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E-bikes growing in popularity, but rules vary on use

June 2, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Mark Pavilons

The cost of gas at the pumps, combined with concerns over climate change, have led to an explosion in the e-bike industry.
Whether used for running errands, commuting or on trails, modern e-bikes have morphed to cater to every need.
And consumers are embracing it.
Figures compiled by market research group NPD indicate a growth rate for electric bicycles of 240% in the 12 months leading up to July 2021.
According to a 2019 Deloitte report, there will be 300 million e-bikes in circulation by 2023. E-bikes will be the top selling EV in the next decade, citing battery improvements, the shift toward low-emission vehicles generally and a growing number of bike commuters in urban centres.
Not only will they grow in popularity, it’s big business. Fortune Business Insights indicates that the global market size was $16.86 billion (U.S.) in 2020 and could $52.36 billion by 2028.
As Canadians and Ontarians “race” to set and reach reduction targets, they appear to be ignoring this massive green market.
Globally, the most popular countries for e-biking are China, Germany, Spain and Denmark. It was reported that roughly 85% of all e-bicycles are sold in China. China reportedly has more e-bikes than cars on the road.
The use of lead-acid batteries brings costs down, and you can buy one in China for an average of $170. By comparison, they run upwards of $1,000 in North America and over $1,500 in Europe (Pike Research).
According to, the trend isn’t waning and inf fact the industry is showing sustained, unprecedented growth.
Canadians are embracing the trend, but regulations are vague and varied from province to province.
Under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), e-bikes are treated as bicycles. The current definition of e-bikes in the HTA captures both conventional bicycle-style e-bikes and larger moped- or motorcycle-style e-bikes within a single class.
In February 2021, Transport Canada repealed the federal definition of e-bikes. While Ontario’s law remains status quo, this means that e-bikes are no longer being regulated by the federal government.
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) held stakeholder consultations in May 2019, November 2020 and January 2021 with municipalities, enforcement, industry, retailers and road safety stakeholders to present options on regulating e-bikes going forward.
Some of the concerns raised were regarding the safety of larger e-bikes mixing with pedestrians and other vulnerable road users and the current difficulties for municipalities in trying to divide smaller e-bikes from larger e-bikes on their local roads.
MTO is proposing legislative and regulatory amendments to the HTA to remove any reference to the former federal definition of e-bikes and substitute it for a new definition. The definition of an e-bike would be amended to include three specific classes:
Bicycle-style e-bikes, moped-style bikes and motorcycle-style e-bikes.
All three classes of e-bikes would continue to be treated as bicycles (they would not need to be registered or insured, and operators would not require a licence).
At this point, they are all limited to engines with a maximum power of 500 watts, and a top speed of 32 km/h.
The ministry is also proposing to amend regulations to include a reference to electric power within the current definition of Limited-Speed Motorcycle.
Currently, the limited-speed motorcycle definition is silent on electric power. This change would permit the use of electric limited-speed motorcycles.
As technology improves and manufacturers meet demand, larger Vespa-type models are being offered. Companies also sell off-road models and those resembling race motorcycles.
MTO does require riders to wear a helmet.
You can ride your e-bike on most roads and highways where conventional bicycles are permitted, with some exceptions. You cannot ride your e-bike on certain provincial controlled highways, such as the 400 series, the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Queensway in Ottawa or the Kitchener-Waterloo Expressway.
You also can’t ride them on some municipal roads, including sidewalks, where bicycles are banned under municipal bylaws.
As well, if prohibited, you can’t ride them on bike baths, bike trails or bike lanes.
This is where some confusion arises.
On June 3, 2021, the Moving Ontarians More Safely (MOMS) Act, 2021 received Royal Assent included legislative amendments to redefine e-bikes. The ministry continues to work with stakeholders on proposed regulatory amendments in order to support the use of e-bikes and prevent any unintentional consequences. The ministry acknowledges the benefits of e-bikes and will continue to analyze its approach to ensure the needs of Ontarians are met.
In King Township, there’s nothing specific in its bylaws. However, Bylaw 2016-103 prohibits “recreational vehicles” in King parks. Electric scooters, ebikes and even motorized skateboards fall into this category and are therefore banned.
Essentially, if Township post rules in the Parks, over and above what the bylaw rules are, then the posted rules would be in place and cannot be contravened.
According to section 6.2 of the bylaw they are prohibited to operate in a park (e.g. trail, open space) as defined.
The market, and demand for these green gizmos will continue to soar. As battery technology improves and manufacturing gears up, there’s no doubt Ontario consumers will find a bike that’s right for them.
Enjoy the outdoors in relative silence, and carbon free!



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