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Toronto Electric Riders Association Message Board Biker Bar › Ottawa wants clearer rules to separate bikes from electric scooters

Ottawa wants clearer rules to separate bikes from electric scooters

Allan H.
Orillia, ON
Post #: 2,583
Ottawa wants clearer rules to separate bikes from electric scooters

Don’t get your hopes up, province warns


Ottawa wants clearer rules to separate bikes from electric scooters

OTTAWA — The city wants help from the province to tell bicycles with electric boosters apart from battery-powered scooters — so it can more easily ban the heavier scooters from dedicated bike paths and encourage regular cycling.

Right now, they’re all legally “e-bikes.” That covers everything from bicycles that look ordinary but come with a little extra juice for long hills or extended coasting, all the way to vehicles that are almost indistinguishable from gasoline-powered Vespas, except their top speeds are lower and they come with vestigial pedals to keep their official status as bikes.

Both are legal on roads, neither requires a licence or registration or insurance. And while the current rules vary, both are common sights in bike lanes and on dedicated paths that are nowhere near roads.

This is often a problem, said Alex deVries of Citizens for Safe Cycling.

“The issue with sharing facilities between e-scooters and bicycles is that e-scooters tend to be heavier,” he said. “The trouble is that on a shared path, they behave differently, they take up more room.”

Taking up electric scooters is a natural response to congested roads and they’re generally a positive thing, he said. Are they bikes? Well, deVries said, that varies by jurisdiction, including within Ottawa. The city and the National Capital Commission say no. Ontario says yes.

The city wants to toughen up, spelling out distinctions in the new cycling program that’s included in its transportation vision for the next 18 years (in which transit expansions are the much bigger, more expensive deal). The city’s policy, which is matched by one maintained by the National Capital Commission on its property, is that vehicles that are essentially bikes are allowed anywhere a regular unpowered bike can go, but vehicles that are essentially scooters are restricted to roads, including bike lanes. They’re not supposed to be on separate pathways, which will matter more and more as the city builds more and more of them.

“eScooters will not be permitted on cycle tracks,” the document laying out the city’s vision says. “Cycle tracks may provide less separation between pedestrians and cyclists, and have some characteristics in common with multi-use pathways, making use by eScooters less desirable.”

To make this clearly enforceable, the city will need to ask the provincial government to make the distinction in law.

“I think that’s definitely a positive aspect of the plan,” deVries said.

In practice, this is likely to leave scooter riders out of some of the flashier aspects of the city’s cycling plan. Its top-priority project, for instance, is a bike route past the hospital campus on Smyth Road that includes the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the General campus of the Ottawa Hospital. It’s to be done with a combination of shared lanes (where electric scooters would be allowed) and pathways (where they wouldn’t). The segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue is eventually to be made permanent and turned into a “cycle track” that where scooters won’t be allowed; O’Connor Street from Lansdowne Park in the Glebe all the way north to Wellington Street is to get the same treatment. A similar plan for Main Street, a key link between Alta Vista and downtown, is already approved. On those streets, the scooters can share the narrowed road with cars but they’re to stay off the bikeways.

Figuring out exactly where the line is between a bicycle with an electric boost and a battery-powered scooter isn’t easy. The courts have been hauled into it: a St. Catharines justice of the peace ruled in January that the key requirement is that a scooter be theoretically capable of being propelled by pedals, even if the rider has taken the pedals off and stowed them somewhere.

“Removing those pedals does not diminish the capability of the vehicle to function as designed but for momentarily,” Donald Dudar ruled, throwing out charges against an electric scooter user who’d taken his pedals off, leading the police to conclude the vehicle had become an unlicensed motorcycle. Dudar suggested “ambiguity in legislative drafting” was part of the problem.

Yet the provincial transportation ministry still says pedals have to be on the vehicle for it to qualify as a bicycle and — spelling trouble for the city’s hopes for clarity — it’s not planning to do anything. The Citizen asked for an interview with a ministry expert but spokesman Ajay Woozageer sent a written statement instead, largely restating the province’s view that everything’s fine and the law on electric bicycles was crafted carefully to keep everyone safe.

“While the ministry is aware of some concerns related to e-bikes, there are no plans to further regulate e-bikes or their operators at this time,” the statement concludes. “However, we continue to monitor e-bike issues and engage stakeholders. As such, ministry staff are happy to discuss this issue further with City of Ottawa officials to learn more about their dissatisfaction.”
It strikes me that cycle tracks are exactly the place ebikes should be, they do not belong on the road or the sidewalk. Nobody seems to care about the safety of ebike riders, pushing them into the path of live traffic lanes when there is a safe alternative.
Allan H.
Orillia, ON
Post #: 2,584
My reply

Allan Beamont Harmsworth · Top Commenter · Orillia, Ontario
"They take up more room" is simply not true. Ebikes, yes even the dreaded scooter style ebikes, are the same width more or less than conventional bicycles, and are the same length as conventional bicycles (actually take out your tape measure and see). Yes, they appear bulkier and heavier, true for the older scooter styled ebikes because they were designed to carry heavy lead batteries, but most of the newer ones are being designed for the newer Lithium batteries which are much lighter and allow a lighter and smaller frame.

Why do they want to ban the scooter style frame, they are legally and functionally as much an ebike as the frames that look like conventional bicycles, same width, same length, same speed, same power (except power is supplied by an electric motor equal to that which would be generated by muscle power). This style and the little extra weight have never been shown to be dangerous compared to conventional bicycles either by statistics or studies. In fact the opposite seems to be true, the Federal Government studied ebikes extensively before approval, as did the Ontario Government. Has there been a sudden rash of accidents and injuries from ebikes, scooter style or otherwise?

Seems to me they should be accommodating all the flavours and styles of ebikes and get us of oil. Seems to me that Alex deVries of Citizens for Safe Cycling just wants his monopoly of bike lanes and paths to remain with conventional bicycles and does not want to share. "Often a problem"? Has there been any study of this "problem" or and troubling statistics? Yes, no, maybe? I suppose there might be some occasional anecdotal reports as there are with bicycles and roller bladers (and dog walkers) but if so they should be properly controlled, not banned, then nobody can use them.

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Toronto, ON

Founded Jun 6, 2009


Vic, Doug Beatty, exe*Cute*, Fred

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