilly, president and founder of Logo Loc, Ltd., the inspiration for forming ES Riders, an organization that donates Segways to kids with disabilities. The boy, who was gliding around on a borrowed Segway, was born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down. Soon after that meeting, O’Reilly raised funds to get Andy his own PT and after that ES Riders was formed. The group, an Easter Seals program, now has additional sponsors and big plans to donate more Segways to disabled kids." Article here

"They look like a lawn mower. They make you look dorky. You can’t ride them everywhere. Maybe so. But every new technology must start somewhere. A little more than 100 years ago, a small group of people embraced a new mode of transportation that eventually changed the landscape of our planet. At first, these pioneers were mocked and ridiculed. Their choices questioned and debated, much like the modern Segway owner of today.

I glide (ride a Segway) because I can see beyond these modern prejudices." Todd Masinter, Irvine, Calif.

Other Online Resources

Segway Homepage

Segway Online Users Group (National)

Seated Segway Prototype #1 Video

Segs4Vets - A National Initiative for Disabled Vets to remain Mobile (USA)
Segs4Vets.com Segs4Vets.org Cpl Merlin German - a Segs4Vets recipient

Disability Rights Advocates for Technology - DRAFT


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Comment from: Wong [Visitor]
5 stars

Great Article. 40 states, Ontario and Quebec have legislated Segways but not Alberta? Stelmach, show us some leadership for Albertans.

04/28/10 @ 12:11
Queens Defensive Driving

Excellent blog, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks


09/01/10 @ 05:41
Comment from: edouin [Member]

Just an update - as of 17 Jan, 2017, I read that Ontario had extended it’s trial twice now, ending (supposedly) in 2018.

Meanwhile, in Alberta, no change. Time to send this letter to the new NDP Premier and see what joy I get from her.

01/08/17 @ 23:37