Did you know that there are special rules (by which I mean federal regulations) related to riding electric and low-powered personal vehicles (such as Bikes and Scooters) in Canada? Well, there are, and today I’m here to lay them all out for you. But there’s no need to worry—it’s not really complicated at all. So if you’re interested in getting an electric bicycle (e-bike) or electric scooter (e-scooter), by the end of this post, you’ll be much better prepared to do so both safely and legally in Canada.
What qualifies as a low-powered personal vehicle?
The first thing we need to do is figure out what exactly a low-powered personal vehicle is—and it’s basically just two different things. One example of a low powered personal vehicle is the Electric Bicycle (or e-bike), which is also known as a power-assist bicycle (or simply just an assist bicycle). These bicycles are differentiated from motorcycles in a variety of different ways (more on that below), but suffice to say that they do not have an internal combustion (i.e., gas) engine, and they can be propelled forward by good, old-fashioned, muscle power. They also look much like their standard bicycle counterparts, only sometimes a bit bulkier due to their incorporated motor and battery pack.
The other main type of vehicle that fits this classification is the Electric Scooter, or e-scooter, which is very similar to the stand-up scooters (also called kick scooters) that kids and commuters have been riding for years (right down to the large, flat, skateboard-like deck on which the rider stands), only they’re equipped with a small, internal, electric motor that propels them forward. These scooters may also be propelled manually (just like traditional kick scooters and the e-bikes mentioned above), and as such are sometimes referred to as electric kick scooters. They also generally fold up for easy storage and transportation. A typical e-scooter is shown above.
Federal definition of power-assist bicycles in Canada
In Canada, power-assisted bicycles are defined as follows (paraphrased) under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its many regulations: A power-assisted bicycle has (a) both handlebars and pedals, (b) no more than three wheels, (c) is capable of being manually powered, (d) has an electric motor that meets a variety of key conditions, (e) is identified as a power-assisted bicycle by a specially applied manufacturer’s label, and (f) has specific safety features pertaining to electric bicycles.
The conditions of the e-bike’s electric motor (item d) are that it (i) has a total continuous power output rating of no greater than 500 Watts (this measurement must be taken at the shaft of the motor), (ii) the power assist must immediately cease when the rider stops pedalling, (iii) the power assist must immediately cease when the rider applies the brake, and (iv) the motor must cease to provide further assistance once the bike has reached a top speed of 32 Km/h (on level ground).
Rules pertaining to the safety requirements of power assisted bicycles in Canada (item f) state that the vehicle must have one of the following safety features: (i) a driver-controlled mechanism for turning the motor on and off that is separate from that which controls the accelerator, or (ii) a mechanism preventing the motor from engaging before the bike reaches 3 Km/h. Only one or the other of these features is necessary to meet the the conditions of the definition.
Rules for e-bikes and e-scooters in Canada
Canada’s federal laws pertaining to power-assist bicycles and electric scooters are very closely related to those for riding standard, pedal-driven bicycles. For instance, no special licensing or insurance is required, and you need not pass any tests or identify your e-bike or scooter by the placement of a license plate. This is because e-bikes and scooters are not powered by internal combustion engines (such as motorcycles and mopeds), meaning that they are classified differently from these much more powerful motor vehicles and are therefore not subject to the same laws as them.
E-bikes (and the like) are classified as bicycles having two or three wheels, standard bike pedals, and a battery-assisted motor. They can be imported into Canada without the massive amounts of red tape (i.e, levies, taxes, etc.) and restrictions that are involved with importing automobiles and motorcycles, and they may be freely transported throughout the country as the owner sees fit. In reality, there is very little federal regulation surrounding these low-powered personal vehicles.
Provincial and municipal rules regarding low-powered personal vehicles
While power-assist bicycles in Canada are defined and classified by the federal government, where things really begin to get complicated is in the area of provincial and municipal regulation. This is because each province and municipality within Canada has the right to set forth its own rules and regulations regarding e-bikes and e-scooters, such as setting specific age limits for riding them or limiting riding to certain types of areas.
This creates the potential for significant variance in the rules for these vehicles from province to province within Canada, not to mention all of the different cities and towns within a given province. It is therefore incumbent upon you, the rider of the e-bike or e-scooter, to familiarize yourself with both the provincial and local rules for e-vehicles in your area before you hit the streets on your low-powered vehicle of choice.
Of course, even with the potential for confusion when it comes to e-bikes and scooters, one need not be afraid to get out there and give them a try. These low-powered personal vehicles are easy to ride, easy to maintain, and generally safe and convenient for responsible riders across a variety of different ages. And remember, responsible riders always wear helmets and other safety gear (whether they are required to or not) when riding their bicycles or scooters.
If you’re ready to enter the world of low-powered personal vehicles for yourself, first consult the regulations for your own local area (both your province and municipality), then visit Best Buy’s Bikes & Scooters page to see what’s available. There’s truly something for everyone, and you’re sure to be glad you did.