Safety a Priority as Two-Wheelers Take Off
Low-cost, easy-to-ride motorized scooters have become the vehicle of choice in countries around the world. Now they are proliferating on Canadian streets. North American sales have been soaring to record heights, and are expected to increase.
Limited Speed Motorcycles (LSM) have come a long way from their humble roots. Motor scooters and mopeds are becoming fashionable for commuting, as city drivers recognize the benefits of a small, agile, fuel-efficient two-wheeler. A scooter consumes about one-third the gas of an average car. Plus, cities like Toronto are beginning to provide free parking spots, to encourage environmentally-friendly modes of transportation.
Enthusiasts say there is nothing like the feeling of riding one of these machines. Not only are they cheaper than other motor vehicles, they are also more convenient and more fun. These bikes have changed over the years. Today’s models are faster and more capable than their older versions.
Provinces are starting to introduce specific road testing and licensing for operators of motor scooters and mopeds. This makes sense because LSM are prohibited on high-speed roads, and unlike motorcycles almost all have automatic transmission.
In most provinces, riders must be at least 16 years old and have a vehicle operator’s licence. Canadian jurisdictions have started to review their licensing policies with an eye to the growing popularity of these bikes. The Canada Safety Council would like to see increased harmonization.
In Quebec the minimum age to ride certain LSM on the road is 14. To obtain a permit for a scooter or moped, operators must pass a test on the rules of the road as well as a vision test. Those under age 18 must have parental consent. Riders must stay off limited-access highways, wear a helmet and have zero alcohol.
Between 1999 and 2003, the number of collisions involving LSM nearly doubled in Ontario, while motorcycle collisions remained relatively stable. Effective November 2005, with input from the Canada Safety Council, Ontario introduced a special licence for LSM. Riders must now take written and road tests specific to the operation of these vehicles to receive a Class M licence with an L (Limited) condition.
The Canada Safety Council has responded to safety concerns about LSM by adapting its popular motorcycle training program to riders of motor scooters and mopeds.
After more than 30 years, the Gearing Up motorcycle skills course has graduated well over 500,000 novice and experienced riders. The program is so highly regarded that most provincial governments grant motorcycle operator licences to successful graduates with no further testing. Today in Canada, a remarkable 80 percent of new motorcyclists enroll in the safety training course.
Since the training program started, the number of motorcycle fatalities has gone down 78 percent, from 903 in 1973 to 199 fatalities in 2004. This is an impressive drop, given that there were also 42 percent more motorcycles on the road in 2004.
Gearing Up is the model for the Canada Safety Council’s new scooter training course. The 1½ day course starts with three hours of classroom instruction. Practical hands-on coaching introduces basic skills such as balance and braking, then moves on to the more advanced riding techniques, including lane positioning and collision avoidance. Lane positioning is particularly important, because riders need to make themselves visible to drivers who may not be on the alert for smaller vehicles. In Ontario, licensing will be available on completion of the course.
For information about course content and locations, visit the Canada Safety Council’s Rider Training Web site.