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Alberta woman with cerebral palsy fights to be able to use her mobility scooter

A battle is underway over where mobility scooters can be used in Alberta and a petition has been started to allow residents in the town of Olds to use the devices on the road.

Having a mobility scooter has opened up Jennifer Clarke’s world.

The enclosed electric device provides her with a way to get around the town of 9,000 people located about 90 kilometres north of Calgary — rain or shine.

Clarke lives with cerebral palsy and the neurological disorders makes walking difficult.

On June 6th, she said she was stopped by an Olds bylaw officer and was told the scooter was not allowed on sidewalks, streets or pathways.

“I asked, ‘Where am I allowed to use my mobility aid?’ They said in my backyard,” Clarke said.

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For six years, Clarke said there was never an issue riding her mobility device in her hometown but now the scooter has been parked in a shed ever since she was given the warning.

“I’m heartbroken. I feel sick. It’s taken away my independence.”

Olds resident Jennifer Clarke has stopped using her enclosed mobility scooter since being given a warning on June 6, 2024. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Bob Fisher is an Olds resident who said he was also stopped recently and told he couldn’t use his device.

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“(The bylaw officer) let me take it home and he said, ‘If I catch you I’ll give you a $500 ticket,’” Fisher said.

Fisher doesn’t understand why the town is cracking down on people like him riding their scooters on the roads.

“It’s not like we’re running into each other or running over somebody,” Fisher said.

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Last fall, Alberta Municipalities passed a motion asking for the province to make changes to the Traffic Safety Act that would allow towns to be able to approve the use of golf carts on certain roads.

A spokesperson for the group says they talked with Alberta Transportation about the proposal earlier this year.

“We shared our resolution and member perspectives on how this could be enabled. We are awaiting next steps from the ministry,” said Clint Neufeld, the director of policy and advocacy with Alberta Municipalities.

Nathan Cooper, the MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, said his office has been in touch with Clarke and the town of Olds.

The issue: Cooper said there is no provision for Clarke’s type of vehicle to be used on the road.

He said the transportation minister created a pilot project for communities to request special permission for these types of vehicles to be used on sidewalks.

Clarke doesn’t like being in the spotlight, but said she is fighting for seniors and all people with disabilities. She said she’s launched a human rights complaint against Olds.

“It’s not fair because I’d want someone to stick up for me too,” Clarke said.

Click to play video: 'Strides of resilience: Calgary family dreams of mobility for sons'

Strides of resilience: Calgary family dreams of mobility for sons

A spokesperson for the town said there was no ticket or fine given to any individual for riding a scooter.

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“We received complaints about prohibited vehicles driving on roads and investigated accordingly,” said Jillian Toellner, supervisor of engagement and communications with the town of Olds.

She said the town has no bylaw concerning scooters and added the province would have to make an exemption for riding on roads.

“We are unaware of the pilot program MLA Cooper mentioned, but generally, if the scooter/mobility aid fits on pathways/sidewalks, we have no issue with people operating them safely,” Toellner said.

Toellner said the town has reached out to the province for clarification.

“It’s a complex issue and we hope that Alberta Transportation can give some clarity on how to handle these rules.”

As of publishing, Global News had not received a response from either the transportation minister or municipal affairs.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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