There are an abundance of e-bikes on the streets these days. And sometimes, on the sidewalks too! Some drivers with helmets, others without. E-Bikes that go zipping past at a good speed and others that seem to be moving slower than pedestrians walking alongside. We realize the need to find alternative transportation, considering the cost of owning a vehicle and the lack of public transit in some areas. But have e-bikes become a convenience or a nuisance on our roads?
We understand that there is plenty of confusion when it comes to e-bikes, are they a motorcycle or are they a bike? Should they be used on the road, and if so, are they allowed on the sidewalk as well?
E-Bikes sometimes look like a basic bicycle, but often may resemble a scooter, and for most can be easily confused. So how can you differentiate the two? The Ministry of Transportation in Ontario outlines that e-bikes must include THESE FEATURES:
- Steering handlebars
- Working Pedals
- Electric Motor not in excess of 500 Watts
- Maximum speed not exceeding 32 km/h
- Maximum weight of 120 kg
- Permanent label from the manufacturer in both English and French which confirms the e-bike conforms to the federal definition of a power-assisted bicycle.
RULES AND USE
Many have purchased an e-bike strictly on the simplicity. You must be 16 years old to operate the bike and required to wear a helmet, but no license is necessary. Quite often, most who inquire are surprised to learn that no type of insurance similar to motorcycles, mopeds or other autos is required to drive on city streets or urban roads. The e-bike is permitted on most residential roads, highways and other areas where bicycles can be used, including designated bike lanes. Of important note, removing the pedals or altering the e-bike in any form can easily result in it no longer conforming to the established definition and could become subject to fines or other penalties.
The only real restrictions you may encounter as the owner of an e-bike is that they cannot be driven on 400- series highways or other major Ontario highways, are not allowed on sidewalks or roads where bicycles, in general, are banned. You may also find that particular paths, trails or bike lanes will prohibit an e-bike in certain circumstances. As with any transportation, the e-bike is not to be operated while under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.
ISSUES TO CONSIDER
If the thought of purchasing an e-bike does interest you, we feel it is important to consider some of the issues challenging our roads and drivers. As the e-bike does not require a license, permit or a plate to operate there are many e-bike drivers sharing the roads who have little or no driving experience. They also lack driver training or any education about road safety or laws. The truth is, anyone can buy an e-bike but it does not make them qualified to drive it.
You will not require expensive insurance to operate your e-bike, most insurance companies have been faced with this challenge of how to properly insure this equipment and in most instances, they are typically covered under a homeowner or tenant insurance policy. But there is concern regarding the liability exposure and the risk of injury.
City streets are busy places to travel, given that the e-bike is larger than a regular bicycle leads us to warn that safety is an issue. You will need to be sure to leave proper space for other drivers and hope that they do the same in return.
BENEFITS OF OWNING AN E-BIKE
Although we neither support nor condone the use of e-bikes we do share many of the same concerns that face all drivers or riders of any items on our roadways. We do understand that cost efficiency is a huge factor when it comes to your transportation needs, and like most, we realize that commuting is a real challenge for those who do not have a license or cannot afford an automobile or even the expense of public transit (if it is even offered depending on location). An e-bike is an affordable option, in more ways than one. They can often be purchased for less than $1,000 (but more reliable e-bikes can cost closer to the $3,000 price tag) and will save you money on both gas and parking fees. Another benefit? They are environmentally friendly.
We see more e-bikes on the streets every year. Drivers have found this to be a logical solution to their commuting and local travel needs, while most importantly keeping costs down and life simple.
Article Written by Darcy Johnson
Erie Mutual Insurance Manager – Sales, Marketing & Business Development
Please contact us with any questions you may have about this or any other topic related to your insurance.