Sarnia considering low-speed vehicle by-law

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Slow electric vehicles may soon be allowed on the streets of Sarnia.

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Low-speed vehicles – maximum 40 km/h with safety devices such as mirrors, seat belts, indicators, headlights and windshield defrosting – have been accepted in a handful of municipalities since the start of a provincial pilot project in 2017, allowing them on the streets with a maximum speed of 50 km/h.

Municipalities still need to pass bylaws to allow them for the duration of the 10-year pilot project.

Sarnia City Council recently approved public comment on whether the city should adopt such a bylaw.

Details will be posted on speakupsarnia.ca within a month, said the city’s general manager of engineering and operations David Jackson.

“I think the general idea is that it would be…a cost-effective and environmental transportation option,” he said.

The driver must assess whether existing traffic rules are adequate for lighter, slower-moving vehicles to blend in with other traffic, Department of Transportation officials said.

The ministry “is committed to supporting new and emerging technologies that can help move people safely and efficiently while limiting environmental impacts,” a document about the pilot project says.

Steve Devlin recently asked the city to use low-speed vehicles for downtown waterfront taxi service.

An example of a low-speed vehicle. (Photo submitted via Steve Devlin) jpeg, THEN

He has ordered three six-passenger vehicles and hopes to start next spring or summer, if all goes well, he said, noting that the company – called Stevie Go Go – was inspired after a vacation in Lisbon, Portugal, where he saw several rickshaws.

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“Five bucks, you go up, go out wherever you want,” he said of his business idea. “Just something different with the beach front.”

Trips would also go to Sarnia Bay Marina, Starlight Casino Point Edward and under the Blue Water Bridge, he said.

Lambton Shores was among the first municipalities to pass a bylaw in Ontario, in April 2021.

It was based on a pitch from people hoping to sell the vehicles, Mayor Bill Weber said, noting there has been limited adoption in the community since.

“I only believe there are two located in Grand Bend,” he said, noting that he did not support the settlement amid safety concerns.

Golf carts, which don’t have enough safety features to qualify as low-speed vehicles under the regulations, have also been a problem in some beach areas, he said.

“The OPP are doing their job…and telling (people) it’s not legal to drive on the road,” Weber said.

Drivers of low-speed vehicles must be licensed, cannot carry passengers under the age of eight, cannot carry more occupants than seats, and cannot cross roads with higher speeds at 80 km/h, Sarnia staff said in a report.

“Golf carts and all-terrain vehicles do not meet the requirements of the regulations, and an individual could not modify them to meet them,” the report said.

Another report including public comment and requesting a board decision is expected early in the board’s next term, beginning in November, Jackson said.

It is not expected that changes to line painting or signs on city roads will be required if the settlement is approved, he said.

“It’s just about passing this regulation that would allow (low-speed vehicles).”

tkula@postmedia.com

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