Tim Schewe

Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: What are the requirements for an e-bike?

Anyone 16 years of age or older may operate a motor assisted cycle in the same manner as a bicycle

By Tim Schewe

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 (a.k.a.: 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 three 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 licence, vehicle licence 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. This means the rider needs a motorcycle helmet, driver’s licence, vehicle licence and insurance.

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

If the label is present, you can be reasonably assured that you are buying an electric bicycle. If not, it’s buyer beware. Consider having the vendor certify that 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.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca