Electric Bike Regulations in Canada: How and where can you use your electric bike? 

electric bike regulations

Electric bikes are a fun and cost-effective way to get around urban areas, but what are the laws surrounding them? Are they legal in Canada? 

Overall, the short answer is yes. Electric bikes are legal in Canada, and the laws are not overly restrictive. However, it is important to note that there are differences in each province and some important terminology to be aware of. Here we will look at those differences and demystify Canadian electric bike regulations so you can stay safe while maximizing the use of your electric bike.

Related article: Using an E-bike in Canada: Safety Tips and Precautions

 

What Legally Counts as an Electric Bike?

The term “electric bike” is sometimes used to reference scooters and electric motorcycles along with e-bikes, but all of these are distinctly different. In 2000, Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR), sought to clear up this confusing term by defining electric bikes as “Power Assisted bicycles (PABs).”

To be considered a PAB, a bicycle must meet these requirements:

  • Cannot exceed a speed of 32 km/hr
  • 500 watts or less of power 
  • Must have handlebars 
  • Has an attached motor that runs on electricity with no gas
  • Has operable pedals meaning you must pedal to make the bike move

Additionally, each electric bike must have a permanently attached label stating that the bike meets all requirements as of the time of manufacture. To ensure your safety and to avoid fines, it is important to buy a bike from a reputable seller/manufacturer who is adhering to regulations and including this label. 

 

Do you need a License to Operate a PAB?

MVSR regulations state that no license is required to own or operate an electric bike in most cases, though there are exceptions in certain provinces. Because of the power and speed limitations, electric bikes are considered safer and easier to maneuver than motor vehicles that can reach higher speeds. This built-in safety and ease of use make it unnecessary to have formal training and licensing. Similarly, insurance is also not required. 

However, it is important to note that a suspended driver’s license may make you ineligible to operate an e-bike. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, this applies to drunk driving offences. If your license has been suspended for other reasons such as speeding tickets or aggressive driving, you will likely still be able to operate an e-bike. 

 

Differences in Electric Bike Regulations in Each Province

Quebec: Each province has the authority to set their own age limits on e-bikes and some also require licensing. For example, Quebec stipulates that riders can be as young as 14 but if they are under 18 then they must have a license to operate a moped or scooter. 

  • Alberta: In Alberta, riders may be as young as 12 but all riders are required to wear a helmet. Alberta also sets out rules for having a passenger on an e-bike, stating that there must be a designated seat for a passenger, with no riding on handlebars or standing on the back of the bike. 
  • Ontario: As Ontario was slow to allow for electric bikes on roadways compared to other provinces, the rules here tend to be stricter. The minimum age for operation is 16, and there are additional stipulations about where e-bikes can be operated. For example, e-bikes are allowed on sidewalks and on many roads, but not on expressways or highways. 
  • Manitoba: Riders must be 14. Many of the other laws are similar to those that govern the use of manual bicycles. 
  • British Columbia: In BC, an e-bike is defined slightly differently – here, it is called a “motor-assisted cycle.” Despite this difference in name, many of the same requirements apply, such as operable pedals and a motor that is under 500 watts. Riders here must be 16 and wear a helmet, but they are not required to have a license. 
  • New Brunswick: New Brunswick adds some important requirements to ensure greater safety when operating an e-bike on a road. These requirements include having a headlight to allow for visibility at night. NB law also makes the distinction that if a rider has a DUI conviction, the e-bike is then considered a motor vehicle and cannot be operated. 
  • Newfoundland: The minimum age for use of an e-bike is 16, and not only are helmets required, not wearing one can carry a hefty fine. 
  • Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia has similar laws to other provinces and adds that helmets must be worn with the chinstrap in place. 
  • Prince Edward Island: PEI is unique in that e-bikes here are seen as mopeds and are required to meet the same safety and construction standards. 
  • Saskatchewan: In Saskatchewan, laws require the same speed and power limitations as the rest of the country, but they apply to both an electric-assist bicycle and a power cycle. An electric-assist bicycle specifically uses the motor and pedals at the same time, while a power cycle can be used with just the motor. While both are treated as bicycles, a power cycle requires a license to operate and must meet the same legal safety standards as a motor vehicle. 

 

Making Modifications to Your E-Bike 

For those who want a faster riding experience or who like to tinker with engines, it can be tempting to make modifications to your e-bike. Unfortunately, removing any parts such as the pedals or installing a more powerful engine will create an illegal vehicle that could result in fines. For your own safety and to stay within the laws, it is always best to maintain an e-bike in the form in which it was manufactured, in order to meet the most current regulations. 

Related article: Are Ebikes Accident-Free: Tips For Ebike Safety

 

DOs and DON’Ts of Safe E-Bike Operation

Along with following the legal requirements for e-bikes, there are also maintenance tasks you can perform to extend the life of your bike and make sure it is safe. 

  • DO inspect your bike before each ride. It can be easy to skip this step when you are in a hurry, but taking the time to make sure there are no visible signs of damage or excessive build-up of dirt and grime can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
  • DON’T let dirt and debris build-up on the battery. Cleaning this area frequently will give you better performance, save you from a bigger cleaning job later and help protect this expensive part of your bike. 
  • DO check your tire pressure before each ride. Tires are an important part of any vehicle, and an under or overinflated tire will not only wear out faster but also increase your risk of losing traction on the road. 
  • DON’T leave your battery sitting on the charger after it is fully charged. Batteries should be charged after each ride, and they should not be run to the point of being completely out of power, but they should also not sit on the charger indefinitely. Letting the battery fully drain and overcharging it are both actions that can reduce the life of the battery and its ability to hold a charge. 

 

Conclusion 

E-bikes offer a great balance between a fully motorized vehicle and a standard bike. Laws throughout Canada governing this unique mode of transportation are generally easy to follow, and they are not overly restrictive. 

Buying an e-bike that includes a permanent label stating that it was manufactured according to current regulations will ensure that it meets the minimum requirements for a legal e-bike. This, along with making sure to wear a helmet and observing traffic laws, are the most important things to remember. When in doubt, check your current local laws before purchasing or operating an e-bike. 

Maintenance of your e-bike, while not a legal requirement, is essential to staying safe on the road. Develop good habits, such as cleaning and inspecting your bike after each ride, so you can have the best riding experience.

Related article: Tips for Electric Bike Beginner

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