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driving concerns

It’s great that you can order almost anything now and get somebody to bring it to your doorstep. But with all these delivery services like Uber Eats zipping around on bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters and e-unicycles, I’m now constantly dodging delivery drivers on the sidewalk. It’s not just delivery drivers – I see some people riding these things on the sidewalk just to get around. Are they allowed to be on the sidewalk? The e-scooters are especially scary because they’re so fast. I didn’t think bikes or motorized vehicles other than mobility scooters and wheelchairs were supposed to be on sidewalks. – Leo, Vancouver

With the surge of delivery apps, electric bikes and scooters are showing up everywhere – but one place they shouldn’t be is on the sidewalk.

While rules vary by city and province, in most of Canada, you can’t ride bikes, e-bikes or other e-devices on sidewalks.

Because the rules vary depending on the device, let’s look at bikes and e-bikes first. In Vancouver, for instance, riding a bike or an e-bike on the sidewalk is banned by both British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act (a $109 fine) and a city bylaw (a $100 fine).

There are some exceptions – for instance, bikes and e-bikes may be allowed on certain sidewalks where signs allow it, like on the Lions Gate Bridge.

Other cities have similar rules. For instance, in Montreal, bikes and e-bikes are banned from sidewalks by the Highway Safety Code – an $80 fine.

Toronto bans all bicycles, whether powered by people or batteries, on sidewalks – a $60 fine. The city makes an exception for kids under 14, who can ride conventional bikes on sidewalks as long as the tires are less than 61 centimetres. But kids can’t ride e-bikes on sidewalks because you have to be 16 to use an e-bike in Ontario.

When it comes to understanding the rules for all other e-devices, “E” doesn’t stand for easy.

Stay off the sidewalk?

In most of Canada, including Vancouver, you can’t ride e-devices such as e-unicycles and e-skateboards anywhere except on private property. That means they’re not supposed to be, well, anywhere. That includes streets, bike lanes and sidewalks.

An exception in some cities is electric kick scooters, which have two wheels, a narrow platform to stand on and handlebars to steer. There are now several pilot programs – including in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec – that allow e-scooters to ride on some roads and bike lanes, but not sidewalks.

Vancouver doesn’t allow shared e-scooters, but, as part of a three-year provincial pilot, it has allowed privately owned e-scooters on local streets and in protected bike lanes – lanes that are separated from traffic by a barrier – since last summer. But the city doesn’t allow them on Vancouver’s seawall.

The rules get complicated in other places, too. In Alberta, for instance, you can drive shared e-scooters in public, but not privately owned e-scooters. Even then, the rules differ between cities: for instance, Calgary allows shared e-scooters on sidewalks but Edmonton doesn’t.

Despite the patchwork of pilot programs and rules, generally speaking, when you order ramen using an app nearly anywhere in Canada, your delivery driver shouldn’t be riding anything on the sidewalk to get it to you.

Speedy delivery?

Although the rules don’t allow bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters or other e-devices on sidewalks, is anyone getting charged for riding them there?

Vancouver police said they focus on educating riders instead of ticketing them. They didn’t say how many tickets they’d issued for bikes, e-bikes or devices on sidewalks this year.

But they did say they have received “several complaints” about e-scooters generally.

“We are currently working with the city concerning the future of all things electric on the roadways and how we can ensure the safety of everyone,” Constable Tania Visintin, a Vancouver police spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

In Toronto so far this year, there have been seven charges related to e-scooters, Toronto police said in an e-mail statement.

“I do not know if there have been complaints [about e-devices on sidewalks] or increases in them – to my knowledge, we do not track that data,” Sergeant Melissa Kulik, a Toronto police spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

In Montreal so far this year, officers issued 75 tickets for driving a bike, e-bike or e-scooter on the sidewalk, Montreal police said. But they haven’t issued any tickets this year for operating other electric and non-electric devices, including e-unicycles, hoverboards, inline sakes and skateboards, from sidewalks.

That’s illegal in Montreal under a municipal bylaw that says no one may impede pedestrian traffic on a sidewalk by riding skates, skis, skateboards or toy vehicles.

The fine is between $15 and $100, depending on the borough.

So, are delivery apps getting complaints about riders on sidewalks?

We asked several delivery services. Uber, DoorDash and Tiggy, a grocery delivery service running in Vancouver and Toronto, responded.

While Uber and DoorDash didn’t directly answer the question about complaints, both said they require drivers to follow local rules and regulations.

Neither said whether they specifically instruct drivers to stay off sidewalks.

Tiggy said it hadn’t received any complaints about drivers on sidewalks and regularly briefs all drivers on traffic rules.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.