Are Electric Bikes Legal In Canada?
We still get lots of questions about whether it is legal to ride your electric bike in Canada. We wrote this article two years ago, and it remains a popular resource. It’s important to be aware of what the laws are before purchasing an electric bike. Some manufacturers aren’t as concerned about whether their ebikes are legal for buyers to ride. Rest assured, Pedego cares about providing a road-legal ebike!
In this update we still answer the question are electric bikes legal in Canada and explain the legislation each province has enacted around ebikes. Then we delve into the detail of local policies for use of electric bicycles on non-motorised and recreational trails.
Are Electric Bikes Legal In Canada?
The short answer to this question is absolutely! Laws around electric bikes were first enacted by the federal government in 2000 under Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations and classifies ebikes as Power Assisted Bicycles. This is an important distinction because electric bikes can sometimes be confused with scooters and electric motorcycles.
While this federal definition is no longer officially in place, they are still the base for most provincial regulations because it is a reasonable and broad definition that avoids most loophole exploitation.
There are three key characteristics of a Power Assisted Bicycle:
- It has an attached electric motor of 500 watts or less
- It has a maximum speed capability of 32 km/hr from the motor over level ground
- bike’s motor must disengage when:
- the operator stops pedaling,
- a throttle controller is released, or
- a brake is applied.
- Rider must be 16 years old and wear a helmet.
Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 options – common US definitions that have been used in Canada:
- Class 1 no throttle, Class 2 throttle – matches motor assisted cycle definition
- Need to specify max motor power, motor cutout and rider requirements – safety!
- Class 3 – high speed. Intended for off-road.
Power assisted bicycles cannot have a motor that runs on gasoline but they can have three wheels, such as the new Pedego Trike. Also, all electric bikes in the Pedego Canada product roster do not have motors that exceed 500W and are limited to a maximum speed of 32 km/hr. The law further states owners of electric bicycles do not require a license to operate them nor is special insurance or vehicle registration required.
That’s the easy answer to the question “are electric bikes legal in Canada?” But it gets more interesting because provinces and municipalities have the right to restrict power assisted bicycles from some roads, lanes, paths and thoroughfares. Therefore, in order to best understand are electric bikes legal in Canada, we need to look at provincial requirements and then municipal laws.
Electric bikes are classified as “motor assisted cycles” in British Columbia and, like federal regulations, must have operable pedals, a 500W battery or less and a top speed of no more than 32 km/hr. The legislation goes on to stipulate riders of electric bikes must be at least 16 years of age and wear a helmet and the bike’s motor must disengage when:
- the operator stops pedaling
- an accelerator controller is released
- or a brake is applied.
E-bikes are referred to by Alberta legislation as “power bicycles” and the laws around them are consistent with the federal definition of “power-assisted bicycle.” However, the province stipulates that operators must be 12 years of age or older and all operators are required to wear a helmet. A passenger is permitted only if the e-bike is equipped with a seat designated for that passenger.
Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a two or three-wheeled bicycle that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Riders of power cycles need to be 16 and require at least a learner’s driving licence. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for both.
Legislation in Manitoba for electric bikes is a bit different than the federal government’s. In that province electric bikes can also be classified as scooters, mopeds or mobility vehicles depending on the power of the engine used and its top speed. If the engine on the electric bike does not exceed 50 km/hr, the rider is not required to have a motorcycle licence or any specific training. However, the operator is required to be 16 years of age and be enrolled in some stage of the Class 5 driver’s licence graduated licensing process. (Class 5 is the most common form of license and allows the holder to drive a normal vehicle.)
Riders of power assisted bicycles in Ontario must follow the rules and regulations for normal bicycles, wear an approved bike helmet and be at least 16 years old. Other legislation abides by the federal laws but goes on to stipulate ebikes can weigh no more than 120 kilograms (265 pounds), require a maximum braking distance of nine metres and prohibit any modifications to the bike’s motor that would create speeds greater than 32 kilometres per hour. E-bikes are not permitted on 400-series highways, expressways or other areas where bicycles are not allowed.
In Quebec power-assisted bicycles are permitted on the roads but riders have to be 14 years old and if they’re under the age of 18, must have a moped or scooter license.
The province’s “policy on electric motor driven cycles and electric bicycles” abides by the federal legislation but goes on to stipulate that in order to be allowed on the road an ebike requires wheel rims larger than 22cm (9″), a seat at least 68cm (27″) off the ground and, if travelling at night, a headlight is required.
The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act defines a power assisted bicycle as a bike with an electric motor of 500W or less with two wheels (one of which is at least 35cm or 13″) or four wheels (two of which are at least 350cm). PABs are permitted on the province’s roadways as long as the rider is wearing an approved bicycle helmet with chinstrap engaged.
Newfoundland & Labrador
Electric assist bike owners must follow all federal legislation.
Electric assist bike owners must follow Yukon’s Motor Vehicles Act. The municipality of Whitehorse has its own local ebike laws.