Whether you are new to riding a motorcycle or an enthusiast getting ready to enjoy a ride on Ontario’s roadways this summer it is important to first make sure you are properly licenced and insured to do so.
To drive a motorcycle, you will need an M Class licence. The type of licence you will need depends on the type of motorcycle you want to drive. You will need an “M” licence to drive a full-speed motorcycle. You will need an “M with condition L” licence to drive a gas powered motorcycle which cannot exceed 70 km/h (a “limited-speed motorcycle”). An “M with condition M” licence is for users who intend to operate a three-wheeled motorcycle.
Licencing is a graduated process. You must pass an eye and written test to get an “M1” licence. Riders operated their motorcycles under an M1 licence must maintain a zero blood alcohol level. An M1 rider can only operate their bike during daylight hours. With few exceptions, an M1 rider cannot drive on roads with speed limits exceeding 80 km/h. An M1 rider cannot carry a passenger. An M1 rider must wear an approved helmet. An M1 licence is only valid for 90 days. An M1 rider must wait 60 of these 90 days before taking their first road test. An M1 rider who does not pass the road test within these first 90 days must start the graduated licensing process over.
An M1 rider who passes the road test will receive an M2 licence. The M2 licence allows a rider to travel at night on any road. An M2 licence holder is still required to maintain a zero blood alcohol level and must ride with a helmet. An M2 rider must wait 22 months before taking the second road test. If you pass, you get a full M licence.
Insurance is a requirement for any rider who intends to drive their class of motorcycle off private property. In Ontario, the following minimum coverages apply:
• Third Party Liability Coverage of at least $200,000;
• Statutory Accident Benefits Coverage (“No-Fault Benefits”) to provide supplementary medical, rehabilitation, attendant care, caregiver, non-earner, income replacement, and death benefits if you are killed or injured in an accident, regardless of who caused it;
• Direct Compensation – Property Damage Coverage to pay for damage to your vehicle and its contents, if another driver is at fault for an accident that occurs in Ontario and that driver is insured by an insurance company licensed in the province;
• Uninsured Automobile Coverage to provide financial compensation for you and your family in the event of injury or death at the hands of an unidentified or uninsured motorist.
Once you are licensed and insured it becomes important to ensure that a ride can be completed in safety.
The most important piece of safety equipment is a helmet. An approved helmet, fastened securely under the chin, must be worn at all times regardless of where you are riding in Canada. The only exception to this rule occurs in British Columbia and Manitoba where devout Sikhs are allowed to ride their bikes helmetless.
In Ontario helmets may be equipped with speakers or worn with ear phones for the purpose of communication only. Using speakers within a helmet to play music or for any other purpose is prohibited.
Another way that motorcycle safety is maintained in Ontario is through the so called “15 inch law”. This law requires that no part of a motorcycle’s handlebars can exceed a height of 380 millimetres (14.96 inches) above the uppermost portion of the operator’s seat. The measurement is taken when the seat is depressed by the weight of the operator. Handlebars that exceed this height, or that are loose or damaged, will be considered unsafe and expose the motorcycles operator to a fine upon conviction under the Highway Traffic Act.
As much fun as it can be to ride a motorcycle, riders must appreciate that there is an inherent risk when participating in this activity. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the various safety, licensing, and insurance standards prior to going out on your first ride of the year is the best way minimize the risks involved.