Blog E-Bike Laws In Ontario And Toronto

Jul 5, 2021

Updates To E-Bike Rules For 2021 In Ontario

woman on electric bike

E-Bikes are one of those modes of transportation that fall directly in the grey area of traffic rules. Are they a bicycle or motorcycle? Should they be driven on the road or allowed on the sidewalks?

The most common question we receive is, "What exactly are the rules of the road for electric bikes?" Motorists and pedestrians alike are confused, and truthfully, most people have no idea.

Perhaps you’re looking for an alternative to driving due to rising costs of Ontario car insurance, or you lost your license and need a new mode of transportation. Could e-bikes be the green solution to those who don’t have a driver's licence?

To set the record straight for everyone, we’ve done some research to find out what you can and cannot do when operating an electric bicycle. But first, it’s important to define what qualifies as an electric bike.

What Are E-Bikes?

E-bikes, or electric bikes, often look like traditional bicycles, scooters, or even small motorcycles. Herein lies the problem – by simply looking at it, e-bikes are problematic to differentiate from other similar electric forms of transportation.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, electric bikes in Ontario have the following features :

  • Steering handlebars
  • Working pedals
  • An electric motor not exceeding 500 Watts
  • A maximum speed of 32 km/h
  • A maximum weight of 120 kg
  • A permanent label from the manufacturer in both English and French stating that your e-bike conforms to the federal definition of a power-assisted bicycle.

The e-bike should have a proper braking system that comes to a complete stop within nine metres from the point in which they were applied. It is illegal to add any modifications to your electric bicycle to make it faster or more powerful. If you do not meet these standards or ride over the limits, you can face fines.

Do You Need Insurance For An E-Bike?

You do not need insurance, a driver’s licence, vehicle permit, or licence plate to ride and own a e-bike. A driver does need to be 16 or older, wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet, and keep it in good working order.

Michael Vaughan of The Globe And Mail sheds some light on the road rules for electric bikes :

“The Province of Ontario permits e-bikes to be operated like bicycles and, while riders don’t need a licence or insurance, they must wear helmets and these so-called bikes must be equipped with pedals. Since electric bikes are classified as bicycles, they don’t have the same braking and lighting as licensed motorcycles and scooters.”

Where Can You Ride An E-Bike In Ontario?

According to the MTO, you are permitted to ride your electric bike on most residential roads and highways where traditional bikes are permitted. They are permitted to be used on designated bike lanes, and you should follow the same set as rules as a regular cyclists. This includes installing lights on your bike, signalling, and obeying all signage.

You Can Not Ride E-Bikes On :

  • 400-series highways and other major highways in the province such as the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Queensway in Ottawa or the Kitchener-Waterloo Expressway.
  • Any municipal roads or sidewalks where bicycles restricted.
  • Municipal roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails or bike lanes where e-bikes are prohibited.
  • They are also prohibited in recreational parks. If you are caught riding your e-bike through a recreational park, you are subject to a minimum $250 fine.

Are E-Bikes Legal In Toronto?

parked electric bike

The City Of Toronto places e-bikes into two categories : pedal-assisted e-bikes (pedelecs) and power-assisted electric bikes.

Pedelecs are treated like bicycles in the city, only if they are pedal assisted and require pedaling for movement. They can be used on roads and all types of cycling infrastructure (paths, parks, cycle tracks, painted bike lanes). They can be allowed on ferries to the Toronto Islands if it has a wheel diameter of 26" or larger.

Power-assisted e-bikes operate solely by motor power and are only allowed on roads and painted bike lanes. They may be bicycle-style, scooter-style or moped-style – and regardless of style of appearance, they do not require any muscular power or pedaling to move. They follow all of the laws in Ontario for e-bikes.

As for parking e-bikes in Toronto :

“Under Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 950, only bicycles including e-bikes that are defined under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act as "capable at all times of being propelled on level ground solely by using muscular power to operate the pedals" can park on the sidewalk, and use a post and ring stand as though they were a conventional bicycle. E-bikes that are not "capable at all times of being propelled on level ground solely by using muscular power to operate the pedals" such as scooter-style or moped-style e-bikes may park on-street as motorcycles do.”

E-Scooters that are standing electric kick-scooters are not allowed to be operated, left, or parked on any public street in Toronto, including bike lanes, trails, paths or parks.

Tips For Safe E-Bike Operations

Along with the legal requirements of e-bikes in Ontario, you need to perform regular maintenance tasks to ensure your safety and prolong the usage. Here are some tips to follow :

  • Do a quick inspection of your electric bike before using it : Look for any mechanical problems, dirt, or hazards that may affect your trip.
  • Do not let dirt and grime build up on battery : Regular cleaning will ensure optimal performance and replacing it can be mostly.
  • Check tire pressure : Before each trip, check the air pressure of all the tires. Underinflation or overinflating can reduce traction and speed up wear and tear.
  • Charge it properly : After each trip, charge the batteries to prevent it from running out of power. However, never let a fully charged battery sit for hours after – it can shorten the lifespan and ability to hold a charge.

Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, an e-bike is not classified as a motor vehicle. However, under the Criminal Code of Canada, the definition of a motor vehicle includes an electric bike. If you are convicted of operating an e-bike while impaired you will face penalties, jail time, or a suspension.

Pros And Cons Of E-Bikes

E-bikes are an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative mode of transportation, but they do have a set of risks. Here is a look at the benefits and potential problems with driving an electric bike.

Benefits Of Electric Bicycles

There are some benefits to electric bikes. They include :

  • Affordability – you can get one for as low as $600.
  • You will save money on gas and parking.
  • They are environmentally friendly.
  • It will help you be more active and get outside more.
  • Often, e-bikes are a quicker option than public transportation.
  • You don't need car insurance or motorcycle insurance to ride.

Disadvantages To Electric Bicycles

Since electric bicycles are a hybrid of a bicycle and motorcycle, several issues have arisen lately, including :

  • The lack of licensing, permits, and plates : Anyone can buy an e-bike and start driving without a formal process in place, even if they don't have a regular driver's license. This could potentially lead to inexperienced and uneducated riders on the road, increasing the risk for accidents and endanger pedestrians.
  • No insurance requirements : While riders are not required to have e-bike insurance, many insurers offer coverage through home insurance. If you are involved in an accident with a pedestrian or other rider, you cannot claim any accident benefits, unless the accident involved an insured automobile.
  • Spacing issues on roads : Since e-bikes tend to be bigger and faster than traditional bicycles, but also are to be treated the same, it is difficult for drivers to gauge spacing, leave enough room when passing, and accommodate them in other situations.
  • Lack of education about e-bikes : There is a general lack of education about the rules, role, and what is and is not allowed.

How Much Are Electric Bikes?

Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes come in all shapes and sizes and with many different features. While you can get an electric bike in the $600 range, you are better off spending a little more to get a reliable model. “The cheapest complete electric bikes cost about $600 CDN, while most of the more reputable ones are in the $900-$1,500 range, and the highest end bikes top out at $3,000,” says GRIN Technologies.

If you are looking to try one out before buying it or exploring your purchase options, most cities have a least one dedicated e-bike shop. Do some research for the best electric bike for you or find the closest e-bike store in your area.

What Are The Different Types Of Electric Bikes?

If you are searching for an electric bike, there are a few categories that you can choose from to suit your needs and style. E-bikes come in different styles and bike uses, that resemble traditional bike functions. Here are some common electric bike and styles and classes.

Electric Bike Styles

  • Cruiser : Ideal for recreational riders. Designed for flat terrains like paved bike paths and roads.
  • Commuter : Go for helping you get to need to faster. Great for running errands, commuting or longer distance travel.
  • Mountain : Made to tackle rugged terrain, dirt; built for those go to off-roading trails.
  • Road : Designed for riding on paved surfaces and recreational riding, but with more speed.

Electric Bike Classes

  • Class 1 : Provides assistance only when you pedal and stops assisting when you reach 20 mph — great for bike lanes, bike paths, roads or anywhere you use a traditional bike.
  • Class 2 : Equipped with a throttle which provides a boost without pedaling, and stops assisting at 20 mph.
  • Class 3 : The Class 3 e-bike is equipped with a speedometer, and only assists until the bike reaches 28 mph — an excellent choice for commuters.

The most popular bikes fit into Class 1 or Class 3 because most riders still want to pedal during their trip.

Ontario E-Bike Rules FAQs

E-bikes have a maximum speed of 32 km/h in Ontario.

It depends on the circumstances that led to your licence suspension. If your licence is suspended because of a conviction under the Criminal Code of Canada, you cannot legally operate an e-bike. If your driver's licence has been suspended under other circumstances, you should discuss your situation with a licensed legal practitioner before investing in an electric bike.

If your e-bike is more than 120kg, it is not allowed on Ontario roads, and it no longer qualifies as an e-bike. You may then face moped or limited-speed motorcycle licensing, registration and insurance requirements.

If it is designed for more than one person, you can have a passenger on your e-bike that is at least 16 years old. Check the manufacturer’s information to confirm if yours is designed to carry passengers.

You do not need a drivers licence to drive an electric bike in Ontario.

In most municipalities, you are not allowed to drive on sidewalks and bike trails Always check ahead before you plan to use your electric bike on a pathway.

You cannot remove your pedals from an e-bike because it is no longer considered an electric bicycle. It will be an illegal vehicle and you can be ticketed for driving without insurance.

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