While e-bikes offer a convenient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation for Ontarians, it’s important to remember that riding an e-bike comes with safety risks. So, what are those risks and what can you do about them? In this article, we’ll explore the rules of the road relating to e-bikes and tips for avoiding e-bike accidents in Ontario.
What is an E-Bike?
An e-bike, also called an electric bike or power-assisted bike, is a bicycle with an electric motor – the idea is that the motor can assist a cyclist while pedalling (they do not have the same power as, say, a motorcycle or scooter). Besides the motor, e-bikes look much like a standard bicycles and include a handlebar, pedals, wheels, and braking systems.
Rules and Laws for E-Bike Safety in Ontario
Despite having a motor, Ontario law classifies e-bikes in the same category as bicycles (for the most part). Below, we’ve outlined some of the specific rules and laws relating to e-bike operations.
Cycling Laws and Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act
Both bicycles and e-bikes are subject to the same set of operation rules under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8. Under this piece of legislation, bicycles and e-bikes are considered “vehicles,” must obey all traffic laws, and have many of the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.
Some of the rules that apply specifically to cyclists and e-bikes include:
- Use lights and reflective materials when biking in the dark or where you are not visible at a distance of 150 metres or less;
- Riding as close to the right edge of the road as possible;
- Using hand signals when stopping or turning; and
- Obeying bicycle-specific traffic lights at intersections where installed and following traffic light directions.
Further direction for cyclists and e-bikers can be found in “Cycling Skills: Ontario’s Guide to Safe Cycling”, which includes instructions regarding the rules of the road and cycling hand signals.
Spec Requirements for E-Bikes
To legally operate an e-bike in Ontario, take note of the following spec requirements. Specifically, your e-bike must have the following:
- a maximum assisted speed of 32 km/hr;
- a maximum weight of 265 lbs;
- an electric motor not exceeding 500 watts;
- a battery and electric motor fastened securely to the e-bike frame;
- proper insulation for electrical terminals;
- minimum wheel width of 35 mm and minimum diameter of 350 mm; and
- two independent braking systems.
Note, also, that it’s illegal to make modifications to your e-bike’s motor that increases the power or assisted speed of the bike.
Rider Requirements for E-Bikes
You’ll also need to consider rider requirements to operate an e-bike. For example, e-bike riders must
- be 16 or older;
- wear an appropriate bicycle or motorcycle helmet;
- keep their bike in good working order; and
- follow the rules of the road applicable to cyclists.
Where E-Bike Riders Can Go
With a few exceptions, e-bike riders can travel on most roads and highways where you’d see traditional cyclists. However, cyclists cannot ride e-bikes:
- on certain provincial controlled access highways; and
- on municipal roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails, or bike lanes where e-bikes have been banned.
Insurance Requirements for E-Bikes
Unlike motor vehicles, e-bike riders do not need to carry insurance. However, remember that many home insurance policies cover assets such as e-bikes for thefts, damage, and other losses. If you plan on purchasing or riding an e-bike, it’s worth determining whether your e-bike will be covered under your policy.
What Happens if I Am Involved in an E-Bike Accident?
Bicycle accidents – whether you’re riding a traditional bicycle or an e-bike – can be terrifying experiences, given how vulnerable cyclists are on the roads.
If you are involved in an e-bike accident for which another person is at-fault, you can bring a personal injury claim against them if you suffer damages or losses. Depending on the nature of the injury and losses, several benefits are available for personal injury victims, including medical and rehabilitation services, income replacement, and other benefits.
Remember, however, that the most important thing to do following an accident is to seek treatment immediately – even if your injuries don’t seem serious. Not only will seeking medical treatment immediately ensure that you get the help you need from medical professionals – but it will also create a record of your symptoms, injuries, and treatment for future practitioners should you require ongoing treatment – and, if it comes to it, give your personal injury lawyer valuable evidence relating to your accident-related injuries.
Avoid E-Bike Accidents in Ontario with our Safety Tips
The best way to avoid e-bike accidents is prevention – that is, doing everything you can to make your e-bike experience safe for yourself and others. Following the tips below, you can help avoid e-bike accidents in Ontario and enjoy a safe and fun ride – whether commuting to work or hitting the trails.
- Follow the rules of the road, including stopping at stop signs and red lights, using hand signals to indicate turns, and riding with the flow of traffic.
- Ride defensively and remain aware of your surroundings while operating an e-bike. This will help you react to potential hazards and minimize e-bike accident risks.
- Wear appropriate safety gear. At a minimum, e-bike riders must wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet but consider additional safety gear to minimize the risk of injury in an e-bike accident.
- Dress for the occasion and ensure you are wearing weather-appropriate clothing while riding your e-bike.
- Perform regular maintenance on your e-bike (or take your e-bike to a shop for maintenance) to ensure it is in good working order.
- Consider taking a bicycle safety course. While many cyclists assume they know everything there is to know about riding a bike (or e-bike), the truth is that we can all use a refresher from time to time – especially if you’re planning to use your e-bike in areas with heavy traffic. As an example, CAN-BIKE offers great cycling safety classes for Ontarians.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
Tierney Stauffer LLP has experienced personal injury lawyers who can handle various injury claims, regardless of how they occurred. In the case of non-traditional accidents like e-bike accidents, it is important to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer.
We have the skills and resources necessary to tackle these complicated issues so you can focus on your recovery. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.