Whether you’re at home, on holiday or anywhere else, this quick guide will tell you everything you need to know to keep your E-Bike safe & legal in Canada.
Many countries have enacted electric vehicle laws to regulate the use of electric bicycles. Countries such as the United States and Canada have federal regulations governing the safety requirements and standards of manufacture.
However, laws and terminology are diverse. Some countries have national regulations but leave the legality of road use for states and provinces to decide. Municipal laws and restrictions add further complications. Systems of classification and nomenclature also vary. Jurisdictions may address “power-assisted bicycle” (Canada) or “electric pedal-assisted cycles” (European Union and United Kingdom) or simply “electric bicycles”. Some classify pedelecs as distinct from other bikes using electric power. Thus, the same hardware may be subject to many different classifications and regulations.
Eight provinces of Canada allow electric power assisted bicycles. In all eight provinces, e-bikes are limited to 500 W output, and cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph) on motor power alone on level ground. In Alberta prior to July 1, 2009, the limits were 750 W and 35 km/h (22 mph), but presently match federal legislation. Age restrictions vary in Canada. All require an approved helmet. Regulations may or may not require an interlock to prevent use of power when the rider is not pedaling. Some versions (e.g., if capable of operating without pedaling) of e-bikes require drivers’ licenses in some provinces and have age restrictions. Vehicle licenses and liability insurance are not required. Generally, they are considered vehicles (like motorcycles and pedal cycles), so are subject to the same rules of the road as regular bicycles. In some cases, regulatory requirements have been complicated by lobbying in respect of the Segway PT.
Bicycles assisted by a gasoline motor or other fuel are regulated differently from e-bikes. These are classified as motorcycles, regardless of the power output of the motor and maximum attainable speed.
Note that in Canada, the term “assist bicycle” is the technical term for an e-bike and “power-assisted bicycle” is used in the Canadian Federal Legislation, but is carefully defined to only apply to electric motor assist, and specifically excludes internal combustion engines (though this is not the case in the United States).
December 2019 to Oct 2020 laws are as followed: Nova Scotia (CAN) Since 2000, Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) have defined Power Assisted bicycles (PABs) as a separate category, and which require no license to operate. Ages 12 and up do not require any type of paper work, as long as motorized bike is not over 45 km/h (On roadway) & 80cc engine, and following speed regulations. If under age 16 (no drivers licence) are not allowed to drive on roadway, (bike lane and sidewalk is an exception) * NOTE * if entering a residential street, speedometer is required, points can be deducted from drivers licence. And young drivers 12 & up, must follow all guidelines. (mb80c-ns) PABs are currently defined as a two- or three-wheeled bicycle equipped with handlebars and operable pedals an attached electric motor of 500W or less, and a maximum speed capability of 32 km/h from the motor over level ground. 12 and up by law are allowed to drive 80 cc and below motorized bike engine on road (mb80c). Exceptions is residential areas without speedometer.
Other requirements include a permanently affixed label from the manufacturer in a conspicuous location stating the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle under the statutory requirements in force at the time of manufacture. All power-assisted bicycles must utilize an electric motor for assisted propulsion.
A power-assisted bicycle may be imported and exported freely within Canada without the same restrictions placed on auto-mobiles or a moped. Under federal law, power-assisted bicycles may be restricted from operation on some roads, lanes, paths, or thoroughfares by the local municipality.
Bicycle-style PABs are permitted on National Capital Commission’s (NCC) Capital Pathway network, but scooter-style PABs are prohibited. All PABs (bicycle- and scooter-style) are permitted on dedicated NCC bike lanes. All PABs are prohibited in Gatineau Park’s natural surface trails.
Provincial Requirements For Use
Alberta identifies e-bikes as “power bicycles” and is consistent with the federal definition of “power-assisted bicycle” in MVSR CRC, c 1038 s 2. Motor output must not exceed 500 W (0.671 hp) and e-bikes cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph). Fully operable pedals are required. No driver’s license, vehicle insurance, or vehicle registration is required. Operators must be 12 years of age or older. All operators are required to wear a motorcycle helmet meeting the standards set in AR 122/2009 s 112(2). A passenger is permitted only if the e-bike is equipped with a seat designated for that passenger.
