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What is an "E-Bike", and what does the law say about riding them?



The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) 2(1) of Canada defines an e-bike as a power-assisted bicycle, meaning that it falls under the same rules and regulations as any regular bicycle on the road.  

It restricts power to a maximum of 500 watts (about .7 hp) and a maximum speed under motor power of 32 km/h on a level road.  It must have fully operable pedals capable of driving the rear wheel at all times, and two independent brake systems (one for each wheel).  A license, insurance, registration or plates and NOT required (except in Prince Edward Island), but operators must be 18 years of age and wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet. 




Here it gets more complicated...

The US Federal government has essentially the same rules surrounding electric bikes, however the maximum permissible power is 750 watts (about 1 hp).  However, each state has its own regulations which may or may not allow them on public roads.  For example, New York state does not permit e-bikes of any kind on public roads, while California has four separate legal categories for them (SURU falls into the Type 1-E)

To be sure what the laws are in your state concerning electrically assisted bicycles, please consult your local department of motor vehicles office.  For a briefing overview, this article on Wikipedia is fairly inclusive, but may have out-of-date information. It is the the responsibility of the rider to insure that they are using their vehicle in accordance with local laws.


E-Bike Identification

SURU cycles look a lot like motorcycles, so it is probable that other cyclists, bystanders, and possibly law enforcement will mistake you for a moped or motorcycle illegally riding on bike paths or on the streets without a license plate.  

All SURU cycles are delivered with a label clearly identifying them as compliant, power assisted bicycles.   

If you do get stopped, always remember to be polite as you point this out.  Indicate the functioning pedals driving the rear wheel.  As always, it is the responsibility of the rider to comply with local laws and use their bike in accordance with them. 

E-Bike Safety

All SURU cycles are legally considered e-bikes in most jurisdictions in Canada (PEI being the holdout) which means that the rules of the road pertaining to bicycles apply.  Always wear an approved helmet, always obey street signs and traffic lights, and never ride under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or after late night arguments with loved ones.   The laws of the land may protect your rights on the road, but the laws of physics don't favour small, lightweight road vehicles.  Please be careful and ride responsibly.


E-Bike Attitudes and Conduct 

It is everyone's responsibility to ride with courtesy, care and to promote a healthy and respectful culture surrounding e-bikes.  The laws concerning e-bikes are opening up and making these marvellous vehicles more practical and easy to deploy across a wider and wider swathe of the North American continent, but this will not continue if bad riding habits, or rude or illegal behaviour sours public opinion.  

To that end, ride your SURU like you would ride any bicycle: defensively.

• communicate intensions clearly

• stay in your lane and avoid weaving in and out or traffic

• avoid riding on sidewalks, they are for slow moving pedestrians

• park thoughtfully (no one wants to find a locked up 35 kg e-bike blocking a sidewalk)

• if someone yells at you or suggests you are illegally using the streets, take the high road and move on.  You won't change an angry person's mind.