An open letter to the Minister of Transportation for Alberta and his response!

by edouin  

and I sent a Carbon Copy to my Member of Parliament, Tim Uppal. Here is his response:

Thank you for writing the office of Tim Uppal, M.P. This is to acknowledge that we have received your email. We look forward to corresponding with you in the near future.

Please do not reply to this email.

Office of Tim Uppal, M.P.

But then, a few days later, I received this:

Thank you for writing the office of Tim Uppal, M.P. Mr. Uppal always appreciates hearing Canadians’ concerns. Thank you for appending his office on your email.

Nice eh? OK, I've done my due diligence insofar as my Federal Member of Parliament. Now to the letter to the Provincial Minister of Transportation.

Honourable Luke Ouellette

Greetings and Happy New Year!

Sir, I am following up on an email I received from your department in response to an earlier email I had sent the Premier last spring. I am a 47 year old Veteran with walking mobility issues. For the past year, on and off, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to use a Segway to get around at special events. However, every time I do so, I am breaking the law.

My last response in April 2007 from Sara Wong (Senior Policy Advisor, Alberta Transportation), stated:

"As you may already be aware, municipalities may permit the operation of
miniature motor vehicles in public parks, on bicycle paths, walking
trails, and in other recreation areas. Please contact the City of Fort
Saskatchewan to effect changes to their bylaws."

I brought this up with the Mayor and several Councilors, and they said No, it is the Province's responsibility to change the law as the Province states that the Segway is a "Motor Vehicle" and is prohibited from being registered as such. The municipality will not allow unregistered Motor Vehicles to drive around on it's pathways, trails and parks by the public.

So, back to you. Ms Wong stated that the Province is NOT going to revisit Alberta's Traffic Safety Act as it was "just" done in 2003, however as you well know, there have been many strides in technology, medicine, trials and reports on various Mobility Assistive Devices since 2003. She also goes on to suggest that the Segway is a dangerous Motor Vehicle with no Safety Features and is a danger to others due to it's size and operating characteristics. It sounds like she is "afraid" of the Segway, doesn't it? Is that the Provinces stance then? That it is afraid of the Segway?

So, Just what is the difference between a Segway and a Motorized Wheelchair? Or a Bike? Oh, heck, even a Skateboard?

* The Electric Wheelchair has LESS safety devices than a Segway, as does a Bicycle!
* A Segway is no more dangerous to operate than a Bicycle, Motorized Wheelchair or Automobile. It actually requires LESS training to learn how to ride than a Bicycle!
* As for safety features, it contains at least 4 Gyros to maintain stability, whereas a Bicycle contains none! (well, actually, the two wheels act as gyro's, but that still is only half of what the Segway has!) It automatically shuts off if unattended, will not drive on alone ahead and actually contains an alarm system! It's design allows a rider to drive over a person's hand and not inflict an injury.
* The typical Segway rider of all ages here in Canada wears a Helmet. Not on Bikes, and definitely not on wheelchairs.
* The Segway can stop faster than a Bike or Motorized Wheelchair, takes up less space on a sidewalk or street than a Motorized Wheelchair or even a Bicycle (area footprint!).
* The Segway is more maneuverable than a motorized Wheelchair and creates way less of a carbon footprint than an automobile.
* It is easier to operate requiring less repetitive motions, straining or gripping than an Electric Wheelchair. In fact, a Segway operates on everyone's instinctual ability to move while walking. Simply shifting your body and tilting the steering control is all that is needed for all operations of a Segway.
* The Segway and rider are MORE visible than a person on a Wheelchair.
* The Segway is useless to thieves as it requires a BlueTooth "Key" to operate, normally worn around the rider's neck or on a wrist-band. I kept mine in my pocket. Without this unique electronic key, the Segway is useless. Thieves cannot order duplicate keys from the manufacturer without getting caught!

