British Columbia

Electric bicycles, scooters causing confusion on roads

As electric transportation technology continues to advance, more and more electric bicycles are quietly filling local streets but these new vehicles are also causing friction on the road.
A rider takes his electric scooter for a spin in Nova Scotia. Some drivers in B.C. are confused about the rights and responsibilities of e-bike and electric scooter riders on roadways. (CBC)

As electric transportation technology continues to advance, more electric bicycles and electric scooters are quietly filling local streets, but these new vehicles are also causing friction on the road.

Greg Schmidt, of Burnaby, said he has a hard time getting respect on the street while riding his 500-watt electric bike — or e-bike.

"I've had occasions from motorists saying 'Get on the sidewalk,' which is funny," he said. "Honks from cars, or another motorist yells at me: 'Get some real insurance.' "

"The last thing that happened to me was just an aggressive gentleman I've encountered before that has been yelling at me. He threw a lit cigarette at me and my bike," said Schmidt.

Schmidt believes the aggression stems from drivers' confusion about how to treat these new types of vehicles.

RCMP say treat e-bikes, electric scooters like bicycles

Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, who is part of the RCMP's "E" Division Traffic Services, said e-bikes and electric scooters may look like gas-powered scooters, but they're to be treated as bicycles.

"A gas scooter has no pedals at all. And they're a little bulkier, they're a little bigger, they have to be insured, they have to be licensed. You have to wear a proper motorcycle-type helmet when you're riding one of those," Lemaitre said.

Electric bikes, or e-bikes, such as this one being ridden in Paris in 2009, have motors attached to bicycle frames and look more like bicycles. ((Francois Mori/Associated Press))

"When you're riding an electric bike, they follow the rules of a bicycle. That's what they're considered — they're just a motor-assisted bicycle."

Lemaitre said riders of electric scooters, e-bikes and bicycles have the same rights and obligations that motorists have on roadways: That means stopping at stop signs and red lights, and riding on the street, not the sidewalk.

Earlier this year, Ottawa considered banning electric scooters from bicycle paths and trails.