An e-bike is identified as a “motor assisted cycle” (MAC) in British Columbia, which differs from electric mopeds and scooters, which are “limited-speed motorcycles.” Motor assisted cycles must: have an electric motor of no more than 500 W; have fully operable pedals; not be capable of propelling the device at a speed greater than 32 km/hr [19.9 mph]. The engine must disengage when (a) the operator stops pedaling, (b) an accelerator controller is released, OR (c) a brake is applied. A driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance are all not required. Rider must be 16 years old or more, and a bike helmet must be worn.
E-bikes in British Columbia must comply with all standards outlined in Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation, BC Reg 151/2002.
Ontario is one of the last provinces in Canada to move toward legalizing power-assisted bicycles (PABs) for use on roads, even though they have been federally defined and legal in Canada since early 2001. In November 2005, “Bill 169” received royal assent allowing the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to place any vehicle on road. On October 4, 2006, the Minister of Transportation for Ontario Donna Cansfield announced the Pilot Project allowing PABs which meet the federal standards definition for operation on road. PAB riders must follow the rules and regulations of a regular bicycles, wear an approved bicycle helmet and be at least 16 years or older. There are still a number of legal considerations for operating any bicycle in Ontario.
On October 5, 2009, the Government of Ontario brought in laws regulating electric bikes in the province. E-bikes, which can reach a speed of 32 kilometres per hour, are allowed to share the road with cars, pedestrians and other traffic throughout the province. The new rules limit the maximum weight of an e-bike to 120 kilograms, require a maximum braking distance of nine metres and prohibit any modifications to the bike’s motor that would create speeds greater than 32 kilometres per hour. Also, riders must be at least 16 years of age, wear approved bicycle or motorcycle helmets and follow the same traffic laws as bicyclists. Municipalities are also specifically permitted by the legislation to restrict where e-bikes may be used on their streets, bike lanes and trails, as well as restricting certain types of e-bike (e.g. banning “scooter-style” e-bikes from bicycle trails). E-bikes are not permitted on 400-series highways, expressways or other areas where bicycles are not allowed. Riding an e-bike under the age of 16 or riding an e-bike without an approved helmet are new offences in the legislation, carrying fines of between $60 and $500. E-bike riders are subject to the same penalties as other cyclists for all other traffic offences.
E-bikes are legal in Manitoba, so long as certain stipulations are met. The bike must not be designed to have more than three wheels touching the ground, the motor must stop providing motive power if the bike exceeds 32 km/h for any reason, the motor must be smaller than 500W, it has to have functioning pedals, if it’s engaged by a throttle, the motor immediately stops providing the vehicle with motive power when the driver activates a brake, and if engaged by the driver applying muscle power to the pedals, the motor immediately stops providing the vehicle with motive power when the driver stops applying muscle power. The bike must also have either a mechanism to turn the electric motor on and off that can be operated by the driver, and if the vehicle has a throttle, is separate from the throttle, or a mechanism that prevents the motor from engaging until the vehicle is traveling at 3 km/h or more. You must also be at least 14 years of age to operate an E-bike. All other Manitoba laws regarding cycling also apply.
To be allowed on the road it needs wheel rims larger than 9 inches, have a headlight for night, a seat at least 27 inches off the ground.
New Brunswick’s Policy on Electric Motor Driven Cycles and Electric Bicycles.
The Registrar will permit an electric motor driven cycle to be registered if it meets Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) as a Limited Speed Motorcycle, or Scooter as is done with gas powered motor driven cycles. If the vehicle was manufactured after 1988 it will bear a compliance label stating that it meets these standards. The operator will be subject to all the requirements placed on operators of motor driven cycles.
