The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 14, 2012

Ask a Trooper: Is motorized wheelchair legal on walking paths?

By Jaclyn Sticha
Minnesota State Patrol

— My mother just bought one of those electric wheel chairs. Can she drive on the walking paths at the nearby park? It says no motorized vehicles so I was wondering if her electric wheelchair is considered a motorized vehicle?

Yes your mother is legal. We are seeing a lot of them out and about, so I will get a little more detailed about their legal operation for you and anyone else concerned.

M.S.S. 169.212 talks specifically about the operation of electric personal assistive mobility devices [EPMD]. Our law says that a person operating one of these has the rights and responsibilities of a pedestrian. 

The law allows an EPMD to be operated on a bicycle path. You should note that no person may operate them on a roadway, sidewalk, or bicycle path at a rate of speed that is not reasonable and prudent under the conditions.

Every person operating one on a roadway, sidewalk, or bicycle path is responsible for becoming and remaining aware of the actual and potential hazards then existing on the roadway or sidewalk and must use due care in operating the device.

Keep in mind that an EPMD may be operated on a roadway only while making a direct crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk; where no sidewalk is available; where a sidewalk is so obstructed as to prevent safe use; when so directed by a traffic-control device or by a peace officer; or temporarily in order to gain access to a motor vehicle.

EPMDs may not be operated at any time on a roadway with a speed limit of more than 35 miles per hour except to make a direct crossing of the roadway in a marked crosswalk.

They also may not be operated at any time while carrying more than one person. A person operating on a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at all times.

A person operating one on a bicycle path must yield the right-of-way to bicycles at all times.

As far as equipment, an EPMD,  may not be operated unless they bear reflectorized material on the front, back, and wheels, visible at night from 600 feet when illuminated by the lower beams of headlamps of a motor vehicle.

A local road authority may not further regulate the operation of an EPMD, except that a local road authority may allow and regulate the operation of these devices on roadways within its jurisdiction that have a speed limit of more than 35 miles per hour.