DRAFT DOCUMENT CONCERNING E-BIKE USE IN THE CITY OF WHITEHORSE (Dec. 15, 2019)
The Yukon Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) defines e-bikes as electric-power assisted cycles. See http://www.gov.yk.ca/legislation/acts/move_c.pdf (p. 3). It then goes on to describe such vehicles, a description which will be found at the end of this document.
The MVA seems to be describing a Class 1 e-bike, which is “a bike equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedalling (pedal assist) and ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches 32 km/h and has a maximum continuous wattage output of 500 watts.” (See https://www.whistler.ca/sites/default/files/2019/Jul/related/25085/appendix_a.pdf (p. 1) Some call such bikes Pedelecs, or Motor Assisted Bicycles (MAC’s).
There are at least two other classes of e-bikes as well as numerous other electric mobility devices such as the following: electric adaptive mountain bikes, motorized wheelchairs and mobility scooters, e-scooters, e-skateboards, stand-up e-scooters, Segways, and hoverboards.
Under the MVA electric power-assisted cycles vehicles are considered to be excluded motor vehicles. In other words, just like snowmobiles they are not considered to be motor vehicles. (The City of Whitehorse considers snowmobiles to be motorized vehicles.)
Apparently, the “Commissioner in Executive Council may make regulations establishing the age below which a person is prohibited from operating an electric power-assisted cycle on a highway.”(MVA 123.02) In other words, although there are apparently no territorial age restrictions at present for those operating electric powered-assisted cycles, such restrictions could be put into place at any time if the government so wished. (Apparently, BC requires operators to be 16 years of age, use a helmet, and conform to safety rules applicable to non-motorized bicycles.)
As you know the City of Whitehorse can have stricter regulations concerning the use of e-bikes than those of the Government of Yukon. Current City policies, bylaws, and definitions seem to suggest that it does indeed have stricter rules with regard to e-bike use. It appears that in the City e-bikes are only permitted on motorized trails, as they are equipped with a motor, albeit an electric motor.
For example, the City’s Bicycle Bylaw defines a bicycle as “any cycle, excluding a mobility device, propelled solely by human power, upon which a person may ride, regardless of the number of wheels it may have.” So, e-bikes cannot be lumped in with bicycles as far as the Bicycle Bylaw is concerned.
The Official Community Plan(OCP) defines active transportation modes as being human-powered. The Transportation Demand Management Plan defines active transportation as “Self-propelled (non-motorized) transportation that relies on the use of human energy such as walking, cycling, inline skating and jogging.” These two plans suggest that e-bikes are not allowed on any trail that the City specifically builds for active transportation use.
Yet, strangely enough, the Bicycle Network Plan makes reference to electric assist bicycles, indicating that they are becoming more popular. Mentioning electric assist bicycles in a document dedicated to a discussion of human powered bicycles and active modes of transportation, suggests that those who wrote the Plan feel that e-bikes are bicycles and active forms of transportation and recreation, something with which the OCP, Bicycle Bylaw and Transportation Demand Management Plan do not appear to agree.
The Trail Maintenance Policy specifically says that motorized vehicles are not permitted on single-track trails, although strangely enough this does not apply to snowmobiles due to the Snowmobile Bylaw, except for those trails specifically listed under Schedules C and E in that bylaw. (See p. 3 top at https://www.whitehorse.ca/home/showdocument?id=436). In any case, this would suggest that one is not to use an e-bike on any single-track trail located within City boundaries.
The 2007 Trail Plan provides a category entitled Non-motorized Multiple use Trails. On such trails motorized vehicles are not permitted, although this is not necessarily the case when it comes to snowmobiles. However, as there is no City e-bike bylaw or policy, one could well conclude that so-called non-motorized trails in Whitehorse are off limits to e-bikes, when this may not actually be the intention.
We need clarity when it comes to the operation of e-bikes in Whitehorse. In other words, we need to know where we can legally operate said vehicles within the City, at what speeds they can be operated depending on where they are being used, and what age requirements must be met. There could be serious liability concerns should one get into an accident while operating an e-bike on a trail on which it is not permitted.
One would suspect that those selling such bikes would welcome that a set of clear regulations be established for e-bike use. In addition, those who presently own such bikes, or those who are contemplating buying one for use in the City on both paved and non-paved trails, would also appreciate some clear rules be established.
As there appears to be some controversy concerning the use of e-bikes on mountain bike trails, hiking trails, and even on paved urban trails, the City needs to consult with users and come up with a policy or bylaw with which all can live. As Claudia Wasko said in her article entitled, Why More States Need to Adopt the Three-Class eBike System, such bikes“have the potential to expand bike riding to new audiences and keep people riding bikes throughout their lives. But some confusion around how and where they can be ridden is dampening their growth potential and as an emerging technology, they require clear regulations to govern their use and create stability in the marketplace.” (See https://www.bosch-ebike.com/us/everything-about-the-ebike/stories/three-class-ebike-system/.)
On July 9 , Whistler Council supported a draft policyfor electric powered personal mobility devices, including e-bikes, on recreational trails in the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW). Mayor Jack Crompton said, “This policy provides guidance for the appropriate, responsible and respectful use of e-mobility devices in Whistler. With increasing demand for e-bike use in Whistler, this policy will help to manage the expectations, potential impacts and experience of residents, visitors and businesses.”
We understand that the e-bike issue is one which Bylaw Services is very much aware, and that various City departments will eventually be involved in addressing the concerns we have mentioned related to their use, and that this will involve public consultation.
Our intent is to ensure that members of Council are aware of the issue and will do what it can to ensure that it is dealt with sooner rather that later. This in order to provide clarity concerning e-bike use, for sellers, e-bike owners, and those contemplating the purchase of an electric-power assisted cycle.
Keith Lay Active Trails Whitehorse Association www.activetwa.org
Yukon Motor Vehicles Act description of electric-power assisted cycles. (a) has steering handlebars and is equipped with pedals, (b) is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, (c) is capable of being propelled by muscular power, (d) has one or more motors that are electric only and have, singly or in combination, the following characteristics (i) a continuous power output rating, measured at the shaft of each motor, of 500 W or less in total for the motor or combination of motors, (ii) if the motor or combination of motors is engaged by the use of muscular power, power assistance immediately ceases when the muscular power ceases, (iii) if the motor or combination of motors is engaged by the use of an accelerator controller, power assistance immediately ceases when the brakes are applied, and (iv) the motor or combination of motors is incapable of providing further assistance when the vehicleattains a speed of 32 km/h on level ground, (e) bears a label that is permanently affixed by the manufacturer and appears in a conspicuous location stating that the vehicle is an electric power-assisted vehicle as defined in this subsection, (f) has one of the following safety features, (i) an enabling mechanism to turn the electric motor or combination of motors on and off that is separate from the accelerator controller and fitted in such a manner that it is operable by the driver, or (ii) a mechanism that prevents the motor or combination of motors from being engaged before the vehicle attains a speed of 3 km/h, (g) has a brake for each wheel or axle, and(h) is equipped so that gears cannot be changed once the engine is activated;