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Have reflective vest, will travel

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I wrote a column on “medical scooters” fully 10 years ago. Today I saw a woman on a scooter – on the road – on a busy street in Belleville. Maybe she doesn’t know that when on a scooter one must act like a pedestrian. What she should have known is that cars were whizzing by her very quickly and very close. This experience made me bring out the ten-year-old column and share it with you again. Think of it as a cautionary tale.

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The use of what are known as “medical scooters” has been top of mind for me lately. Imagine my astonishment when driving along Highway 2 through CFB Trenton to come upon a man driving his medical scooter along one of the lanes of this 4 lane road. There was a sidewalk, but he wasn’t driving on it. And, he was going in the same direction that I was travelling.

The man driving the scooter on the 4 lane roadway was making an effort to be seen. He had an orange flag flying above the back of the scooter, and he was wearing an orange and yellow reflective vest. Given that he was likely traveling at his top speed of him – about 10km / hour – and I went past him at the speed limit of 60km / hour I must say that I ca n’t remember whether or not he had a slow moving vehicle sign on the back of the scooter.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation calls these units “Personal Mobility Devices” including Motorized Wheelchairs and Medical Scooters. These devices do not require registration, license plates, a driver’s license or vehicle insurance. The Ministry website indicates that pPeople who are operating these devices are treated in the same way as pedestrians and “if there is no sidewalk available, people using wheelchairs or personal mobility devices should travel, like pedestrians, along the left shoulder of the roadway facing oncoming traffic.”

It was one of those situations where I wondered if it was really true, or was it my imagination. It was true, however, and there will be more and more people using personal mobility devices as the baby boomers age. Statistically speaking, the baby boomers will have a higher retirement income and therefore be able to more readily afford such devices.

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I’ve also seen a medical scooter parked in an accessible parking spot that is designed for a car. A search of the municipal by-law governing parking in Prince Edward County didn’t bring forth any information to cover this situation. Searching the Highway Traffic Act didn’t either. The Act did shed some light on the ends that can be imposed on those who improperly use Accessible Parking Permits. Seems the lawmakers in Ontario take a dim view of people using such permits when they shouldn’t. That’s a topic for another day.

The issue is, a car can’t park on the sidewalk, but a mobility scooter can, and likely should. If the person on the mobility scooter is to be treated, and should act, as if they are a pedestrian, then parking in a spot reserved for a car should likely be off limits. This could be tricky, however, if the person who is driving the mobility scooter has an accessible parking permit. However, the permit is for a car, not a person…or a scooter.

Mobility scooters are transportable. The larger ones can be loaded on a unit that attaches to the trailer hitch of a car. Smaller units can be lifted, or swung on an arm, into a car or van trunk. My Dad had a scooter that is a fabulous design. It was portable and came in two parts, with each part weighing 25 pounds. The battery was separate from the two parts. This made it easy to load into a car. When the 2 parts were together, the unit would fold small enough to go in a carrying bag to fit on a plane or train. Once assembled, it was a full-size unit and worked great.

Dad never drove his medical scooter on the road, however, even with a reflective vest and an orange flag. Seems to me that there are safer ways to get around than the method chosen by the man I encountered on his scooter driving on Highway 2 ten years ago or the woman on the busy street in Belleville today.

Debbie MacDonald Moynes is Executive Director of The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Association.

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