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Cyclists, prepare to dodge some scooters: the city wants to start allowing e-bikes in bike lanes

(Image: Michael Gil)

(Image: Michael Gil)

In a move that seems guaranteed to invite backlash from cyclists, a newly released city staff report recommends that the city make it legal for owners of so-called e-bikes—those electric scooters with tiny, vestigial pedals—to ride in most bike lanes.

E-bikes have always suffered from a kind of identity problem. They’re heavier and faster than conventional bicycles, but they’re slightly too slow to keep pace with normal auto traffic. They’re street legal in Ontario, but city by-laws currently ban them from paths and bike lanes.

Even so, e-bikes are popular, and the city has been taking a second look at those by-laws over the course of the past year. These latest recommendations, which will go before the public works and infrastructure committee on January 9, would make it so that e-bikes can ride with bicycles in painted bike lanes, on the theory that it should be safe and easy enough for people riding the scooters to pass slower bike riders. E-bikes would still be banned from multi-use trails and curb-separated “cycle tracks,” like the ones on Sherbourne Street.

Cyclists have been complaining about e-bikes for years. Their motors are relatively silent, meaning it can be difficult to notice one creeping up from behind—and also, presumably, to avoid a collision. The issue has been exacerbated by the fact that some e-bike riders already use bike lanes, despite the law. It’s anyone’s guess whether these proposed changes pose an increased safety risk. The new report calls for the city to work with the police to monitor the situation, and report back after two years. If the plan makes it out of committee, city council will have to give final approval.

  • carbonated_turtle

    Are regular bikes louder than e-bikes, and if not, why isn’t there a danger of being rammed from behind by one of them? Is the author of this article suggesting that e-bike riders are too stupid to notice a cyclist in front of them in a bike lane? I see faster cyclists passing slower ones all the time, so what’s the issue here?

  • http://tracer.ca/ Paul Tichonczuk

    There are three main issues.

    These electric scooters are far heavier than a bicycle. Getting into a collision with that much force and inertia is far more dangerous than by someone on a bicycle.

    In order to qualify as an “E Bike” the scooter must have pedals and they must be deployed. In this configuration, an Electric Scooter is over 2x the width of a cyclist. On top of this, many e-bikers have broken off most of the plastic on these pedals so it’s just to metal rods sticking out.

    Electric Scooters are usually travelling at their maximum speed which is 32km/h. This is twice the speed of the average cyclist.

    (edited to add point three)

  • TorontoBob22

    In addition to the weight/size issue, they go pretty fast compared to most cyclists. They’re limited to 32 kph. I’m comfortable traveling above that speed, cos of my awesome quads (haha?), and I’m not particularly bothered by them. Honestly an easy solution would be to limit their speed to, like, 25 kph? Something more comparable to an average cycling speed.

    Plus a lot of these e-bikers are jackwits who blow stop signs and violate the rules of the roads, grrrrr!

    Plus, I was writing this just as Paul, my arch-nemesis, said what I just did, but more succinctly.

    (edited to add point two)

  • Sean_Marshall

    I find it interesting that the photo accompanying this article shows an scooter-type
    e-bike with the pedals removed, making it illegal, removing the “bike” from “e-bike”.
    While I’m not going to advocate any sort of ban on e-bikes, my attitude is that
    if you can’t or won’t pedal it, it shouldn’t be allowed to use any bike
    infrastructure.

  • mariposaman

    2x the width of a cyclist is false. If you bother to use a tape measure instead of your overactive imagination, you would find at the handlebars, the widest part, ebikes are more or less the same width as a bicycle, discounting the odd elbow sticking out further. They are not, nor need to be twice as wide. The 32 km/h standard was instituted because it was determined that a fit cyclist could maintain a speed of 30 km/h. You are using that overactive imagination again and stating it as fact that an average cyclist speed is 16 km/h. This even flies in the face of Toronto’s sampling of bicycle speeds that only 12% rode at speeds between 10-17 km/h, and we do not know why they were riding so slow, maybe sight seeing who knows.

  • mariposaman

    Creeping up from behind? You mean like another fast cyclist would? How about getting a rear view mirror so they are aware of what is going on around them, every other vehicle on the road, including ebikes have them..

    Banning ebikes from separated cycle tracks means ebikes are back in the live traffic lanes again, and as more bike tracks are built, and painted cycle lanes are replaced, they are back where they started, banned from cycling infrastructure.

  • mariposaman

    Not pedaling is a perfectly legal choice given to ebikes. Requiring pedaling all the time sort of defeats the whole idea of ebikes, and removes the choice of those unable to pedal due to disabilities or disease, or just not willing to pedal by choice.

 

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