A college student in Victoria is frustrated after purchasing an electric bike this summer and receiving two tickets resulting in about $600 in towing fees and fines, including one for not having insurance that doesn’t exist in B.C.
Jason McCracken, a student at Camosun, said he was ticketed for riding his e-bike without insurance, even though ICBC does not offer insurance for his “motor-assisted cycle.”
“I was told by ICBC personally and the dealer that I did not need [insurance],” McCracken told Black Press Media by phone on Tuesday.
He said he also called the Office of the Ombudsperson and a private insurance agency to confirm whether or not he needed insurance or to carry a licence while riding his e-bike.
“They said no.”
The ICBC website says an electric bike, or motor-assisted cycle, is a two- or three-wheeled cycle with a seat, pedals and an electric motor up to 500 watts.
“You don’t need a drivers licence or need to register, licence and/or insure your MAC, but you are subject to the same rights and duties as the driver of a motor vehicle,” the website says.
What McCracken did not know was that, according to B.C.’s Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation, the motors of a motor-assisted cycle must turn off or disengage if the operator stops pedalling, an accelerator controller is released, or a brake is applied.
If the motor of an e-bike is on and the rider is not pedalling, the bike becomes a Class 5 motor vehicle under the law, and has to be registered and insured.
“I did both pedalling and not pedalling,” he said, adding that the dealer he bought the e-bike from told him about the regulation, but only after he received his first ticket.
He said the Victoria RCMP traffic unit officer who pulled him over the second time cited the regulation. By then he knew he was supposed to be pedalling, but said one of his pedals had fallen off and he was on his way to the dealership to get it fixed.
“It got me emotional, upset,” he said of the incident.
In addition to the cost of the tows and tickets, McCracken said he missed a day of work as a result of the confusion.
He has gone to the courthouse to dispute both tickets and is waiting for dates to make his case.
“I’m still going to ride my scooter,” he said. “But I’m worried because I go to college and I go to my work and I rely on my transportation.
“I wish there was a rule or structure in place that way people on scooters don’t have to get ticketed. Hopefully other people don’t get into the same boat that I’m in.”
A statement from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure acknowledged that personal mobility devices are becoming more popular.
“We want to ensure these devices are operated safely and effectively and meet the needs of all road users,” the statement said.
“The province is currently evaluating the legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks to ensure that they help support and acknowledge all road users, and emerging active transportation modes.”