Canada: Buying An E-Bike Or Motorcycle-Like Car? Find Out If You Need Insurance

Last Updated: September 9 2016
Article by Michael J. Henry

By now you have probably seen motorcycle-like bicycles called Electric Bikes (or E-Bikes) operating on city roadways. Visually E-Bikes look like regular bicycles but they have an integrated electric motor which can be used for driving (instead of pedaling). When it comes to personal injury and related accident benefits claims, it is important to ask yourself whether you need insurance. It is equally important to understand what is covered (and not covered) by your automobile and/or home insurance.

E-Bikes and The Law

The Highway Traffic Act defines an E-Bike as a bicycle. No license or test is required to operate an E-Bike. No insurance is required. E-Bikes must follow the rules of the road as they pertain to bicycles, such as riding to the right when being overtaken by a motor vehicle. In Ontario, municipalities have the authority to separate E-Bikes from bicycles in their by-laws. Toronto's by-laws do not allow E-Bikes on foot pathways, trails (such as Toronto's Martin Goodman Trail), in parks, or on sidewalks when they are operating by motor. In speaking with Colin Telfer of local business eSkoot Niagara, Niagara-On-The-Lake's by-laws allow E-Bikes on sidewalks, but eSkoot prohibits renters from doing so. Meanwhile 99% of municipalities in Ontario allow E-Bikes on recreational trails.

Operators and passengers must be at least 16 years of age and wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet. E-Bikes cannot weigh more than 120 kgs, including the weight of the bike and battery. There are also various safety rules with respect to covering the electrical source and the size of the wheels. There must be two independent braking systems operational on the E-Bike.

Suspension of License Or Prohibited From Driving

Since you do not need a licence to operate an E-Bike, what if your driver's licence has been suspended? Can you still ride a motorized E-Bike on the road? Generally it is thought that if your licence has been suspended for something other than a criminal offence you can still ride an E-bike on the road. However, if you have been convicted of a criminal offence such as impaired driving and have had your licence suspended then you should not operate an E-Bike. If you have been prohibited from driving, this will include the operation of an E-Bike.

Insurance Implications

At present, there is no requirement for an E-Bike to be insured, though it is my suggestion that E-Bike operators should contact an insurer to get insurance to cover them for damage and injury that they may cause. If the insurer cannot (or will not) sell an auto policy, another option is to consider the vehicle a motorcycle and obtain applicable insurance. The insurer may also agree to add coverage to a homeowner's policy. As a last resort, you may be able to obtain an umbrella policy and specifically indicate to the broker that you want your E-Bike covered. If you have an existing auto insurance policy, you should ask if your coverage extends to the operation of your E-Bike. The type of coverage is important as only automobile and motorcycle insurance coverage includes Accident Benefits.

New Vehicles On The Road

Hybrid bicycle/motorcycles are just one type of the newer vehicles on the road causing some concern and questions with respect to insurance coverage. For example, the Polaris Slingshot is two-seater, three-wheel motorcycle (with two-wheels in the front and one in back). To operate one of these vehicles, you only require a valid automobile licence and not a special motorcycle licence. Like automobile and motorcycle drivers, the operator of a Slingshot must comply with all the regular rules of the road. Both driver and passenger wear approved helmets. However, unlike an E-Bike, to operate a Slingshot you must have insurance. Interestingly, even though it is not a condition mandated by the law, most insurance companies will only insure these vehicles if the driver has a valid motorcycle licence. And, as Mike Canha of McDougall Insurance indicates, not all companies will insure Slingshot bikes. You might have to search for an insurer, but once insured you will have both Third Party and Accident Benefits coverage.

If you own an E-Bike or Slingshot, be sure to check that you have proper insurance to cover you and third parties in the event of an accident. Knowing you have the right coverage will make your travels all the more relaxing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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