Electric bicycles, commonly referred to as e-bikes, have gained popularity as an affordable, convenient, and enjoyable mode of transportation, particularly for urban commuters. With the increasing number of e-bikes on the road, there remains confusion surrounding the applicable regulations in Ontario. Questions arise as to whether e-bikes should be classified as “motor vehicles” or “power-assisted bicycles,” and how riders should navigate the rules. As experts in personal injury law, HIMPRO aims to provide valuable insights into Ontario’s e-bike laws. This article will outline important information for current e-bike riders and precautionary measures to consider in the event of an e-bike accident or injury.
Essential Considerations Regarding Ontario E-Bike Laws
Is an e-bike considered a motor vehicle?
According to the provincial Highway Traffic Act, e-bikes fall under the category of “power-assisted bicycles,” while the Criminal Code of Canada classifies them as “motor vehicles.” Consequently, operating an e-bike does not require a license or insurance, and riders are generally expected to follow the same road rules as cyclists. However, riders can face charges for offenses applicable to motorcycles or cars. For instance, operating an e-bike while under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offense. It is important to note that individuals with suspended driver’s licenses may be permitted to operate e-bikes, depending on the reason for the suspension. Seeking legal advice before riding an e-bike with a suspended license is recommended.
What are the e-bike regulations in Ontario?
The basic e-bike regulations are outlined in Ontario’s Power-Assisted Bicycles Regulation under the Highway Traffic Act. These regulations include:
- Age Restrictions: All operators and passengers must be at least 16 years old.
- Passenger Limitations: E-bikes designed for carrying passengers are the only ones permitted to have passengers.
- Helmet Requirement: Both operators and passengers must wear approved bicycle or motorcycle helmets.
- Signaling: Operators must use appropriate turn signals, either electric signals or arm signals if the e-bike lacks electric signaling capabilities.
- Specifications: E-bikes must adhere to certain specifications, such as a maximum weight of 120 kg (approximately 265 lbs, including the bike and battery). The motor should not produce more than 500W of power or enable speeds exceeding 32 km/h (approximately 20 mph). If these limits are exceeded, the e-bike is considered a motor vehicle/motorcycle under the Highway Traffic Act, and different rules apply.
- Maintenance Requirements: E-bikes must be in good working order, equipped with two independent braking systems, securely fastened battery and motor, and functioning pedals. Failure to meet these requirements may result in the e-bike not being recognized as a “power-assisted bicycle” under the Highway Traffic Act.
- Night Riding: E-bikes must be equipped with rear-facing lights and wheel reflectors when riding between half an hour before sunset and half an hour after sunrise.
Where can e-bikes be ridden?
E-bikes are generally permitted on Ontario’s roads, with the exception of 400-series highways and other major provincial highways such as the QEW. However, it is important to note that municipalities have the authority to establish by-laws that prohibit the use of e-bikes on specific roads. Therefore, it is crucial to identify any restrictions in advance by consulting the municipality’s website. Furthermore, e-bikes cannot be operated on prohibited sidewalks, bike trails or paths, or designated bike lanes. Although these restrictions are often indicated with appropriate signage, it is prudent to conduct research before using unfamiliar routes to ensure compliance.
Promoting E-bike Safety
Similar to any vehicle, e-bikes come with inherent risks. Due to their lightweight and less stable nature compared to motorcycles or cars, e-bikes are more susceptible to weather and road conditions. Additionally, e-bikes possess accelerated capabilities, making it challenging for other drivers to anticipate their movements. Many accidents involving e-bikes and other two-wheeled vehicles occur because car drivers underestimate the e-bike’s speed or distance, often claiming to have never seen the e-bike or that it appeared unexpectedly. This issue is exacerbated by the silent operation of e-bike electric motors, as opposed to motorcycles that generate audible warnings through their exhaust notes.
Unique Aspects of E-bike Accidents
Unlike conventional bicycles, no specific training is mandatory before operating an e-bike on the road. To mitigate risks, we recommend that drivers spend time familiarizing themselves with e-bikes in a safer environment, such as an empty parking lot, before venturing onto the road. This practice helps individuals grasp the key differences between e-bikes and regular bicycles. Additionally, it is essential to review both the e-bike regulations and general rules of the road. E-bike riders should be aware that their behavior can create road hazards. While experience does not necessarily guarantee improved riding habits, thoughtful vehicle operation and education can contribute to enhanced safety.
Unfortunately, serious accidents can still occur even when operating an e-bike responsibly. Such accidents present unique challenges depending on the circumstances.
If an e-bike operator causes an accident involving a car, pedestrian, or cyclist:
1. The operator might flee the scene, as there are no licensing or registration requirements, making it difficult to locate them afterward.
2. The operator may not have liability insurance. E-bikes can be operated without insurance, leaving injured parties without coverage for their injuries and losses. Attempting to seek compensation directly from the at-fault e-bike operator often proves challenging, as they may lack sufficient assets. This applies even if the injured party is a passenger on the e-bike, so caution is advised before accepting a ride.
3. Conversely, if an uninsured e-bike operator causes an accident, they can be held personally liable for the other party’s injuries and losses. This means that the injured party may pursue wage garnishment, property seizure, or even require the sale of the e-bike operator’s home to satisfy the claim. If you plan to use an e-bike, we strongly recommend purchasing optional coverage through your homeowners’ policy if available.
How We Can Assist You
If you currently ride an e-bike or plan to do so, we encourage you to practice riding in a safe environment before venturing onto the road. Familiarize yourself with the unique risks associated with e-bikes and the necessary safety precautions. It is also crucial to acquaint yourself with the relevant road regulations. If you or a loved one experiences a serious e-bike accident, we offer a complimentary consultation to discuss the complexities involved. HIMPRO‘s experienced e-bike accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal intricacies of an electric-bike accident and build a winning case so you can get the compensation and medical treatment you deserve.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is a general guideline made available for educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as legal advice for the reader's specific situation nor in general. By reading our blog and website content, the reader acknowledges the above and understands there is no lawyer-client relationship created between you and Himelfarb Proszanski through this content. To get specific legal advice, we encourage you to book a free consultation with one of our lawyers to clarify the legal aspects of your situation.