Ottawa

Electric bikes hit the road in Ontario

Ontario cyclists can call on some motorized help to tackle tough hills now that the province has lifted a ban on electric bicycles.

Ontario cyclists can call on some motorized help to tackle tough hills now that the province has lifted a ban on electric bicycles.

Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield announced Wednesday in Toronto that the province will allow bicyclespowered by bothhuman musclesand anelectric motor on its roads.

Starting Wednesday, peopleare able toride electric bicycles— also known as e-bikes or power-assisted bicycles— in Ontario during a three-year trial.

"E-bikes will be able to travel on all roads where conventional bikes are allowed," Cansfield said.

She added that e-bikes will provide an easy-to-use transportation choice that willhelp reduce vehicle emissions and traffic congestion.

Environment Minister Laurel Brotensaidthe trial means shecan finallyuse the e-bike she bought two years ago. It has been sitting in her basementbecause of the ban.

The pilot project also pleased Jurgen Weichert, a spokesman for the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa, who said the bikes are ideal for tackling steep hills, strong winds and long distances and will allow more people to cycle more often.

'True human-hybrid vehicle'

His organization lobbied the province for more than two years to allow the bikes, which he says are 100 times more efficient than a car.

"You have a true human-hybrid vehicle that is fuelled on about five cents worth of electricity and the apple you ate for breakfast," he said.

Weichert said the bikes are ideal for tackling steep hills, strong winds or long distances.

The motor on an e-bike is designed to allow speeds of up to 32 km/h.

"Just in case you're concerned about that, that's about the same amount of speed you'd get if you were normally cycling," said Cansfield.

Only cyclists over the age of 16 will be allowed to ride e-bikes in Ontario.

They must have proper lights, brakes and a bell —just like other cyclists —and will face similar fines for traffic offences such as riding on sidewalks.

Higher fine

But e-bike riderswill receive ahigher finereserved for pilot projects if they cycle without a helmet — up to$2,500.

E-bikes have been allowed on Canada's roads under Transport Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Act since 2001.

B.C., Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba have transportation legislation that allows e-bikes, in agreement with federal laws.

Ontario's Highway Traffic Act requires e-bikes tomeet largely the sameregulationsas motorcycles.

In November 2005, Ontario legislation was passed allowing pilot testing of new transportation technologies.

The province had previously maintained that commercial e-bikesdid not meet the safety standards for on-road use.

With files from Canadian Press

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