Canadians Calling E-bikes ‘Assist Bicycle’

Last Updated on March 30, 2021

Canadians Calling E-bikes ‘Assist Bicycle’

Ever noticed in Canada that people call e-bikes ‘assist bikes’ and ever wonder why this is?

The good news, you’re not the only one.

Electric bikes are referred to as ‘assist bicycles’ or ‘Power-assisted bicycle’ in Canada by the Canadian Federal Legislation because an electric motor assists them.

So why do they do this? Let’s find out!

Why Canadians call e-bikes ‘assist bicycles’:

According to Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations, ‘ Power Assisted Bicycles’ is separate from regular bikes but a completely different category to motor vehicles as they do not require a driver’s license to operate.

Canadians call e-bikes ‘pedal-assist bikes’ because they assist you as you pedal. E-bikes are powered by a motor that will assist you if you pedal up to 32km/h. Some E-bikes also come with throttles, so they will cycle without you having to pedal.

PABs are defined as either a two or three-wheeled bike equipped with handlebars and operable pedals. It comes with an attached motor of 500W or less and a maximum speed capability of 32km/h.

All Power-assisted bicycles in Canada must utilize an electric motor for assisted propulsion. Under Canadian federal law, some power-assisted bikes may be restricted on use on some roads, lanes, paths, or thoroughfares.

There are some other requirements when riding in Canada, which may differ from providence to providence. Let’s break it all down!

 

‘Assist Bike’ Laws and Regulations in Canada:

As the popularity of electric-assist bikes has risen, the laws have changed, changed, and changed again. Despite them not being as popular as in Europe and Asia, they are definitely catching on to the growing trend.

People are tending to opt-out of their motor vehicle for an e-bike instead. However, there are some key differences between the regulations of e-bikes in the US and Canada.

E-bikes can have a power output of up to 750W in the US, whereas, in Canada, they can only be regulated at 500W. However, despite the difference in wattage, the two motors go relatively the same speed.

An e-bike with 750w goes an average of 20mph, and one at 500W can still go at a speed of 19.8mph (32km/h). This decrease in wattage doesn’t make a huge difference in the feel of the e-bike, and the 500W has a much more vast range than the 750W models.

Here are the key law differences between Canada and the United States: 
  •  Helmets are mandatory across all provinces and territories in Canada for an e-bike unless the law says otherwise.
  • There are age differences between each province; for example, in one province such as British Columbia, you have to be 16 years or older to ride an e-bike whereas, in other provinces, you can be as young as 12.
  • In some provinces, it is the law that e-bikes with throttles have licenses.
  • Specific e-bike labeling is required on all e-bikes in Canada.

How the law differs from province to province in Canada:

Similarly to the US, the law about e-bikes slightly differs from province to province, and each provincial state has the authority to implement its own law when it comes to e-bikes and the law.

Alberta:

In Alberta, riders of e-bikes need to be at least 12 years old to operate the bike. If the rider is younger than 16 years old, they cannot carry any bike passengers.

So if you’re under 16 and want to carry your friends to the park you can’t, I’m afraid. You do not need a license, registration, or insurance to operate electric bikes in this province.

British Columbia: 

To ride electric bikes in British Columbia, you need to be at least 16 years or older. E-bikes in this province are also known as a motor-assisted cycle (MAC).

You don’t need to have a driver’s license, have registration or insure your e-bike in British Columbia. Still, you must follow the bicycle safety laws and regulations for that certain state.

Electric Bike Legislation in British Columbia indicates that the rider must be equipped with a mechanism that:

  • Allows the driver to turn the motor on/off easily.
  • Prevent the motor from turning on or engaging before the e-bike is up to a speed of 3km/h and must disengage when the operator stops pedaling, releases the accelerator, or applies the brake.

 

Manitoba:

In the province of Manitoba, you have to be at least 14 years of age to operate an electric bike. Helmets are mandatory, like all over Canada. The government requirement is that the helmet should fit on the rider’s head securely and comfortably.

Riders should cycle in single-file unless passing another cyclist or turning off down another road. Riders should abide by all laws and regulations set by the standard bicycles and vehicles regulations.

No rider or any bike, not just e-bikes, should ride on the sidewalk where the rear wheel diameter exceeds the diameter of 40mm.

Quebec:

In Quebec, you need to be at least 14 to operate an e-bike. Those who are 14-17 also need to have a class 6D license (the same license required to operate a moped or scooter).

However, if you’re older than 18 years old, you will not be required to have a driver’s license, nor do you need to be registered or insured.

E-bikes can be used on public roadways, except for highways; they also need to abide by laws that apply to cyclists, such as the highway safety code.

 

New Brunswick: 

In New Brunswick, the laws regarding e-bikes are in line with federal law. The only difference between this province and others is that e-bikes are allowed to operate on sidewalks.

There isn’t much information about the age limit either, but if you have any cause for concern, then I would recommend consulting your local law enforcement for peace of mind.

Newfoundland and Northwest Territories:  

In these areas, there is no mention of an age limit for e-bikes; as with New Brunswick, if you have any cause for concern, then reach out to your local law enforcement.

Cyclists must follow all the federal e-bike laws except that wearing a helmet is not required, but it is definitely advised.

Nunavut:

Again, there is no information regarding an age limit when riding an e-bike in Nunavut in Canada, but I would always recommend checking with your local law enforcement.

Riders in Nunavut have to abide by all federal ebike laws. Still, just like Newfoundland and Northwest Territories, cyclists are not required to wear a helmet, but again very much recommended to do so.

Nova Scotia: 

This is yet another province where there is no information regarding an age limit for e-bike users. In Nova Scotia, cyclists must cycle in single file on all highways except for passing a cyclist or turning.

Riders are allowed on all roads in Nova Scotia unless indicated otherwise with a sign saying ‘no bikes or slow-moving vehicles allowed.’

Yukon:

Like some other provinces, Yukon does not indicate an age limit; helmets are also not required in Yukon.

You can even ride an e-bike on the sidewalks as long as the motor is not engaged; all you need to do is follow the rules that apply to all cyclists.

Ontario:

Like in British Columbia, you need to be 16 years or older to operate an e-bike in Ontario. Like in all provinces in Canada, you do not need a driver’s license, vehicle permit, or license plate to ride an e-bike..

The only requirement is for you to follow the same road or standard cyclists; you are also permitted and encouraged to use the bike lanes in Toronto.

E-bikes are allowed on most of the same roads and highways as regular cyclists, but there are a couple of restrictions and exceptions:  

  • Municipal roads such as sidewalks, any form of bicycle are banned.
  • E-bikes are restricted from using bike paths, bike lanes, bike trails, sidewalks.  

Saskatchewan:

In this province, riders must be at least 14 years old; they also need to follow all the rules under the traffic safety act that applies to all normal vehicles.

If your pedal-assisted electric bike where municipalities restrict the use, then it is not allowed to be used in this province.

Prince Edward Island: 

In Prince Edward Island, you need to be 16 years or older to operate an electric bicycle; e-bikes are also categorized differently from other Canadian areas.

E-bikes are labeled as motor-assisted pedal bicycles and cannot exceed the power output of 50cc’s and cannot exceed the sped of 32km/h.

E-bike users have to follow the same rules and regulations set for standard bikes and vehicles.

Summary:

All in all, power-assisted bicycles are just another way to describe e-bikes in Canada. They refer to the bike by the motor rather than it being electric.

If you’re thinking of taking your e-bike to Canada from the US or even live in Canada, then make sure you’re following all the right rules and motor vehicle safety regulations for your e-bike.

Want to know more about the laws all around the world? Well, check out this guide here! 

Happy biking!

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