AMSTERDAM – Last summer an interesting debate got underway in Toronto. Electric scooters started appearing in the bike lane and some cyclists weren’t too happy about that (Note: I may have to recant my quote in this NOW Magazine article). In fact, the discussion came up at recent meetings of the Toronto Cycling Advisory and Pedestrian Committees. There are a variety of reasons why some cyclists don’t want to share their already-scarce dedicated space, but a lot of the discussion last year focused on the distinction between electric scooters (which are currently classified as bicycles) and traditional gas-powered scooters (which are not supposed to use the bike lane). Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation will soon wrap up a pilot project to test power-assisted bicycles in the hopes of developing a policy on their vehicular classification.
In Amsterdam, the distinction between electric and gas-powered is moot – all scooters are allowed to use bike lanes as long as they don’t exceed a 40 km/h speed limit (and most scooters are already limited to that speed). In fact, even small two-person cars – not much smaller than a Smart Car – can use the lane (see image below).
I have to say, back in Toronto I was against the idea of cyclists sharing the bike lane with anything motorized. However, it seems to work here and cyclists don’t really mind. It’s important to note that the average separated bike lane in Amsterdam is wider than the average bike lane in Toronto (2-4 metres compared to 1.5-1.8 metres), so there is more room to share. Also, not all scooter drivers use the bike lane – I’d estimate about a quarter to half of them do, depending on how busy the traffic is in the normal travel lanes.
I haven’t studied the issue closely, nor have I found much in the way of professional or academic study, but I imagine the debate in Toronto – much like the bike lane itself – will resurface once the snow melts.