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Scooter is not a motor-assisted cycle, court rules

A scooter is not a motor-assisted cycle, the B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled in the case of a man charged with driving without a driver’s licence and with driving without insurance
Photo: Rob Kruyt

A motor-assisted cycle is not a scooter, the B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled in the case of a man charged with driving without a driver’s licence and with driving without insurance. 

Ali Moussa Ghadban had been riding a pedal-equipped electric vehicle known as a Motorino XMr in July 2018 when police saw him on a road near Surrey’s King George Sky train station. His young son was also on the vehicle.

The officer asked Ghadban for his driver’s licence and proof of insurance.

“He was not licensed to drive a motor vehicle, and the scooter he was riding was not an insured vehicle,” the court decision said.

Ghadban contended in court that the vehicle qualified as a motor-assisted cycle under the Motor Vehicle Act, and that he did not need a licence or insurance.

“Mr. Ghadban’s scooter is not a ‘motor-assisted cycle’ for two reasons,” Justice Harvey Groberman said. “The scooter is too heavy to be practical as a human-powered device. It is designed to be used as a motor-scooter, not a pedal-powered cycle. That does not comply with the clear intention of the legislation.”

Ghadban was convicted in provincial court of driving without a licence and insurance.

His appeal to the Supreme Court of British Columbia was dismissed, as was the appeal.

The question the three appeal judges had to answer was whether Ghadban was operating a “motor vehicle” as that term is defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, or was, instead, operating a “motor-assisted cycle”. 

“A person requires a valid driver’s licence and insurance to operate a motor vehicle, but not to operate a motor-assisted cycle,” the court said.

In testimony, Ghadban described it as a “scooter,” a word also used in the owner’s manual but not found in the Motor Vehicle Act and the Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation.

Groberman noted Ghadban “had done extensive research before purchasing his scooter” and believed he could ride it without a licence.

“He even made inquiries about getting insurance, but was, apparently, told that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia does not offer insurance for electric scooters of that type,” Groberman said.

At issue in court, the judge said, was that both sides cautioned the vehicle looks like a motorcycle but that was not relevant to the case.

“I agree,” Groberman said. “If there is a problem, it is not that the scooter looks like a motorcycle, but rather that it functions as one.”

He explained that the handlebars, wheels, seat, suspension, frame and instrumentation all at least superficially resemble the corresponding components of a motorcycle, at least superficially. 

The difference, he said is that it has pedals to drive a chain connected to the rear wheel, so that it is possible to pedal.

“The primary motive power for the scooter is a 500-watt direct-drive brushless motor located in the rear wheel of the scooter,” Groberman said. “That motor does not use the chain, which, as I understand it, is similar to a bicycle chain, and is only functional when the scooter is being pedalled.”

But, Groberman said, Ghadban said the motor cannot be used while pedalling.

“It is difficult, then, to see how the term ‘motor assisted cycle’ would be apt to describe it,” the judge said. “The motor never assists cycling. The scooter has two modes. It either operates as a low-powered electric motorcycle, with the motor providing all of the motive force, or as a very heavy, impractical bicycle, with the motor not operating.”

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