British Columbia

Electric bikes need pedals to avoid licensing in B.C.

A precedent-setting B.C. Supreme Court decision could have consequences for riders of fashionable electric bicycles if owners remove the pedals.

Judge rules the bikes become motor vehicles if they have no pedals

A precedent-setting B.C. Supreme Court decision could have consequences for riders of fashionable electric bicycles.

The machines look like European scooters and many have detachable pedals, but a Chilliwack judge has ruled that riders need to keep the pedals on — if they want to remain street legal.

The issue wound up in the high court after a Chilliwack man was charged for driving without insurance after he removed the pedals on his electric bike, as many owners do.

Electric bicycles that have their pedals removed need to be insured and licensed in B.C., a judge has ruled. (CBC)

The man said the pedals made his bike unsafe, but the court said that was not the point.

"Ultimately, the judge found that it ceases to be a motor-assisted cycle once the pedals come off," said Crown Counsel Paul Blessin.

Blessin said the rules were written before the current crop of machines hit Lower Mainland streets.

"The original design of a motor-assisted cycle, it looked a whole lot a bicycle with an electric motor and battery on it, whereas the current, more common brand looks a lot more like a scooter and a lot less like a bicycle," said Blessin.

Under the terms of the Motor Vehicle Act, electric bikes are defined as Motor Assisted Cycles, or MACs.

But the judge found that without pedals, a rider has no physical means to propel a bike, making it a motor vehicle like a scooter, which the new bikes clearly resemble.

"If someone removes the pedals, however, which apparently is easy to do, a cycle that was once a MAC is no longer a MAC, as far as ICBC is concerned." the judge wrote.

"Further, because it then would no longer fall within any recognized class of cycle, it remains unregisterable and uninsurable, even if the operator wished to register and insure it. Without pedals, from the Corporation’s perspective, it should not be on a public roadway," the judge wrote

The judge also said the province should review regulations surrounding electric bikes.


With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor