The next time your delivery driver arrives with your weekly takeout, you might notice them sporting a new set of wheels.

The Ontario government recently established a pilot project to evaluate the use and operation of cargo power-assisted bikes, known as cargo e-bikes. The pilot project runs from March 1, 2021, to March 1, 2026, and will gather data to determine whether cargo e-bikes should become a permanent fixture in Ontario’s delivery world. Municipalities intending to participate in the pilot project will pass bylaws to permit the use of cargo e-bikes and set out specific requirements about how and where cargo e-bikes can be operated.

Ontario’s pilot project could usher in a new era for deliveries in certain municipalities – but what about the legal implications of operating e-bikes? Currently, e-bikes occupy a legal “grey area”, and individuals hopping on their new e-bike or starting a side-gig as an e-bike delivery driver should familiarize themselves with the relevant rules and regulations. If you are involved in an e-bike accident, be sure to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can guide you through the unique considerations involved in e-bike claims.

What is an E-Bike?

An e-bike is an electric-powered bicycle. They come in many shapes and styles and have countless uses – some people purchase e-bikes to propel them up steep hills while mountain biking; others use them as a handy alternative to driving, similar to an electric scooter. Most e-bikes look a lot like a “normal” analogue bicycle, and you may have trouble differentiating between the two at first glance.

How Are E-Bikes Treated Legally?

Despite decent power capability, e-bikes are currently classified as bicycles. This means that Ontario expects e-bikes to be operated in the same way a person would operate a normal bicycle. You don’t need to register or insure an e-bike, but your e-bike will need to meet certain requirements outlined by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. E-bikes in Ontario must have steering handlebars, working pedals, an electric motor not exceeding 500 watts, and a maximum speed of 32 km/h, among others.

The requirements don’t stop at the e-bike itself, though – e-bike drivers must be at least 16 years of age, wear a helmet, use the cargo e-bike in the bike lane or right-most side of the road, and not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating the e-bike.

What do E-Bikes Mean for Personal Injury Claimants?

E-bikes fall into a grey area when it comes to personal injury claims. You don’t need to insure an e-bike to operate one (and it may be difficult to find an insurance plan that covers e-bikes). Some homeowner policies may cover loss or damage relating to e-bike accidents, depending on the policy. If you are an e-bike owner, you should confirm whether your existing policies cover claims relating to e-bikes and, if not, speak to an insurance broker and seriously consider obtaining insurance that does. If you are injured while operating an e-bike, confirm whether you are covered for accident benefits coverage under an existing insurance policy.

The e-bike pilot project, presumably, will have an added complication – their connection to employment. It’s safe to assume that most people operating cargo e-bikes will be doing so while working. However, your ability to advance an injury claim will be impacted depending on the nature of the work you were doing. For instance, “employees” are covered by the Employment Standards Act, 2000, while “independent contractors” are not. Put another way, if an independent contractor is injured in an accident, they can advance an injury claim against the person responsible for the accident, while an employee cannot. However, an employee will receive “accident” benefits through their employer if they are injured while on the job, while an independent contractor will not.

Consider whether you are an “employee” or an “independent contractor” and the implications of these options when applying for a cargo e-bike delivery job. There may also be considerations with respect to vicarious liability for an employer if one of their employees injures another person with their e-bike in the course of their employment.

While e-bike technology is straightforward, the legal implications of operating one may not always be so clear – especially when the e-bike is being operated during work. Whether you are the victim of an accident involving an e-bike or simply trying to clarify your rights, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about your rights and obligations.  

Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay

Tierney Stauffer LLP’s experienced personal injury lawyers have well beyond 100 years’ worth of collective practice experience. Our lawyers have fearlessly advanced countless claims and are prepared for anything that comes their way. Non-traditional accidents, involving vehicles such as ATVs, snowmobiles and bicycles, often involve unique legal considerations requiring the attention of lawyers who have seen it all. We have the skills and resources necessary to provide strong and effective representation so you can focus on what matters most – getting better. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our personal injury team.


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