The debate on e-bikes and pedal assist

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Pedal Assist vs. E-bikes, the debate seems to continue, and has become more convoluted under a mess of legislation.

Every province in Canada, has developed their own separate legislation on top of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1999), Regulations Amending the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (Power- assisted Bicycles)  which in essence gives a basic guide for Provinces to Follow. The Regulations were amended in 2001, that is a life time ago, and a lot has happened in the bicycle industry since then.

If you have ever had the pleasure in working on Federal or Provincial legislation/regulations, you will know how long and ridiculous it can be – sometimes I think they make it more complicated and diluted on purpose, but that is just me. I have had the opportunity to work on several pieces of legislation, and it never went smoothly, between negotiating with various departments, provinces and opening it up to public consultation, mixed in with political will, you get a whole lot of legislation, full of words, but in many cases has become more confusing.

Under the Federal law – Power Assisted Bicycles is categorized under Motorcycles – the Maximum Speed being 70km/h – YIKES, someone  really wasn’t doing their research on this one.

So, when looking into Ontario’s 2009 New and Alternative Vehicles – e-bikes and Pedal Assist are defined together – Um, I don’t think anyone in Ontario bothered to do their research. E-bikes are essentially electric powered mopeds (at lower speeds) where you don’t even need to pedal, where as pedal assist only “assists” you to go a little further with less effort, carry more weight or make the hills easier.

Dr. Seuss

Here is where I think no one has bothered to do any research – Pedal Assist on a Cargo Bike. Lets face it, e-bikes have gotten a bad reputation, just look at on article in the Globe and Mail Putting the Brakes on E-bikes – understandable, having a bicycle that can be fully powered, is heavy, and can speed up to 70km/h and has some insane operators behind the handlebars and it will get anyone annoyed.

Lets look at Cargo Bikes, the revolution has started, and most provinces have not even noticed. Traffic in major cities has become a huge issue. Parents and companies are turning to using a cargo bike to shuttle kids, packages, and running errands. A cargo bike can’t go that quickly, so the 32 km/h restriction is not even an issue. If you are a business, having pedal assist could mean you could be out all day, delivering goods, serving customers, and be able to pedal very heavy loads if required. By white washing and grouping pedal assist and e-bikes together, you are essentially cutting off business opportunities as well as green commuting alternatives.

If you don’t define pedal assist separately and categorize them separately at  a federal level, Provinces will be forced to define them, which will cause issue across the board, which in many provinces, it already has.


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