toronto e-bike

E-bikes will now be allowed to use Toronto bike lanes

Toronto city council says e-bikes are welcome in the bike lane. Going against the advice of the public works committee, councillors voted 23-17 to grant power-assisted bicycles use of the city's painted bike lanes late yesterday evening.

Previously, e-bikes and pedelecs - bicycles fitted with small motors - were required to share the road with motorists, though the laws were decidedly fuzzy. The official Toronto definition of a bicycle, the only vehicles allowed to use bike lanes, was limited to muscle-powered devices.

Under the new rules created via a motion by Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, e-bikes will still be banned from off-road trails, footpaths, and physically separated bike lanes, like the ones recently added to Sherbourne Street.

Mayor Rob Ford, Doug Ford, Mike Del Grande, Karen Stintz, and several other conservative-leaning councillors with Pam McConnell, Paula Fletcher, and regular cyclist Glenn De Baeremaeker voted in favour of the changes.

Cycling group Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists was swift to condemn the decision. "Any injuries to cyclists caused by e-bikes in bike lanes will be City Council's responsibility," the group tweeted.

A 2013 study by Toronto's Transportation Services devision found almost half of e-bike riders thought the vehicles should be allowed in the bike lane. Just 12% of cyclists agreed, citing the size, speed, and weight of e-bikes as a safety concern. The motorized scooters are significantly heavier compared to conventional bicycles and are capable of higher speeds.

"The likelihood of being injured when struck by a 120 kg vehicle [the maximum e-bike weight] travelling at 32 kmh [the maximum speed] is probably far greater than if struck by a lighter bicycle travelling at a slower speed," a city report on the matter said, though no collision data was available.

To fit the official definition of an e-bike, the vehicle must be fitted with functional pedals. No license or insurance is required; riders must be over 16 and wear a bicycle or motorcycle helmet, the law says.

The cities of Ottawa and Mississauga both allow e-bikes to use bike lanes.

Advocacy group Cycle Toronto has a permanent statement regarding e-bikes on its website. "We do not believe electric scooters should be permitted to use infrastructure intended for active transportation, as their speed, size and weight make them hazardous to others within those confines," it says.

What do you think of the decision? Do e-bikes pose a safety risk to cyclists? Should bicycles learn to share the lane with e-bikes?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Vic Gedris/blogTO Flickr pool.

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