Jim Brook has covered his motorized scooter in every attention-getting add-on he can imagine, in the hopes that drivers will see him and give him the right of way.
There’s the obligatory orange flag on top, and the reflectors that come with the low-powered mobility device. That didn’t work.
Then there were the additional neon yellow stripes he attached to the corners, on both the body of the scooter and its roof. He stuck googly eyes from a dollar store to the back. Still not enough.
Now, he’s added a flashing red light to his roof and caution stickers all around his frame; and no, that’s still seemingly not enough.
People aren’t stopping for him at intersections as required by law. Despite a walk light being displayed, people still cruise through taking left turns and right turns across his pathway, cutting him off or keeping him stuck for the next light.
Once, he was even hit by a motorist who didn’t even bother to stop. In that situation, at a Vedder Road crossing, he was thrown about seven feet across the road.
“It happened so fast,” he says, that witnesses didn’t even get a licence plate.
But none of this has deterred him from getting back into the scooter and out and about in the city. He got it on Boxing Day last year, after a long period of being stuck at home. He had been in hospital for a month with mobility issues, about four years ago. Then, over the last year his wife became too ill to drive him around.
“This has made me a new man,” he says of the new freedom he has. “But between then and now I’m a dead man 300 times.”
He keeps track of near-hits and bad drivers. He’s even scolded a few, he admits. But he is legally a pedestrian and has the right of way.
“I’m 84 and I have plans to hang on until I’m 130,” he says, laughing. These days, he’s become “a man on a mission.”
Brook has visited his MLA’s office, Laurie Throness. He’s brought the issue up with the RCMP, and the City of Chilliwack. He’s even spoken to ICBC’s long-running road safety and community co-ordinator, Mike Weightman.
“He told me I’ve done everything I can,” Brook said.
Brook is all about safety compliance. His career was as an aircraft electrician with a military background, and he’s always looking for ways to make transportation safe. Back in the 1950s, before vehicles had four-way flashing emergency lights, he devised a set for his own ’52 Ford truck.
“The following year, they came out with them,” he said.
He has rigged up his new flashing light system without interfering with his scooter’s factory system.
But none of safety features matter if drivers don’t adhere to safety rules on the road, he says.
“I’m a pedestrian but people don’t seem to know that,” he says. In areas where there are no sidewalks, he must travel in the bicycle lanes. That includes Chilliwack River Road, which is the route he takes to get into the downtown area.
“People seem totally oblivious to (the laws). People might think I’m stupid for doing this,” he says, pointing to his scooter and all of its safety bells and whistles, “but it’s my life.”