With rising gas prices, many Canadians are re-evaluating how they get around. As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions begin to ease, the country is beginning to open up again. Unfortunately, the recent surge in fuel prices have not made returning to the office very appealing. Many are searching for alternatives.  The benefits of commuting on a bicycle are plentiful: It’s good for the environment, saves you money, and can even be faster than getting stuck in traffic. However, not everyone likes idea of an intense workout first thing in the morning. Commuting by e-bike allows you to be able to experience the benefits of cycling without the workout. We’ve put together a guide to e-bikes; examine what qualifies as one, the different types available, and your insurance options. Additionally, we will also look at cost-friendly alternatives to purchasing a new e-bike.

What are E-Bikes?

An electric bicycle, or e-bike, is a bicycle with an electric motor that you can activate in order to assist you or replace pedalling. It is a two- or three-wheel cycle with a seat, pedal and electric motor. An e-bike is also a bicycle that has a handlebar for steering, working pedals and braking systems. To legally drive an e-bike in Canada, you must be 16 years of age or older and wear a helmet. There is no licence necessary because of the limited power, speed restriction, safety features, and ease of use that these bikes offer. Your e-bike must meet certain requirements to legally operate on roads in Ontario. This includes its weight and speed limits.

FYI: Removing the pedals on your e-bike makes it a motor vehicle. You would then require a licence, insurance and registration to operate it.  It is also illegal for you to modify your e-bike’s electric motor to make it more powerful or to increase the speed of the bike.

Operating an E-Bike

There are some legal requirements you must abide by to operate an e-bike:

  • You need to be 16 years of age or older
  • You must wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet
  • Always keep your e-bike in good working order
  • You must follow the same rules of the road as other cyclists

Where can you ride an E-Bike?

You can ride your e-bike on most roads and highways where conventional bicycles are permitted, with some exceptions:

  • The 400 series, the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Queensway in Ottawa or the Kitchener-Waterloo Expressway
  • Any municipal roads, including sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails or bike lanes where e-bikes are prohibited
DYK: These bikes are prohibited in recreational parks? If caught, you are subject to a fine of $250!

What Are The Different Types Of Electric Bikes?

According to the City Of Toronto website, your e-bikes falls into one of two categories:

1. Pedal-assist E-Bikes (Pedelecs)

Pedelec is the collective name for electric-powered bicycles that offer pedal assistance. This would be your traditional bike that only delivers power when you push on the pedals. Pedelecs can be on roads and all types of cycling infrastructure (paths, parks, cycle tracks, bike lanes). You can take your bike on ferries to the Toronto Islands if it has a wheel diameter of 26″ or larger.

2. Power-assist electric bikes

Power-assist e-bikes operate solely by motor power and are only allowed on roads and within bike lanes. Your e-bike can be bicycle-style, scooter-style or moped-style. Regardless of style or appearance, you do not require any muscular power or pedalling to move. You must follow all of the laws in Ontario for e-bikes.

If you are searching for an electric bike, there are a few categories that you can choose from to suit your needs and style. E-bikes come in different styles and bike uses that resemble traditional bike function. To start commuting on an e-bike, you’ll need to choose the right model for you. Hybrid and foldable e-bikes are great commuter choices. Understanding your bike’s range, charging time, and how to secure it at your destination will help you ride it safely and effectively. To learn more about how to choose the best e-bike, click here.

What is the Cost of an E-Bike?

Similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes come in all shapes and sizes, with many different features. While you can get an electric bike in the $600 range, you are better off spending a little more to get a reliable model. The cheapest electric bikes cost about $600 CDN, while most of the more reputable ones are in the $900-$1,500 range. The highest bikes top out at $8,000. According to research by ebikeshq.com, there are over 450+ models. The vast majority of electric bikes (over 70%) fell in the range of $1,000 – $4,000, about 25% of e-bikes are above $4,000 and very few (less than 5%) below $1,000.

What Is an E-Bike Conversion Kit?       

If the cost of a new e-bike is more than you are willing to invest, there is another option. You can transform a bike that you already love into an e-bike. By adding an electric bike conversion kit, you can have an electric bike for less money. It may be just the answer to getting the boost in power you are after without the hefty price tag. There are several different styles of e-bike conversion kits available, each with different advantages and disadvantages. For more information about e-bike conversions, click here.

Do You Need Insurance for an E-Bike?

If your regular bicycle is stolen, your home insurance will typically cover the cost of replacing or repairing it. But an e-bike isn’t a normal bicycle. The cost of an entry-level e-bike starts at more than $1,000 and the average rider spends around $3,000 on their e-bike. A typical home insurance policy won’t be enough to cover the replacement or repair costs if your e-bike gets taken or is damaged.

While you do not have a legal requirement to insure your e-bike, don’t forget there’s a chance that you can be apart of a collision while riding. E-bikes are heavier and quicker than a regular bike. These factors increase your chance of being in a collision, which can lead to you causing damage to someone else’s property or bodily harm to a person. Without liability insurance in place, you can be personally responsible and on the hook for substantial financial liabilities. Having the proper insurance in place for an e-bike is a bit tricky. Some traditional home insurance companies consider an e-bike a motorized vehicle, and therefore, only offer limited coverage for theft, damage, or liability. Some auto insurance companies may not insure your e-bike because you’re not required to register the vehicle or have a valid driver’s licence to operate it.

Insurance Options for E-Bikes

One option is to speak to your isure representative about adding custom coverage to your current policy. Remember, insurance policies are generally “off-the-shelf” and contain standard wording. If your e-bike doesn’t have proper coverage for theft, damage, and liability by your current standard policy, it’s possible that your broker can add an endorsement that overrides the standard policy wording to provide you with the coverage you need. Naturally, this will increase your monthly premium.

Pedal Power Insurance

In Canada, insurers aren’t warm to the idea of e-bikes, and therefore, our legislation surrounding e-bikes is vague. There is currently only one insurance company that offers coverage for e-bikes: Pedal Power. These insurers specialize in e-bike insurance and offers three coverage options. The cost of the coverage depends on the value of the bike being insured. According to Pedal Power, for a person over the age of 21 with no claims or thefts, the cost for fire, theft, and collision coverage on a $2,500 e-bike would be about $163/year. If the person has a $13,000 e-bike, the cost of the fire, theft, and collision coverage will be $796/year.

Pedal Power cover many of the essentials, like:

  • Third-Party Liability with a $1,000,000 limit
  • Personal accident with a basic rate of $60
  • Full coverage for physical damage and theft
  • Competitive event extension should you choose to participate in races

Currently, Canada is more than likely still testing the waters when coming up with the right e-bike legislation. Hopefully, legislation will keep pace with the growing interest in e-bikes as a more affordable and greener means of transport around the streets of Ontario.

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