B.C. Court Uphold e-Bike Ruling

By Ben Hamill - March 07 2021
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B.C. Court Uphold e-Bike Ruling

Electric scooters are once again making headlines in British Columbia. This after a British Columbia Court of Appeal recently ruled that a previous Supreme Court ruling that e-bikes that function more like scooters or mopeds than human-powered bicycles require driver’s licences and insurance, is formally upheld.

The initial case was brought before court for adjudication by Ali Ghadban, who in 2018 was issued a ticket in Surrey for riding his Motorino XMr without a registration, driver’s licence, and driver’s insurance. He claimed at the time that he had not been able to secure these from the ICBC.

Two of the three Appeal Court justices have however now ruled in agreement with a May 2020 Supreme Court ruling that even though Motorino electric bikes are only able to reach a maximum speed of 32 km/h and have a limited power output capacity while fitted with pedals for human assistance, they still don’t qualify as motor-assisted cycles. The reason provided by the justices is that the bikes aren’t primarily reliant on human power.

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The Pedals Are For The Show

The issue appears to be the bike’s particularly small pedals. According to Court of Appeal Justice Harvey M. Groberman, the miniature size of the pedals cannot be relied on to do very much to propel the 115kg bike forward. Justice Groberman said in his ruling that the Motorino XMr is by its very design purposed to operate as an electric motorcycle, or scooter.

Groberman also said that although the bike does meet several of the technical requirements of a motor-assisted cycle, which, according to B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, does not require the usual humdrum of licence, registration, and insurance, it doesn’t actually classify as the latter from a practical point of view.

The Two Sides Of The Argument

According to the argument raised by Ghadban via lawyer Dan Griffiths, he (Ghadban) is a man of “modest” and simple financial means. Ghadban relied mainly on his e-bike for getting around, argued Griffiths, and had been excited to find a means of transportation that was both affordable as well as friendly to the environment. The 35-year-old Ghadban does maintenance for homeless shelters in Downtown Eastside, said Griffiths, and has never been in possession of a driver’s licence.

Although regarded by some as overboard or even controversial, Erin O’Mellin, who is an executive director of the cycling advocacy group HUB, believes the ruling had been the correct decision to make. According to O’Mellin, electric scooters sharing a space such as human-powered bike lanes, pose many potential hazards.

Since electric bikes, mopeds, or scooters are much heavier than conventional bicycles, and move at much faster speeds, when these collide with a typical human-powered bicycle, the consequences could be disastrous for the person riding the ordinary bike, explained O’Mellin.

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