E-Bikes: The Unregulated Ride-What should a review entail?
They are unnerving drivers. Terrifying pedestrians. Making cyclists anxious.
And the Premier thinks they deserve a closer look.
Just a few hours after NEWSTALK 1010 exposed blind spots in the rules around electric scooters and bikes in an exclusive investigation, E-Bikes: The Unregulated Ride, Kathleen Wynne said the Ministry of Transportation will revisit the issue for the first time in a decade.
"The primary concern is safety," Wynne told NEWSTALK 1010 reporter James Moore Tuesday. "Safety for pedestrians, safety for other bicycle riders, and safety for people driving cars."
The Premier did not say on what kind of timetable a review might take place or what it might entail, but NEWSTALK 1010 spoke with experts and road users with a wish list.
That is the focus of Moore in the Morning's second instalment of The Unregulated Ride.
WATCH: The Premier says there are concerns over safety & that’s why Ontario’s Transportation Ministry will give laws on e-bikes a re-think. pic.twitter.com/xoThwrWVWi— NEWSTALK1010 (@NEWSTALK1010) April 3, 2018
Sharron St. Croix welcomes anything that makes roads safer. She is executive director of Rider Training Institute (RTI), which prepares would-be motorcyclists to ride on their own
St. Croix would like to see the province consider training and licensing e-bike riders.
"I think that they should follow the same lines as a mo-ped. A mo-ped user does need a licence so either they can go straight to the ministry and do a test with them, or they can take a training course."
St. Croix feels drawing parallels between e-bikes and mo-peds is appropriate as electric bikes and scooters get faster and heavier.
"Some of these e-bikes are 120 kilos (265 lbs). Can you imagine a pedestrian being hit by one of these vehicles?"
NEWSTALK 1010 has spoken with pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and motorcycle riders in downtown Toronto about their close calls with e-bikes.
"They almost killed me a few times," cyclist Maggie shared with a nervous laugh.
"You don't hear them coming so for a pedestrian it's unbelievably dangerous when they walk out and these guys just whiz past you," said motorcyclist Jerry.
Bob Ramsay, President of the Motorcycle Moped Industry Council suggests that maybe e-bike riders wear brightly coloured safety vests so if they aren't heard, they will be seen as a streak of neon. He would also like to see testing for riders who don't already have a driver or motorcycle licence.
"To ensure that they know the rules of the road and that they have that understanding that if you break those rules of the road then you'll be charged," Ramsay explains.
On the street, there is also an appetite for some sort of training before you can zip off on an e-bike.
"Having some parameters in place to make sure that people are using a piece of machinery safely is probably a good idea," said cyclist Dave
Sharron St. Croix says in motorcycle school, the most important lesson novices learn is how to behave in traffic.
"You have to ride like you're invisible," says St. Croix. "If you ride like nobody sees you, then that means that you are aware and your awareness is heightened about what's going on around you.'
It is a mindset St. Croix believes e-bike riders could also benefit from learning and practicing. And while St. Croix says motorcycle instructors could help e-bike riders out if asked, it has never happened at RTI.
St. Croix thinks it has something to do with cost and a lack of obvious benefit.
RTI's Riding Basics course asks students to commit to 18 hours of training with a price tag of more than $500. If they master what they learn, students walk away with an M2 licence and an increased likelihood of a lower insurance rate.
St. Croix concedes e-bike riders are likely unwilling to commit that kind of time and money if they aren't required to be trained, licensed or insured.
What is an e-bike anyway?
Ontario's Highway Traffic Act is written so that as long as an electric scooter or electric bicycle has:
- Working pedals
- An electric motor with 500 watts of power or less
- A weight of no more than 120 kg and a top speed of 32 km/h
If a bike or scooter checks all those boxes, a rider is not required to have a motorcycle license, valid insurance, or have their vehicle registered with the Transportation Ministry to ride their e-bike on city streets. Highway use is not permitted.
E-bike riders must wear helmets, although the law states that it must be made to the standard of a bicycle helmet, rather than one designed to withstand the impact of a collision on a motorcycle.
with files from James Moore and Justine Lewkowicz