Last year, I rode a Segway for 4 straight days at our Trade Show and Sale (I am on the Committee). I met the Premier at the Grand Opening, but did not make this an issue as it was not an appropriate venue, however, he saw how I was able to move around the show, packed with people, without hitting anyone, and actually, was called upon by Vendors to assist in locating items, people and other small tasks because of my ability to move with relative ease and comfort I otherwise would not have been able to do. In those 4 days, I did not once hit another person in two packed halls. I "almost" hit a young girl that jumped out in front of me, but I "dumped" the Segway to avoid hitting her. This happened right in front of the RCMP booth! The Constables in the booth thought it was amazing that I didn't hit her, and if I was driving a Motorized Scooter/Wheelchair, she most definitely would have been injured. They were amazed that the maneuverability of the Segway avoiding a possible situation, and they also agreed that it was not my fault as she jumped out in front of me. I was not moving very fast, but this just goes to prove my point that the Segway is inherently safer than a Motorized Wheelchair.

What grieves me the greatest about this situation is that I had to provide the City with a letter from my Insurance Company to not only show I have $2 million liability, but that my policy will also cover the City's liability too! Is this what the world is coming to? I don't see people riding Electric Wheelchairs requiring to cover the city's liability in their use! To me, that's discrimination!

I cannot understand how a bloated bureaucratic agency like the US Government can still see the Segway as a viable alternative form of transportation, especially for handicapped persons, and not fall into a convenient argument of ignorance, to be simply lumped with other "proven" dangerous vehicles.

HERE is a link to the latest report done by the Disability Rights Advocates For Technology (DRAFT) in the U.S. that shows how progressive they are in regards to this matter. The report also goes on to show how the Segway is a MEDICAL BENEFIT for handicapped persons like myself. The US President, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and most of the US States have approved the Segway for use on roads and sidewalks. I'm sure the President-Elect will also support the Segway as we all know what kind of "Techie" he is... Professors at UBC have show that severely handicapped people have found new lives with the Segway.

Ms Wong also said that "A change to Alberta's Traffic Safety Act, or its attendant regulations, is made when there is an established public need for change."

Well, Sir, I respectfully submit that there IS a Public NEED to make a change. The Federal Government has approved it's use years ago. The Edmonton Police Service uses the Segway. So does the Edmonton Paramedics Service. I'll lay odds that it is only a matter of time before the various Airport Authorities issue them to their security/maintenance officers!

Why do all these services get special treatment, and us handicapped people are relegated to ancient, clumsy and inefficient devices that are more mechanically complicated, heavier, less maneuverable, less comfortable, medically more dangerous, less visible and frankly are actually MORE of a hazard to other pedestrians than the Segway? This just smacks of discrimination! Critics scream that the Segway is dangerous because it goes 20kph, and will be barreling down the sidewalk knocking over pedestrians and killing people willy-nilly. Last time I checked, my Oldsmobile speedometer goes up to 160kph, but have not had to really go up much past 110. What are these people thinking? The "average" man can run over 25kph on just two legs, so I don't see how 20kph is a suicidal speed. I have been passed by Hundreds of people on bicycles on sidewalks and trails going way faster than I used to be able to run. Nobody is screaming about them.

Oh, I suppose I could carry on walking with a cane, a pain provoking proposition at best. It's kind of like hitting one's head against the wall because it feels better when you stop. Well, I cannot stop walking or going places. I need to go shopping, socialize with friends, like to visit the malls, or attend trade shows, and so on.

I think it is time for Alberta to move into the 21st Century with the rest of the World, and stop with the knee-jerk reactions. More Reports and Studies do not need to be done. The Federal Government has done one. The BC Ministry of Transportation has done one. Quebec has done one. Bloody near every European Country has done one as has nearly every US state. Why do we need to replicate and waste money on what has already been done, over and over, and still NOT understand the conclusions of these Hundreds, if not Thousands of reports and studies? Segway's ARE safe to use on Public Streets and Sidewalks, and need not be legislated as Motor Vehicles, just as Motorized Wheelchairs do not!

In San Francisco, LA, Rome and Munich, tour companies are set up for tourists where they receive 20 minutes of practice training on the Segway, and then they all hop on their individual (rented) Segway's and tour around the city's sights for several hours.

Please help me maintain my sanity - help me and thousands of others in Alberta to remain mobile and have a life! Lets show that Alberta can adapt with change, and adopt technology that is not only useful for it's citizens, but will greatly cut down on our individual Carbon Footprint. I promise to unplug my radio in the washroom so that I can use THAT electricity to charge up my Segway.

If you have never ridden on a Segway, might I suggest you head on over to West Edmonton Mall, down at the West End by the Radio stations? There is a Segway Dealership that offers training and riding on a small obstacle course, and organized tours of the Mall on Segway's. Every person I have ever met that has ridden a Segway instantly understands the benefits of it, even more so for those of us who are mobility impaired.


And here is a very timely response to my letter:

Dear Mr. W:

Thank you for your e-mail of January 9, 2009 regarding the use of Segways in Alberta.

At this time, the Segway is considered to be a miniature motor vehicle in Alberta and as such, it cannot be operated on a roadway or sidewalk. A Segway is not considered to be a mobility aid. A mobility aid is defined in the Traffic Safety Act as a device used to facilitate the transport, in a normal seated orientation, of a person with a physical disability. As the Segway does not meet this definition, it cannot be operated in the same manner as a mobility aid.

A pedestrian is defined in the Traffic Safety Act as a person or a person in a mobility aid; a motorized wheelchair meets the definition of a mobility aid and is allowed to operate like a pedestrian.

The Segway is considered to be a motor vehicle meeting the definition of motor vehicle in Alberta's Traffic Safety Act; it is powered by something other than muscular power. Bicycles and skateboards are not classified as motor vehicles because they are powered by the person operating them. The Traffic Safety Act does include bicycles in its cycle definition, which also includes power bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles. The use of cycles on the road is controlled by the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road regulation, which requires cycles, other than motorcycles, to be operated as far right as is safe on the roadway; cycles are not allowed on the sidewalk.

For more information on the foregoing, see Alberta's Traffic Safety Act on the Queen's Printer website at:

Municipality-controlled pathways and trails are ones which do not run alongside a road; the use of these is under the purview of the individual municipality. These areas are not considered highways because public vehicles do not normally have access to them, and fall outside provincial jurisdiction.

Electric kick scooters and motorized skateboards are also considered miniature motor vehicles and are prohibited from operating on the road and sidewalk. Like the Segway, these vehicles fall into the miniature motor vehicle classification and may pose a risk to the pedestrians that operate on the sidewalk.

Transport Canada has not approved the use of the Segway; the use of the Segway on Alberta highways is under the purview of Alberta Transportation. Transport Canada does not view the Segway as a motor vehicle designed to be used on the road and therefore it is not within their purview. Alberta's regulations do not prohibit the use of Segways on private property; airports may use Segways within their buildings, but they can not enter the parking lot or operate on the roads to which public vehicles have access.

At present, the department is engaged in pilot projects involving police and emergency medical responders and identifying acceptable locations and conditions of use for the Segway. This project is intended to gather data for policy development. The department is also working with other Canadian jurisdictions to develop a harmonized approach to the use of Electronic Personal Assistive Mobility Devices. This analysis and fact finding process will include consultation with Albertans on the use of Electronic Personal Assistive Mobility Devices and other types of miniature vehicles on highways, sidewalks and pathways. The department has reviewed your input on this emerging issue.

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Chris Yanitski, Vehicle Safety Engineer Intern, by phone at 780-422-0812, toll-free by first dialing 310-0000, or by e-mail at

Thank you for taking the time to write to share your views on this matter.

Luke Ouellette

Minister of Transportation

M.L.A., Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

cc: Premier Ed Stelmach, M.L.A., Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville

Honourable Mary Anne Jablonski, Minister of Seniors and Community Supports

1 comment

Comment from: Leesa Sperlich [Visitor]
Leesa Sperlich

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08/21/10 @ 15:24