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.
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
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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