Council votes to allow e-bikes in Toronto bike lanes

In a controversial decision City Council has voted to allow e-bikes--both the regular-bike-looking and the e-scooter with vestigial pedals--in the bike lanes of Toronto. Council overturned the decision by PWIC which declined to allow the electric scooters in the bike lane. E-bikes are still banned from using trails and protected bike lanes. (Photo by Martin Reis)

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong's surprise motion barely passed with 21-18 votes. A few councillors were absent but it wasn't clear which way they would vote. Cycle Toronto, which had taken a strong stance on the e-bikes by stating that only "pedelec" should be allowed in the bike lanes, was caught off-guard by the motion.

A pedelec is similar to bikes in terms of speed and bulk, whereas an e-scooter is similar to a moped.

E-bikes is a controversial topic with people falling on either side of Cycle Toronto's stance, saying it was either too harsh or not strong enough. I trust my readers will not disappoint by being just as diverse. This is what Cycle Toronto said:

  • We’re supportive of e-bikes as an alternative to larger, less environmentally friendly motor vehicles, especially for people with impaired mobility.
  • We welcome Recommendation 1 to allow power-assisted bicycles which weigh less than 40kg and require pedaling for propulsion (“pedelecs”) in multi-use trails, cycle tracks and bicycle lanes.
  • But we’re concerned about Recommendation 2, which would allow electric scooters in all painted bicycle lanes across the City.
  • We support the MTO and Transport Canada addressing Recommendation 4, to split the existing power-assisted bicycles vehicle category into e-scooter and pedelec type vehicles, before the City considers the recommendation to allow them to drive in bicycle lanes.

Even though there is no crash data on e-bike/bike collisions, it's a valid concern. On the bright side, e-bikers, though still few in number, are potential allies in a fight for better cycling infrastructure. I'm not sure if that will make this decision palatable for most bicyclists.


E-bikes still banned on bike paths. What about motorized wheelchairs?

I am a regular cyclist. After having lived abroad where e-bikes, scooters and other small forms of transportation are everywhere, so I welcome this news. The more common these types of transportation are in Toronto, the more attention everyone will have to pay to the other vehicles around them and the safer we'll be.

They get people out of already crowded public transit, they get people out of inefficient cars and they are relatively good for the environment. Yes people can be jerks on them, but people can be jerks using any form of transportation, including pedestrians. The key is we get people into more efficient forms of urban transportation, and then we form a cohesive and civilized transportation culture where the majority of people behave, and only a minority are jerks, and those that are jerks are looked down upon and thus minimized. We should not be attacking modes of transportation but instead attacking rude behavior while using specific modes.

Those e-scooters are not so bad. Even the cars are afraid of them a bit and tend to give them more room then they would give to a bicycle. They make room for the rest of us.

Surely motorized wheel chairs are treated as pedestrians. They seem to top out below a fast jogging speed. You do see them riding down the bike lanes from time to time, but they should probably be on the sidewalk.