Sidney exploring options on Segway tours

Legal opinion suggests Sidney would be at risk in the event of an incident.

The Town of Sidney is

The Town of Sidney is

A legal opinion suggested that the Town of Sidney not approve Segway tours on municipal streets but local politicians are not so sure they should shut the door completely.

More investigation is going to be done on the viability — and liability — of a proposal to operate tours in Sidney on the two-wheeled motorized vehicles. A private company offering tours on the personal transporters is hoping to use Sidney sidewalks and the waterfront walkway. The Town recognizes that such a business could increase tourist offerings, but is concerned about the extra time it’ll take staff to change local bylaws to accommodate them — and the liability issue.

The Town obtained a legal opinion that stated that Segways on municipal sidewalks is against the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act. To accommodate them, Young and Anderson Barristers and Solicitors said the municipality would have to change bylaws, impose reasonable restrictions or rules on their use. Even then, they stated local bylaws could not supersede provincial laws and if Sidney did decide to allow them, the municipality should ensure it’s protected in the event of an incident.

Town staff recommended to council that the proposal be denied outright. However, councillors note that the business has been operating elsewhere and wanted to know their options.

Coun. Peter Wainwright asked his counterparts if they wanted this idea to work or not and proceed from that basis.

“I don’t agree that we should look at this as a pilot project,” he said, responding to one suggestion at the table. “That still doesn’t address the liability issue that would extend beyond a pilot.”

Coun. Cam McLennan said he knows of other places where the use of Segways on municipal streets is legal and suggested the Town look into work-arounds.

“I don’t think there’d be a conflict with other people,” McLennan said, addressing concern that Segways, pedestrians and Sidney’s large scooter population might not mix. “Tour operators would be experienced and visible and aware of the conflicts.”

He added this would be a tourist draw.

“I see it available here,” McLennan said. “And we’re just not allowing it. I’d like to see it go forward.”

Mayor Steve Price noted that Segways are currently not allowed on Capital Regional District (CRD) trails, for many of the same reasons.

Price said going against legal advice and allowing them could put the Town in a worse position in the event of an accident that leads to a lawsuit.

Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey said he can’t see them co-existing with all the other pedestrians and scooters on Sidney’s sidewalks.

“I’m not happy with turning them down flat,” sad Wainwright, adding he wants more options.

Corinne Besler, an owner of Ride the Glide, which made the proposal to run tours in Sidney, said the City of Nanaimo changed its bylaws to allow them to use a city park. Currently, that’s the only place where Ride the Glide operates tours, according to its website (ridetheglide.ca).

The company notes that there are many restrictions in the Greater Victoria area on Segway use.

While Town staff noted in a report that the company would provide $5 million in liability insurance, the fear is that the Town would still be held liable for allowing the tours in contravention of provincial laws.

Besler said municipalities do have some power over the Motor Vehicle Act but that information was not presented to Sidney council in the legal opinion.

Sidney council voted to table Lougher-Goodey’s motion to deny the tours outright, while giving staff time to look into their options.

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