With the ever increasing popularity of alternative forms of transportation, the electric bicycle has seen a significant growth in consumer base. As our roads begin to see more ebikes, the more convoluted the rules, regulations, and laws behind ebikes get. To better protect yourself and those around you, it is important that you, the rider, spend some time getting to know what your rights are and what your limitations are.
What is an ebike?
An ebike, also known as a power-assisted bicycle, is essentially a bicycle with a motor. It is a bicycle that:
There are various styles of ebikes, from conventional bicycles to scooter types. Regardless of style, an ebike is only classified as an ebike so long as it meets the definition of an ebike as listed above. Being classified as a bicycle, most of the road rules and regulations pertaining to bicycles also apply to an ebike.
- has a maximum weight of 120kg (including both weight of the bike and the battery);
- has wheels with a diameter of at least 350mm and width of at least 35mm;
- must be equipped with at minimum 2 independent braking systems for each tire;
- the brakes must be able to stop an ebike traveling at top speed (32km/h) within 9 meters of application;
- all electrical terminals must be completely insulated or covered;
- battery and motor must be securely fastened to the ebike;
- has steering handlebars and is equipped with pedals;
- the pedals must be equipped at all times without exception;
- is designed to travel with no more than 3 wheels with contact to the ground;
- is capable of being operated with muscular power;
- has one or more electric motors no greater than 500w;
- the motor provides assistance when engaged by muscular power and ceases when muscular power ceases;
- if operable via a throttle, the motor ceases when brakes are applied
- is incapable of providing further assistance above 32km/h on level ground
- bears a label permanently affixed by the manufacturer stating that the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle;
- has not been modified to produce more than 500w and to travel faster than 32km/h
What do I need to operate an ebike?
Ebikes are classified as bicycles as long as they fit the federal requirements listed above. Legally, there are only 2 requirements that one must fulfill in order to operate an ebike:
As long as the operate fits the requirements listed above, the following apply to all operators of ebikes:
- all operators and passengers must be 16 years of age or older
- all operators must wear an approved bicycle helmet at all times
- no driver's license is required
- no written test is required
- no vehicle registration or plate is required
- no motor vehicle liability insurance is required
Where are ebikes allowed?
As long as your ebike fits the definition of an ebike as stated above, it is in the same classification as a conventional bicycle. This means that you are allowed to ride your ebike anywhere were a conventional bicycle is allowed, but with limitations. This means that ebikes can be used on: roads, bike paths, bike trails, and bike lanes. However, you may only ride on "bike only" lanes and paths so long as the motor is not engaged at any point.
Can I carry a passenger?
Passengers are not permitted on a bicycle that has been designed for one person. Some ebikes (generally scooter types) are designed to carry passengers, but you may want to check with your local municipality to clarify whether carrying a passenger is allowed in your area.
For more detailed information regarding ebike laws in Ontario, please refer to The Ministry of Transportation FAQ.