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What Defines A Bicycle in Ottawa?

What Defines A Bicycle in Ottawa?


Ottawa, Canada — The Ontario government has concluded a three-year study on “What is a bicycle?”

On Oct. 2, 2006, the Ministry of Transportation embarked on a pilot project to evaluate electric bicycles. For the trial period, they would be regulated like ordinary bicycles, with slight exceptions.

Anyone over the age of 16, with a helmet, could ride these battery-powered two-wheelers, with a speed restriction of 32 km/h.

No driver’s licence required, no insurance, no vehicle plate.

However, the E-bikes suddenly morphed into scooters. Then scooters turned into little motorcycles but, because they have working pedals, restricted speeds and small motors, they still qualify as bicycles in the eyes of the law.

Vespa-style scooters are powered by gas and capable of normal speeds on urban roadways. But in the eyes of the law — at least for now — these ebike-cum-scooters are still considered bicycles, with little regulatory oversight. (And they dont’ go quite as fast as a Vespa.)

The National Capital Commission, which runs one of the most extensive pathway systems in Canada, was initially confused about how to categorize these vehicles.

In August, the NCC’s initial response was to prohibit electric bikes from its 180 kilometres of recreational pathways. Now, upon review, it has permitted the e-bikes on the paths while it monitors developments.

Retailers report sales of the electric bikes or scooters are brisk, and new shops are being founded all the time.

Ebikes start roughly at $1,500, with scooters often in the $2,500 range.

There are many potential markets. Commuters who want an easier trip to work in summer. Teenagers who can’t afford a motorcycle or insurance. Older people who need a little assistance to prolong their cycling days.

Impaired drivers who’ve lost their licences and need another way to get around, cannot use an ebike, however.

The government is still reviewing what to do with electric scooters. “The Bill’s proposed regulation-making powers to define further operating requirements may or may not impact e-bikes that resemble scooters,” the ministry said in an e-mail response.

“Safety concerns primarily associated with scooter style e-bikes (e.g.; size, weight, braking, operation, enforcement, noiselessness) persist and, therefore, a final decision has not yet been made.”

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