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Ruling confirms e-bikes are not motor vehicles

|Written By Breanne Nicholson

Riders of electric scooters, or e-bikes, may escape future moving violations thanks to an Ontario Court of Justice ruling that determined a power-assisted bicycle does not constitute as a motor vehicle.

E-bikes like this one, even with the pedals not attached, are not motor vehicles, ruled an Ontario court. (Photo: MSVG/Flickr)

Justice Donald Dudar dismissed charges against Ricky Pizzacalla of St. Catharines, Ont., for allegedly operating an uninsured motor vehicle that failed to display visible licence plates.

The decision came after a lengthy debate between the Crown and Pizzacalla, over whether the Highway Traffic Act classifies the bicycle as a motor vehicle.

“This case is beset by a troubled history and context,” Dudar wrote. “It may well be that this troubled history simply reflects ambiguity in legislative drafting.”

Pizzacalla was allegedly accused of violating s. 2 of the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act, and s. 7 of the Highway Traffic Act for operating a power-assisted bicycle without proper ministry documentation.

The charges were first made on Feb. 22, 2010, after constable David Attwood saw Pizzacalla operating “a blue and white 0202 Sports Cycle” along the curb lane of a two-lane road in St. Catharines.

Attwood followed the “scooter-like” vehicle for about 15 to 20 seconds, and noticed that it had no pedals and was battery operated, requiring “no muscle power.”

But according to the court ruling, Pizzacalla insisted that he did not require a driver’s licence and registration, indicating the e-bike had attachable pedals. He also claimed that according to the HTA, his vehicle constitutes as a “power assisted bicycle,” which exempted him from the alleged charges.

“When a ‘power-assisted bicycle’ is operated while missing some piece or part, does it then get taken outside the scope of exception?’” Dudar wrote. In court, he later determined that although the pedals were not in use at the time, they could be reattached, noting that the speed of the vehicle would decrease.

“I believe that it is clear, particularly in the circumstances of this case, that the vehicle was ‘capable of being propelled solely by muscular power,’ by simply re-attaching the pedals which were readily available,” wrote Dudar.

Dudar cited former rulings, including R. v. Vanberlo, which made it “clear that a change to a vehicle must be substantial to establish a basis for finding that it has converted from one use to another.”

Despite the Crown’s evidence that the vehicle required no manpower, Dudar determined that the e-bike’s attachable pedals constituted it as “power assisted” and not a motor vehicle.

“I would say this is analogous to saying that a pole vaulter without a pole is no longer “capable of pole vaulting,”’ wrote Dudar.

This is the second time that Pizzacalla faced charges for operating the motorized bike. In court, Pizzacalla noted that he had similar charges overturned after taking them to appeal.

  • Looking for other winning cases???

    Tom W
    I am still fighting my appeal for EBike. Does anyone have cases in Ontario that have found and won (other than Pizza)
  • Some people don't drive cars

    Chad McColm
    I think these ebikes are the way all should get around in big towns. It would be much better and less traffic jams. It's the same a driving a motorcycle but with out all the the exhaust.
  • Really?

    Chris T.
    These things are dangerous to all on the road. Most riders have no respect for the rules of the road, and most have no common sense. These bikes should have license plates, registration and insurance. I've had many close calls and if one hits me, whose insurance covers that? It's ridiculous. I have NEVER EVER, seen anyone pedalling one of these. I'm going to start adding pedals to all my vehicles so I don't have tp pay insurance....ya right.
  • Yabba Dabba Dooo

    Anthony Maw
    So if I cut holes in the floor of my car and can move my car by pushing off with my (bare) feet a-la "Fred Flintstone style" does it constitute a "power-assisted vehicle" ? All kidding aside the real concern is for public safety - if an electric bike is heavy enough and can go fast enough like a small motorcycle, that it can cause serious injury to a pedestrian (think baby in a push carriage), then the rider be subject to the same licensing requirements and obligations as said small motorcycle. Notwithstanding the legal gibberish it comes down to a matter of public safety.
  • RE: Ruling confirms e-bikes are not motor vehicles

    Lorne turcotte
    Get these things off the road, had one run into me the other day, guess who is paying for the damage.The Low Life driving it has no money,no job and because of our great laws no insurance. Soon one of them will be killed in an accident and then we will see what happens
  • wrong

    Brandon bertrend
    you should think before you type just because people own a e bike does not mean they are a low life i own 2 ebikes and multiple cars who covers damage if a normal bocyle hits you your insurance does same goes with ebike
  • Wrong

    Clean Air
    I was riding an ebike and I was rear ended by a car. The driver was charged with failure to share the road. The driver of the car is suing me and my car insurance will not appoint me a lawyer because they say that the ebike is not a motorized vehicle.
  • Continued

    Jack Frost
    can still be overruled by section (C)
    go to this site:
    http://laws.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C.R.C.,_c._1038.pdf
    search definition 4 "power-assisted bicycle"
    check with your registra, a "Power-assisted bicycle"
    doesn't have 2 have a Certificated
    of registration because it is a
    "Power-assisted bicycle". "Vehicle" in the Alberta
    Registry means
    "A motor vehicle" & a motor vehicle is not a
    "Power-assisted vehicle
  • Mr.

