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Behind-the-Wheel

E-bikes are considered bicycles but only if they meet set criteria

The rules regarding e-bikes

Are you going green? Is an e-bike something that you are considering the purchase of to help you get around?

Buying an electric bicycle or adding an electric motor to a conventional bicycle to help out with the chore of pedaling uphill, or giving a boost to your efforts on level ground, sure sounds good

A motor-assisted cycle (aka: an electric bicycle or e-bike) is described in B.C.'s Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation. Requirements for legal use on our roads include:

• It must have an electric motor with a power of 500 watts or less

• It must not travel faster than 32 km/h on level ground when propelled by the motor alone

• It must be switched on or off by the rider or controlled by a switch that will not let the motor start until a speed of 3 km/h has been attained by pedaling

• The motor must disengage when the rider quits pedaling, applies the brake or releases the accelerator

• It must have pedals to allow the rider to move it by muscular power

• It must not have more than 3 wheels and those wheels must be at least 350 mm in diameter

Anyone 16 years of age or older may operate a motor-assisted cycle in the same manner as a bicycle. No driver's license, vehicle license or insurance is required, but a bicycle helmet is mandatory.

If the motor-assisted cycle does not meet the requirements of the regulation, such as a larger motor, modifications made to remove the pedals or change the way in which the motor operates, it becomes a motorcycle in the eyes of the Motor Vehicle Act. That means the rider needs a motorcycle helmet, a driver's license, a vehicle license and insurance.

As of February 2021, Transport Canada decided it will no longer regulate power-assisted bicycles (PAB) with a top speed is 32 km/h or less. This is now left to the provinces and could mean the PAB label will no longer be affixed by manufacturers.

If the label is present, you can be reasonably assured you are buying an electric bicycle. If not, it's buyer beware. Consider having the vendor certify the e-bike they are selling you meets B.C. rules on the bill of sale.

Yes, you can convert a conventional bicycle into an e-bike if you are handy with tools. The pitfall here is that some kits contain motors of more than 500 watts total power.

Using a conversion kit with a motor power of more than 500 but less than 1,500 watts would mean that you are building a limited speed motorcycle instead of an electric bike.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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