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The Moving Ontarians More Safely Act would restrict e-bikes to 50 kilograms and make illegal the vast majority already on the road, critics say
A new bill being pushed by the Ford government that would make most “power-assisted bicycles,” or e-bikes, illegal in Ontario is scheduled for a vote Friday.
Called the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, or “MOMS” for short, the bill, which classifies e-bikes by wheel size and weight, would restrict e-bikes in Ontario to 50 kilograms and a wheel size of at least 35 millimetres wide (approximately one and a half inches) and 350 millimetres in diameter (approximately 14 inches).
The classifications are very different from those used in Europe and the U.S. where e-bikes are classified according to motor power, top speed and whether they have a throttle.
At committee last week, Ben Cowie of the London Bicycle Cafe argued that, as currently written, “MOMs would make illegal the vast majority of e-bikes that are currently on the road in Ontario.”
It’s not clear if the intent of the bill is to ban e-bikes that don’t meet the specifications set out in the bill or if it’s just a mistake. Questions posed at committee to government MPPs and the ministry of transportation have gone unanswered.
Hopefully, the Ford government is not intent on restricting the use of e-bikes as it has electric cars. In 2018, the Ford government ended the provincial subsidy for electric cars, tore electric car charging stations out of GO Transit parking lots and eliminated building code regulations that required all newly-built garages and parking spots to be ready for charging stations for electric cars.
E-bikes are among the fastest growing segment of the transportation industry.
Mike Stein, general manager of Toronto-based Amego E-bikes, reports a quadrupling of sales over the past year as more people turn to more affordable modes of transportation. The trend is also taking place in the U.S. and Europe, where annual sales of e-bikes are expected to quadruple to 17 million by 2030 – and where people are giving up their cars and using e-bikes instead.
Derek Rayside, who on the Toronto waterfront with his wife and two kids, gave up the family car four years ago, partly out of frustration with gridlock. The last kilometre of his daily trip home often took 45 minutes, especially if a Blue Jays or Leafs game was getting out. His family traded in their car for a triple tandem e-bike. He says the electric assist gives his family the extra range they need to go to places like the Science Centre or to get groceries at Costco in Etobicoke.
“The electric assist is a game changer in reducing car dependence,” says Rayside. “There’s no ordinary family transportation task that you can’t do with a family e-bike.”
E-bikes are also making cycling more accessible to women, seniors and people with disabilities.
Darnell Harris of the Greenway Conservancy argues that “inclusive cycling for all” is possible with e-bikes and last week showed the legislative committee pictures of seniors riding in three-wheeled e-bikes, some of which had a separate seat up front for people with disabilities.
E-bikes also help to reduce congestion and improve road safety in urban centres like Toronto argues Patrick Brown, a lawyer with Bike Law Canada.
“The less space that a vehicle takes the better traffic can move, and the fewer crashes.”
But Brown acknowledges that regulations are needed on size, speed and where e-bikes are allowed to travel to make sure that other road users and pedestrians are protected.
Is the current wording of the bill an error or is the Ford government banning e-bikes? We’ll find outon Friday.
Chris Glover is NDP MPP for Spadina-Fort York.