    Bruce Morrison
    I just wanted to confirm the news I heard this morning: as long as the pedals are under my seat I can ride my eBike. I got this info from Joe at GoGreen eBikes here in St. Catharines, Ontario. Thank you very much.
  • E-Bike

    Rick pizza
    The Crown Appeal Dismissed ,
  • wrong rulings

    dave schulz
    These vehicles are under bicycle law as there is no other laws for these type of vehicle. These vehicles cannot even reach 50km. So they are unable to be licensed or insured as a so called automoble. Cars drive on the roads, bicycles ride on the side of the road as they were forced by law not to ride on the sidewalk. Electric and small engine bicycles have been in existance since the early 1900's and that was why bicycle laws were written. I was ticketed for driving my bicycle with no license and finded a bicycle fine. The evidence is growing to the proof of extortion by you know who.
  • ebike ruling

    tom woehl
    To Ebiker #14. You are probably screwed. Our court case was January 13, 2014 and we got almost $10,000 in fines (no insurance and driving while suspended! We had ONE pedal removed for SAFETY only - and for about 20 minutes. Weather was horrible and the pedal was causing him to drift into the side of the road and catch on the snow. We had just got the car license back last August and the license is once again suspended for this "infraction". Can't drive until July 2014 and Lord knows what the insurance will cost us. No doubt too much to drive! Can't say enough about the unfairness of this ruling. Apparently each Judge can rule as they wish - didn't know the "law" worked that way. Good luck to you - it's seems it's the luck of the draw on who you get as a Judge.
  • Dubar ruling

    Ebiker
    What is the status of the crown appeal. I am facing a similar charge.
  • E Bike appeal

    Tom woehl
    We are facing same charges as Pizzacalla which is currently being appealed by the Crown after Judge Donald Dubar dismissed the numerous charges against Pizzacalla regarding the removal of pedals from his ebike. Court on Jan 13/14. What should we expect at Court? Will these charges also be dismissed?
  • RE: Ruling confirms e-bikes are not motor vehicles

    daveschulz
    I guess it is differant here in B.C. taking the pedals off, you can be charged for the above. Even if it has a tag that it is a PAB. All motor vehicles are in reality are electric. Combustion type of vehicles have a engine in them.
  • Speed and Mass

    Anthony Maw
    Public safety is the overarching consideration for any road transportation. In general the faster a vehicle moves or the heavier it is, the more likely it will do significant damage or cause significant injury in the event of a collision. Electrically powered bikes can theoretically exceed 100km/h - that's a safety hazard. Similarly, heavy electric bikes can cause substantial injury or property damage if not handled properly, and the owner should be easily identifiable and held liable, as in any transportation accident. In some jurisdictions like Vancouver, commercial courier bicycles are required to carry license plates so that they can be identified when they schmuck a pedestrian or scrape a car. Makes sense to me to require plates on e-bikes too, but let's not make it yet another bloated bureaucracy that just funds the fat pensions of yet another government worker.
  • RE: Ruling confirms e-bikes are not motor vehicles

    BGG
    I fail to see anything important about this case. Why would the police charge this person. Is it that they simply don't like e-bikes? Why would the Crown waste its limited resources in prosecuting this individual? Why did the JP write such a detailed decision? Maybe I am missing something.
  • RE: Ruling confirms e-bikes are not motor vehicles

    mariposaman
    @BGG Because they can. Federal Law and Ontario Law defines an ebike as having pedals. The pedals are easily removable, so some people remove them. Due to a loophole, this allows police to say this is no longer an ebike because it does not fit the definition of an ebike, and therefore must be a motor vehicle because of the small electric motor present. Saying the ebike is no longer an ebike removes the insurance, license, and plates exemption, and allows police to charge the ebike rider with no insurance, minimum $5000 fine, plus costs, as well as various other offenses like no plates, no sticker, no license, failure to produce proof of insurance, etc., costing various dollar amounts. A person caught with no pedals faces costs of thousands of dollars for a first offense, up to $25,000. This court case closes that loophole for the police, they can no longer charge an ebike with no pedals as a motor vehicle.
  • motorman
    having no pedals constitute a defective vehicle offense with (I believe) an $85 fine, the same as having no horn, mirrors, etc...
  • mariposaman
    I agree that is what it should be. However law enforcement have not done that, preferring to turn said ebike with no pedals into a motor vehicle and removing all motor vehicle exemptions. By the way, mirrors are not a requirement on bicycles, "e" or otherwise.
  • mariposaman
    JW I would be interested in the details of the case.

    Here is a case summary of R. v Pizzacalla, was your case cited or considered? http://canlii.ca/t/fvxv6

    I am trying to track down the results of identical charges against Mr. Bunyan by Niagara Regional Police in 2011, last known court date in 2012
  • ken kalynuik
    mariposaman
    this case was appealed by the crown,and my girl friend is charged the same and going thro the courts and was told that the case of pizzacalla doesnt help her.isnt the judges decision final till the appeal is herd?can you help me with that
    thanks ken
  • mariposaman
    sorry @ken kalyniuk, I am not a lawyer, just a lay person advocating for fair treatment of ebikes. Who told you Pizzacalla descision does not help? Ontario law is case law set by precendence, this is precedence.
  • RE: Ruling confirms e-bikes are not motor vehicles

    JW
    I tried a similar case with a similar outcome in Kingston two years ago! The JP found that even without pedals attached, it was still an e-bike as the statute clearly contemplated the ability to operate an e-bike without the pedals.

    The law did change slightly after that, but that part was still the same, I believe.
  • Rick pizza
    # JW you tried a similar case in Kingston 2 yrs ago were the JP found with out pedals ,is still and power-assisted bicycle is still and E-bike can you provide to me the info on the oral rule and doc # would be most important to there appeal to me thank you
  • Tim Leach
    Hi Rick,

    As a lawyer and an e-bike rider I was very interested to learn of this decision. Has it been appealed by the Crown?

    Tim Leach
    Toronto

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