Why This Electric Scooter Driver Was Found Guilty of Driving Without Car Insurance

A Supreme Court of Canada decision released Thursday means that if your customer is riding a certain type of scooter in British Columbia, it must be licensed and insured.

In 2018, Ali Moussa Ghadban was arrested by a police officer in Surrey, British Columbia while riding a Motorino XMr scooter. The officer discovered that Ghadban had no driver’s license or insurance. Thus, a provincial court convicted Ghadban of both driving without a license and without insurance.

Ghadban maintained that his scooter was a “power-assisted cycle” under British Columbia law, meaning he didn’t need a license or insurance. But in 2020, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jenkins upheld the provincial court convictions against Ghadban.

Two of the three BC Court of Appeal judges hearing Ghadban’s appeal agreed with Justice Jenkins, saying Ali Moussa Ghadban v. Her Majesty the Queen, published on February 9, 2021.

Dissenting, appeals court judge Mary Saunders said she would have sent the case back to provincial court. Ghadban had argued that the trial was unfair because he had been led to believe that wheel size was not an issue.

Ghadban last April sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which announced on October 7, 2021 that it would not hear an appeal.

The scooter Ghadban was riding is too heavy, at around 300 pounds, to be practical as a human-powered device, Judge Harvey Groberman wrote for himself and Judge Sunni Stromberg-Stein in their majority court ruling. Appeal of British Columbia.

Ghadban’s device “is designed to be used as a scooter, not a pedal bicycle,” Judge Groberman wrote. This, Justice Groberman wrote, is inconsistent with the “clear intent” of the provincial law.

During his trial in provincial court, Ghadban said he had never pedaled the vehicle since he acquired it in 2014.

“The evidence shows that the motor cannot operate at any time while the cyclist is pedaling. The motor is only an alternative to the human-powered bicycle, not an assist,” Judge Groberman wrote for the appeals court.

“In my view, ‘motor-assisted cycle’ should not, without good reason, be construed to include a device where the motor can only be used as an alternative to human power, or a device where the use of human energy is impractical.”

British Columbia motor vehicle law defines the motor-assisted bicycle as a vehicle:

  • to which are attached pedals or cranks which will allow the cycle to be propelled by human power;
  • on which a person can climb; and
  • to which is attached an engine of a prescribed type, the power of which does not exceed the prescribed power

the motor vehicle law also defines “cycle” as “a device having any number of wheels which is propelled by human power and on which a person can ride and includes a motor-assisted cycle, but does not include a skateboard, roller skates or inline roller skates.”

In her dissenting reasons, Justice Saunders said the vehicle Ghadban was driving met all the criteria set out in the BC Motor assisted cycle regulation, also known as Regulation 56/2018, with the possible exception of wheels.

The regulations state that to qualify as a “motorized bicycle”, the wheel of the device must have a diameter of 350 mm or more.

The wheel size of the Motorino XMr is 12 inches in diameter, which converts to 304mm, which is less than the 350mm to define as a motor-assisted bike.

But the settlement does not define the term “wheel,” Judge Saunders wrote.

“The contest here is between a measurement from rim edge to rim edge, or tire edge to tire edge. If so, the Motorino’s wheels are probably too small; if the latter, they are probably in the [Motor Assisted Cycle] Regulation.”

Feature image via iStock.com/alexsl

Earnest L. Veasey