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

Today, e-bikes are more popular than ever. E-bikes are famous for being more accessible for people with disabilities, older adults, and also for diabetes patients. However, with more people switching to riding electric bikes, there has been an increase in the number of e-bike casualties. It is therefore vital to learn how to stay safe as an e-bike rider in Canada.

A recent statistic shows that the rate of accidents suffered by electric bikes users increased by double between 2016 and 2017. About 70% of these victims were found to be older adults, most especially men ranging from age 65 to 75 years.

Even though e-bikes are fun and functional, improper usage can result in accidents and bad injuries for the owner. However, with our safety tips and precautions, riding your e-bike in Canada can be a safe leisure activity.

Related article: Tips for Electric Bike Beginner

 Electric bikes are virtually the smallest type of vehicles on the road. As a cyclist, it is vital to be actively conscious of other road users. Make sure you understand how to ride safely without being a danger to yourself and other road users. It is appropriate for you to learn to handle an e-bike the right way. 

Electric bikes are often heavier than conventional bikes. They also attain higher speeds. This makes obstacles and corners a more dangerous prospect. As an e-bike owner, there are few safety tips and precautions you should always remember before going out to ride every day. This article will tell you all about them.

Related article: How an Electric Bike Works?


Safety Tips and Precautions for Riding in Canada

Here are the safety tips and precautions you should always put into consideration while riding on the road in Canada.

Always make yourself visible

A typical issue with traffic is that most drivers find it challenging to look out for e-bikes. Mostly, this is because e-bikes zoom by with an additional power supply behind their motor. Your e-bike moves faster than other motorists can react. Therefore, to make sure you are noticed, you should attach a bell and lights to your e-bike for easy visibility.

It is advisable to give other road users a polite and distant warning to create awareness for your passage. A bell can help you do this. 

Your choice of cloth can also reduce or improve your visibility. White and yellow colours stand out best at night; while dark colours are difficult to see at night. 

Using lights, pedal reflectors and reflective material on wrists, ankles, heels, clothing, and helmets help others see you easily. 

Pay closer attention to traffic flow

Always pay close attention to the flow of traffic while passing your route. Although, every cyclist should always stay alert and active while riding, it is more crucial for e-bike riders due to the extra speed. Paying close attention helps you react faster to any traffic issues that may arise.

Most drivers who are not conversant with e-bikes may not expect you to reach a speed of 20mph on the road. Their ignorance can be counteracted if you pay close attention. Avoid distractions while riding on the road.

Related article: How to use Google Maps to create your cycling routes

Use your brake earlier

Brakes are essential to e-bike users because of the extra power supply and speed. Even if you are using the lowest gear assistance, an e-bike will add about 50watts to your pedalling. This means you have to slow down earlier than usual while approaching a bend or stop signs.

Also, it’s appropriate to look out for crossing signs and other traffic signs. This will typically help you to use your brakes early and swiftly before you get to them. Also, always make sure to familiarize yourself with the workings of your brakes. This will help you to assess the safest and perfect time to start applying your brakes.

Always check your speed

Most new e-bike users often make the mistake of using the fastest pedal-assist setting immediately they set out. It is okay to be enthusiastic about your new ride, but it is far safer to take it slow. It’s easier to learn how to enjoy your new ride with low speeds before switching to the turbo mode settings.

Mounts and Dismounts

Most teen riders and older adults find it challenging to mount and dismount their e-bikes. Sometimes due to mobility issues. Older adults with weak physical strength may not be able to mount an e-bike easily. Also, due to the weight of e-bikes, mounts and dismounts can cause severe injuries to teens and older adults.

E-bikes have an extra 20-plus pounds of weight compared to your conventional bikes. This can cause them to flip over during dismounts, leading to injuries. Before purchasing your e-bike, make sure you’re buying an electric bike with a comfortable frame that supports easy mounting and dismounting. An electric bike with a step-through frame is an ideal type that offers easy mounting and dismounting with fewer struggles.

Related article: Remove speed limit: can you derestrict an electric bike?


Safety requirements for e-bikes in Canada

To ride an e-bike on Canada’s public roads, below are the safety tips and operation requirements to be put into consideration:

  •   E-bike operators and passenger must always use the designated bicycle or motorcycle helmets.
  •   Electric bikes must not weigh more than 120 kg (includes the weight of the battery and the bike).
  •   All passengers and riders must be at least 16 years of age.
  •   All electrical terminals must be covered completely.
  •   The minimum diameter of the wheel should not be less than 35mm.
  •   An e-bike should have at least two (2) independent braking systems consistently working. Also, every e-bike should have the requirements for motor-assisted bikes that apply force to each wheel. It must also be capable of bringing the e-bike, while moving at a speed of 30km/h, to a full stop. The brakes should be able to stop the e-bike within nine (9) metres from the point of application.
  •   The motor system and battery must be well attached to the vehicle to prevent them from moving or falling while riding.
  •   There should be no form of modifications to the motor system. Especially changes capable of allowing the motor to exceed a power output and speed above 500Watts and 32 km/h respectively.
  •   Do not detach the electric bike permanent label. 
  •   Your electric bicycle must come with an attached notice, written in both French and English. Mostly from the manufacturer stating that the e-bike complies with the federal definition of a power-assisted bike.
  •   The electrical terminals on the electric bike must be entirely protected at all times.