If the vehicle is able to powered by human force and has a motor 500W or less, and the motor is not capable of assisting when the vehicle is traveling at a speed greater than 32 km/h then it can be considered a bicycle and all the requirements placed on bicyclists are applicable.
It is important to note that if a vehicle has an electric motor greater than 500 watts and is capable of powering the vehicle when traveling at a speed greater than 32 km/h and it does not have a CMVSS compliance label it cannot be registered unless the owner can prove, by having the vehicle certified by an engineer, that it is safe for operation on NB highways. Also, not all vehicles are suitable for operation on NB highways and it could be that the vehicle in question may not be a motor driven cycle or a bicycle and cannot be operated on the highway at all.
Power Assisted Bicycle Label:
Manufacturers of e-bikes must permanently affix a label, in a conspicuous location, stating in both official languages that the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle as defined in the regulations under the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Homemade e-bikes will not have this label.
NOTE 1: The previous version of the policy had a section on it needing to “look like a bike” or a “bike style frame” but never defined what those were. That has been dropped and is no longer part of the new policy.
NOTE 2: The top speed of the bike if propelled by human power is the posted speed limit, but the motor is only allowed to get you up to and keep you at 32 km/hr. If the posted limit is under 32 then the posted limit is the limit allowed.
NOTE 3: There is no maximum weight limit.
NOTE 4: Ebikes are allowed to use cargo trailers/kid trailers.
NOTE 5: There is no minimum age set.
NOTE 6: DUI – If you have a DUI conviction the restrictions of the DUI override the ebike policy definition of an ebike as a bicycle and put it into the motor vehicle category.
In Newfoundland, electric assist bike owners must follow all federal legislation. The e-bike motors cannot be more powerful than 500 watts and the e-bike’s top speed has to be maximum 32 km/h. Drivers must wear a helmet. They also must have fully operable pedals which means the engine must disengage when the operator stops pedaling. However, they are allowed to have an accelerator controller.
In Nova Scotia power-assisted bicycles are classified similarly to standard pedal bicycles. The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act defines a power-assisted bicycle as a bicycle with an electric motor of 500 watts or less, with two wheels (one of which is at least 350 mm) or four wheels (two of which are at least 350mm). PABs are permitted on the road in the province of Nova Scotia as long as you wear an approved bicycle helmet with the chinstrap engaged. They do not have to meet the conditions defined within the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations for a motorcycle (they are not classed as “motor vehicles”), but they do have to comply with federal regulations that define Power Assisted Bicycles.
Prince Edward Island
Are treated as Mopeds and will need to pass inspection as a moped.
In Quebec power-assisted bicycles are often classified similarly to standard pedal bicycles. They do not have to meet the conditions defined within the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (they are not classed as “motor vehicles”), but they do have to comply with federal regulations that define Power Assisted Bicycles. The Quebec Highway Safety Code defines a power-assisted bicycle as a bicycle(2 or 3 wheels that touch the ground) with an electric motor with a maximum power of 500W and a top speed of 32 km/h bearing a specific compliance label permanently attached by the manufacturer. PABs are permitted on the road in the province of Quebec, but riders have to be 14 and over to ride the electric bicycle and if they’re under the age of 18, must have a moped or scooter license.
Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a 2 or 3-wheeled bicycle that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Both must have engines with 500 watt power or less, and must not be able exceed 32 km/h (20 mph), i.e., electric motor cuts out at this speed or cycle is unable to go this fast on a level surface. The power cycle has to meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) for a power-assisted bicycle. The power cycle requires at least a learner’s driving licence (class 7), and all of the other classes 1–5 may operate these also. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for each. Both are treated as bicycles regarding rules of the road. Gas powered or assisted bicycles are classified as motorcycles regardless of engine size or if using pedals plus motor. Stickers identifying the bicycle’s compliance with the Federal classification may be required for power cycles by some cities or municipalities.
Great article on E-bikes. I am a senior in Durham Region that rides my e-bike every chance I get. Curious to know if you have any research or articles that deal with off grid e-bike charging stations.