New Brunswick

E-bike user seeks legislation to clear up registration confusion

A Saint John man is asking the provincial government for legislation to clear up confusion about whether e-bikes are allowed to be used on roads without being registered after he was ticketed by city police.

Les LeBlanc, of Saint John, says he was wrongly ticketed for electric scooter being unregistered

Les LeBlanc, an e-bike user and seller, is calling on the provincial government for clear legislation on whether electronic scooters need to be registered as vehicles. (Connell Smith/CBC)

A Saint John man is asking the provincial government for legislation to clear up confusion about whether e-bikes are allowed to be used on roads without being registered after he was ticketed by city police.

Les LeBlanc contends provincial policy currently treats electric scooters like his as bicycles, not motor vehicles, which means no registration is required.

"It's a policy that most police officers probably aren't aware of," he said.

Under the provincial Motor Vehicle Act, motor vehicles must be registered. But not all electric motor driven cycles are considered motor vehicles, according to the Department of Public Safety's website.

"If the vehicle is able to be powered by human force and has a motor equal to or less than 500W, and the motor is not capable of assisting when the vehicle is traveling at a speed greater than 32km/h, then it can be considered a bicycle and all the requirements placed on bicyclists are applicable," the website states.

Department of Public Safety and Saint John Police Force officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ticket withdrawn after a year

LeBlanc, an e-bike user, also sells Nicom electric scooters from his home in the city's north end. The 500-watt vehicles resemble a gas motor-scooter, but have a maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour and can be pedalled by the user, he said.

LeBlanc started selling the vehicles in 2007. Two years later, a customer came to him saying he was being threatened with a ticket and fine by police.

He says things came to a head in 2013 when he heard Saint John police were doing inspection stops near Harbour Station. LeBlanc drove his e-bike down to the site and received a ticket for operating an unregistered motor vehicle.

After winding through the courts for a year, however, the case was withdrawn.

LeBlanc says the provincial policy needs to be cemented in legislation to prevent it from being interpreted differently by different police officers. 

"There's nothing that will kill a business faster or more than relying on a policy rather than actual legislation," said LeBlanc.

"Nobody's going to invest a quarter million dollars in inventory, a storefront, etcetera to start selling product when overnight any bureaucrat can, with the stroke of a pen, can completely eliminate the policy and suddenly your business is no longer legal."

It is a "totally unfair position for the public to be put in," said LeBlanc. "Every province in Canada has e-bike legislation except New Brunswick, Northwest Territories and Nunavut."


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