Related article: A Comprehensive Guide to Electric Bike Maintenance


Government Rules for Cyclists

The government of Canada has laid down safety regulations to keep cyclists safe. They include:

What to wear

Always avoid loose or flying clothing capable of getting caught up in the chain, or wheels, and other moving parts of the bicycle. Wear comfortable wind-resistant clothes with layers and breathable spaces. 

Wear an approved helmet as a safety precaution. Use a helmet that fits correctly. Make sure it has an ANSI, Snell, and CSA, ASTM British Standard or Australian Standard sticker. You can also use an element which shows that the helmet meets legislated rules and regulations.

Additionally, according to the Highway Traffic Act 104, e-bike users around 16 years and below must wear an approved helmet or risk getting a fine of about $75.

Riding on the sidewalks

Cyclists between the age of 15 years and older may not lawfully ride e-bikes on Canada’s sidewalks. If you are cycling carelessly, you may be fined up to $90. If you’re riding on the sidewalk, you may be fined $60.

Electric bike riding at night

To make yourself visible to other road users at night, wear reflective fabric or light-coloured clothing which glows in the dark. Also, you must use e-bike lights from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. 

At night, always use white front lights and a rear red light or reflector. In the Highway Traffic Act 62, there is a $30 fine for improper electric bike lighting.

E-bike riding during summer

When riding in the rain during summer, to safeguard your skin against sunburn, always wear sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, make sure you wear sunscreen that is waterproof and has an SPF of about 15 or higher.

Always attach a water bottle to your electric bike to avoid dehydration, especially during humid and hot weather. Also, to maintain proper equilibrium, avoid carrying things on the handlebars. Wear your riding gloves made of fabric or leather to have a proper grip for brakes and also to protect your hands always.

Plastic water bottles tag along easily on the frame of your bicycle. Ideally, you should take one bottle of water every 15 minutes. 

Riding your e-bike in the rain

If you’ll be riding in the rain, extend the braking distance and wear fluorescent clothing to enhance visibility. Also, avoid riding through puddles, which may hide glass, potholes, or other road hazards. It is also ideal to avoid the center of the road where oil drop forms.

Related article: Riding your e-bike in the rain: All you need to know

Cross streetcar tracks safely

Streetcars and railway tracks can be risky. If you cross at the wrong edge, you can suffer a nasty fall. Make sure to navigate through roads at right angles, even while passing cracks or channels in the pavement.

Always shoulder check and convey your intentions to road users behind you. Read the following for more safety tips on crossing streetcar tracks safely.

  • Always slow down whenever you’re crossing streetcar tracks.
  • Stop pedalling, place your cranks in a position horizontal to the ground, move your weight away from sitting on your saddle. Then, make use of your arms and legs for balancing.
  • You’ll be able to absorb the bumps more by using your arms and legs rather than bouncing on your seat.
  • If riding over the tracks is not comfortable for you, maybe due to multiple tracks at an intersection, traffic, or awkward track angle, don’t. Endeavour to pull over to the curb, dismount and cross the intersection as a pedestrian.
  • Also, streetcar tracks often become more slippery when wet. Apply caution while riding in the rain or in winter weather to avoid an accident. 

Stopping or passing behind buses

By the general road law, you can only pass buses on the right. When they stop to let-off or pick-up passengers, you must stop at least two (2) metres behind the rear door. Also, you must wait until all passengers are off the footpath before passing them.

Avoid riding your E-bike after drinking

Generally, drinking and driving on the highway is a criminal code offence with charges laid under the criminal code of Canada.

From the criminal code, e-bikes are classified under motor-vehicle and riding your e-bike under the influence of alcohol can get you fined for impaired driving. If guilty, the offender would be subject to criminal code penalties. This may include jail time, a fine and a driving restriction.

Related article: Are e-Bikes really Economic?


Personal Safety for Riding your Electric bikes in Canada

To ensure your personal safety, follow these tips.

Stay vigilant

As a good rider, you need to know what is going on around you. Foresee what will happen down the road.

Always be predictable

You are predictable when you ride in a straight line and also while signalling your intentions to change direction or position. Riding in a straight line gives the traffic around you time to predict your actions. 

Always ride one (1) metre away from the curb, and never in the gutter. Also, always stay out of the way of possible opening doors while approaching parked cars.

Understand the concept of using a shoulder check

Check behind yourself regularly, most notably before switching position on the road. This helps you to know what is happening behind you and prevent collisions.

Show the correct signals

Convey your intentions to other track users with hand signals. Do not signal unless you check behind – it may not be safe yet. Via eye contact, dangling your bell or using your voice, you can maneuver your way through.

Stay conscious of large vehicles

Do not ride in the driver’s “blind spot”; they may not be able to see you while trying to make a U-turn. Ensure you retain enough distance in front or behind any large vehicle to ensure the driver sees you. If you can’t see their eyes, the driver probably can’t see you.

As an e-bike rider in Canada, staying safe demands concentration, vigilance and focus. Make sure to adhere to the rules outlined above. That is the best way to be sure that your biking experience is a safe one. 

Electric bikes are more prone to crashes because of their higher speeds. Therefore, when you’re out zooming on your electric bike, always take caution and keep standard safety tips in mind. Observe speed limits and be wary of other road users. Stay safe out there!

Related article: How To Choose An Electric Bike? A Complete Buying Guide

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