E-bike not a licence to drive drunk, police say
An e-bike stands outside Urban Wasp in London, Ont. on Tuesday May 10th, 2011. (CRAIG GLOVER / QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)
LONDON -- The environmentally friendly e-bike could be the last refuge for drunk drivers as technology continues to accelerate ahead of Canadian law.
Because of conflicting provincial and federal laws about e-bikes, there seems to be a loophole for drivers with suspended licences to get back on the road.
The Criminal Code of Canada says an e-bike is a motor vehicle, so riders can face impaired driving charges.
But the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario says an e-bike isn't a motor vehicle.
E-bikes look like regular bikes, scooters and limited-speed motorcycles but they're powered by electric energy or pedals and reach a top speed of 32 km/h.
"The question becomes whether it's a motor vehicle," said Richard Braiden, a London defence lawyer.
"It slips between the cracks of legislation."
Because e-bikes have pedals they're considered bicycles, London police Sgt. Ryan Scrivens said.
"They have to follow the rules of the road as bicycles. Stop at stop signs, they can't drive on the sidewalk, the driver has to be 16 years of age and wear a helmet," he said.
Because e-bikes are treated as bicycles, riders don't need licence plates or insurance.
And bicycle riders can't be charged with impaired driving, Scrivens said.
"It's the same as if someone was intoxicated riding a bike. "Unfortunately the definition of a vehicle is something that's designed to be propelled by muscular power. An e-bike qualifies because people can pedal an e-bike."
But if the pedals are removed or the bike is rigged to drive faster than 32 km/h, it becomes a limited-speed motor vehicle, and drivers can face criminal charges such as impaired driving, Scrivens said.