Are Insurance and Licencing Requirements on the way for E-Bikes in Ontario?

A recent decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal has paved the way for licencing and insurance requirements for “e-bikes” in British Columbia.  In R v. Ghadban, the defendant had been stopped by police while riding a Motorino XMR e-bike with his son as a passenger. He was asked for his licence and insurance, but did not have either. He was charged with driving without a driver’s licence and driving without insurance. At trial, Mr. Ghadban argued that he did not require insurance or a licence as the e-bike was not considered a “motor vehicle” under the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act. Mr. Ghadban was convicted at trial and subsequently appealed his conviction.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed Mr. Ghadban’s appeal, finding that the e-bike could not reasonably be considered a “motor-assisted cycle”, given that the vehicle weighed over 240 lbs, and by the accused’s own admission, was burdensome to pedal. The Court of Appeal effectively held that the e-bike should be considered a motor vehicle for two reasons:

• The e-bike was too heavy to be practical as a human-powered device. It was designed to be used as a motor-scooter, not a pedal powered cycle and this did not comply with the clear intention of the relevant legislation; and

• The evidence shows that the motor could not operate at any time when the rider was pedaling. The motor was therefore only an alternative to human-powered cycling, not an assistance to it.

While this is a British Columbia case and is therefore not binding on Ontario courts, it is potentially a forewarning of what may be coming in Ontario. The e-bike in question is available for sale in Ontario. It is currently not considered a “motor vehicle” in Ontario, and therefore would not require a licence or insurance.

However, e-bikes in Ontario can weigh as much as 264 pounds with maximum speeds of 32 km/h. They are rarely operated via the attached pedals and riders almost universally rely on the motor for propulsion. Given the BC Court of Appeal’s decision and the similarity in the legislative language between the two provinces, it would not be surprising to see a similar decision from an Ontario court in the near future.

About the Authors

Nick understands that those who have suffered through the trauma of a serious personal injury are already in a position of vulnerability, and is committed to helping them through this difficult process, offering the support and advice they need. Specifically, he seeks to help right the balance in an insurance system that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward injured individuals.

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