BC Court of Appeal upholds decision outlawing certain e-bikes
VANCOUVER -- As electric-powered bikes become more popular and ubiquitous on the streets, more and more people may find themselves on the wrong side of the law because of confusion over which makes and models fall within provincial regulations.
The BC Court of Appeal recently handed down a 2-1 decision against a man fighting a pair of tickets he received for riding an electric bike that resembles a motorcycle on the road.
In July 2018, Aki Ghadban was cited in Surrey for driving without a license and driving without insurance.
His lawyer said Ghadban doesn’t have a driver’s license — one of the primary reasons he purchased the Motorino XMr electric bike in the first place.
“These are very popular. They are advertised to the public as being motor-assisted cycles, so there is a problem there with a lot of dealerships,” said Dan Griffith, Ghadban's lawyer. “People are buying them believing that they’re on the right side of the law.”
In B.C., motor-assisted cycles that meet certain criteria do not require a driver’s license or insurance.
But for machines that fall outside of the definition, ICBC does not have appropriate insurance plans.
Ghadban and Griffith argued unsuccessfully that his bike does fit the criteria.
In reasons for judgement, Justice Groberman suggested Ghadban’s bike, which weighs nearly 250 pounds and has detachable peddles, would be cumbersome to ride without using the electric motor.
“In my view, 'motor-assisted cycle' should not, without good reason, be interpreted to include a device where the motor can be used only as an alternative to human power, or a device where the use of human power is impractical,” the justice said.
Ghadban admitted he had never used the pedals on his electric bike.
On some other motor-assisted cycles, which are legal and don’t require a license or insurance, the electric motor will shut off if the rider is not actively pedalling, which potentially makes the bikes safer.
“The seawall and multi-use paths are probably the best examples of some people going far too quickly in congested areas, and that’s not safe for anybody,” said Jeff Leigh with HUB Cycling.
He stressed his organization supports motor-assisted cycles to help encourage more people to stay active and use Vancouver’s extensive cycling infrastructure, provided those machines meet the criteria.
Stand-up electric scooters and electric skateboards also fall outside BC’s existing legal framework.
“There are a bunch of people who are caught in this middle ground, or this grey area, where they can’t purchase insurance but they also can’t lawfully use the equipment that they have in any way on the roadway or the sidewalk or in a bike lane,” said Kyla Lee, a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer.
Until the law catches up to the latest environmentally friendly transportation technology, many people whipping around town on electric-powered wheels are taking a legal risk.