Saturday, 2 December 2017

#BeyondTheBicycle: Mobility Scooters

There is a stupid piece of legislation which means that people using mobility scooters are banned from using cycle tracks. 

The official guidance from the Department for Transport can be read here, but essentially, the rules govern two types of "invalid carriage" (which is a pretty outdated and frankly offensive term) and it covers mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs (often called "powerchairs");
  • Class 2 - have a maximum speed of 4mph and cannot use the road (carriageway) unless there is no footway;
  • Class 3 - have a maximum speed of 4mph off the road and 8mph on the road; and must be registered (and you have to be 14 years or older to use).
Class 1 refers to unpowered wheelchairs (i.e. self-propelled or push by someone else). The legislation behind this is The Use of Invalid Carriages on Highways Regulations 1988 (UICHR1988).

The registration process for Class 3 (either new or used) requires the same forms to be filled in as for a new car which is pretty bonkers as well - why we need to add more difficulties to people is beyond me.

Mobility scooters are a common
sight on Dutch cycle tracks.

Class 3 machines also need lights, reflectors, indicators, a horn, a rear view mirror and a flashing amber light if taken on a dual carriageway. When on the road, you are not allowed to "drive" in bus lanes, mandatory cycle lanes. On the footway, one is limited to 4mph and as the byline states, one is not permitted to use "cycle paths marked cycle only". They are also subject to normal parking restrictions.

In terms of user, there are also strict rules and so you can only drive one if you;
  • have trouble walking because of an injury, physical disability or medical condition

  • are demonstrating the vehicle before it’s sold

  • are training a disabled user

  • are taking the vehicle to or from maintenance or repair
So, if you need to use a mobility scooter or powerchair, then you are essentially either stuck using a footway at 4mph or having to mess about getting an 8mph machine registered and which you're forced off the road anyway because it's so awful. In fact, I wonder who would want a Class 3 machine with all that faff.

There is a powerful parallel between Class 3 machines and adapted/ non-standard cycles in terms of their dynamic envelopes, steering geometry, footprint and speed (I average about 8mph on my cargo-trike for example). 

It is utterly stupid that the users of mobility scooters/ powerchairs are not allowed to use cycle tracks, especially now that we are starting to see some world-class examples in the UK which are perfect for people using such mobility aids. The very best examples have space within which to move along and make turns. They are smooth and comfortable to use and let's be honest, it keeps people cycling away from people walking and driving which is one of the sustainable safety cornerstones of not mixing transport modes with large speed differentials.

Changing the rules would not be difficult, the UICHR1998 is secondary legislation which means changes to it is devolved to ministers (Secretary of State for Transport in this case). It could be so simply updated to reduce the rules for mobility scooters/ powerchairs and explicitly allow them to be used on cycle tracks. 

This is another area of modern transport life which is stymied by outdated thinking and law and needs to be brought up to date as a matter of urgency.

1 comment:

  1. What does your MP say? Could be a quick win for a Government that needs good news stories.