The Ministry of Transportation is clearing up some confusion around what electric vehicles are street-legal.
While e-bicycles and motorized scooters have become a more popular form of transportation, the mystery surrounding what is and is not legal has caused some concern for many drivers and pedestrians. The rules depend on how fast it can go, if it has pedals, and how old you are.
What are the rules?
A motor-assisted cycle (MAC) includes electric bikes or any form of transportation with a two-or three-wheeled cycle with a seat, pedals, and an electric motor or power output not exceeding 500 watts. The electric motor can not power the cycle over 32 km/h on level ground.
This includes pedal-assisted e-bikes, which add power when the operator pedals, or ones which include a throttle, but even with a throttle, the bike must also come with pedals that can power the bike.
According to ICBC, MACs without attached pedals, such as e-scooters, do not qualify for road use and do not meet registration, licensing, and insurance requirements. You don’t need a driver’s license to register or insure your MAC, but you must be at least 16 years of age and wear a bicycle helmet.
Electric vehicles more like motorcycles, mopeds or scooters which can go faster than 32 km/h do not meet the definition of MACs and therefore do require licensing and insurance.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Motor Vehicle Act prohibits electric unicycles and other devices, such as solo wheels, hoverboards, or electric skateboards and e-scooters, from operating on public roads, sidewalks, or parking lots. However, there are some areas in the province where municipalities are piloting the use of MACs without attached pedals like kick scooters. The communities with bylaws in place for the use of these e-mobility devices include: city of Vancouver, city of Vernon, district of North Vancouver, town of Oliver, city of Kelowna, city of North Vancouver, and the city of Richmond. Other communities participating in the pilot project include the city of Nanaimo, district of West Vancouver, township of Langley and town of Osoyoos.
Currently, outside of these communities, these e-mobility devices can only legally be used on private property with the property owner’s consent. They are, however, allowed at skate parks.
Limited-speed motorcycles (LSM), which often resemble motorcycles or mopeds, have different rules, rely on motor power, and are generally not equipped with bicycle-style pedals and can go up to 70 km/hr on level ground.
To qualify under the Motor Vehicle Act for use on roads, they must have a gas engine with 50 cc or less or an electric motor with less than 1,500 watts. They qualify for road use; however, the max speed they can go is 70 km/h on level ground, and they must be registered and insured just as a motor vehicle.
In some areas, highway use is restricted. For more details, contact your local police for clarification.
Can a rider be ticketed for riding on the roadways or sidewalks?
The short answer is yes; however, rules may vary if you are in a municipality with a pilot project or your area has implemented a by-law allowing MACs on the road or sidewalks. For more information, contact your local police.
“We know people are changing the way they travel and use roadways and how important it is to support the safe use of new forms of personal transportation in B.C.,” said Murray Sinclair of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
In an age where cities are opting to be more walkable, more people are deciding to ride bicycles as a greener mode of transportation. The Motor Vehicle Act does pertain to those on unassisted bikes. However, they must obey all traffic signs and signals while adhering to the rules of the road.
For more information on road safety, vehicle registration, and electric bikes, visit icbc.com.