British Columbia

E-bike rider loses court case against ticket for operating without licence, insurance

A man in Metro Vancouver who was fined for operating an electric scooter without a licence or insurance has lost his appeal in B.C. Supreme Court, even though the province's insurer doesn't provide coverage for that type of vehicle. 

Ali Moussa Ghadban said his bike is a motor-assisted cycle but B.C. Supreme Court judge disagreed

A recent ruling in B.C. Supreme Court upheld a decision regarding an e-bike rider who was ticketed for riding without a licence or insurance. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

A man in Metro Vancouver who was fined for operating an electric scooter without a licence or insurance has lost his appeal in B.C. Supreme Court, even though the province's insurer doesn't provide coverage for that type of vehicle. 

Ali Moussa Ghadban argued in court that his Motorino XMr is a motor-assisted cycle — outfitted with pedals, limited power and a maximum speed of 32 km/h — and under B.C. law doesn't require a driver's licence or insurance to operate. But a judicial justice disagreed, and a B.C. Supreme Court judge recently upheld that decision.

"It's frustrating," said Ghadban's lawyer in the case, Brandon Moscoe. 

Ghadban had tried to to insure the Motorino at ICBC, Moscoe said, but the provincial insurer doesn't offer coverage for that type of vehicle. In 2019, a man in Saanich, B.C., had the same fines dismissed for that reason

But in this case Justice Robert W. Jenkins said the Motorino is not a motor-assisted cycle because the pedals don't propel the engine and the vehicle can operate without them. 

"A Motorino XMr does not comply with the intent of the legislation, which was for a [motor-assisted cycle] to supplement or assist the human power required to pedal the vehicle," Jenkins wrote in his decision. 

Moscoe says the decision highlights the ongoing challenges with electric scooters and other electric transportation modes, as well as the need to update provincial legislation that applies to them.

All about the pedals

According to the decision, Ghadban was riding his Motorino XMr in Surrey, B.C., in July 2018 when an officer issued the ticket.

On its website, Motorino describes the XMr as "all the fun of riding a motorcycle" with "all the advantages of a Motor Assisted Cycle ... classification (no licence, no insurance, free parking)."

The decision says the officer testified that he saw a man riding what he believed to be a "small motorcycle" who hopped onto the plaza at King George SkyTrain Station. The officer then noted the motorcycle had pedals, but Ghadban wasn't using them. 

According to the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, the motor of a motor-assisted cycle must turn off or disengage if the operator stops pedaling, an accelerator controller is released, or a brake is applied. In his decision, the judge wrote that the Motorino XMr "does not comply with the intent of the legislation."

In his decision, the judge referred to a 2012 decision that held up the same charges against a man who had removed the pedals from a similar type of electric scooter. Because of that, the judge decided, the vehicle no longer fit the definition of a motor-assisted cycle. 

New legislation coming

Ghadban testified that, in the five years he had owned the Motorino, he had never used the pedals. 

His lawyer, Moscoe, argued that is an irrelevant detail, which doesn't mean the Motorino fails to comply with legislation.

But the judge disagreed.

Several judges in B.C. courts have noted the need to update provincial laws regarding electric modes of transportation, especially with Segways, hover-boards, electric scooters, electric skateboards and electric unicycles now on the market. 

Last fall, the province said it was looking into the matter. Currently, a device that does not fall under the act's definition of a motor vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian is not allowed to operate on roadways or sidewalks.

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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