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September 26, 2012


Sylvia B

Aren't bicycles supposed to abide by the rules of the road, i.e. speed limits?


Being as I'm on an urban bike, I rarely crack 32km/h anymore. A lot of utility cycling happens within the 12-24km/h range, especially if you have a bike with an upright sitting posture or carrying a load of groceries.

I do think 30km/h (and up) is a rude and potentially dangerous speed on urban mixed-use trails, be it from from batteries or "honest" pedal power.

E-bikes are also substantially heavier than any bicycle, which-- combined with the way they don't take an investment of sweat to get up to speed-- presents a discomforting potential for danger.


Pedantically, I have to point out that an e-bike is not allowed to travel at a motor-assisted speed in excess of 32kph. That means that once you exceed 32kph, the motor shuts off.

If you can pedal your e-bike faster than that, or you're coasting downhill faster than that, you should be okay. I'm not sure how e-bikes are classified wrt. speed limits. I know that speed limits apply to motorized vehicles, and thus not bicycles. A police officer cannot issue you a speeding ticket for riding 52kph in a 40 zone :)

David Hendry

Every time I think about an e-bike I realize that the restrictions and limitations are so much that I just stick with my Bike instead. The only reason I can think of for an E-bike is either help on a hill or if the rider has some physical limitations making the electric help actually helpful.


Bill - Sometimes the best thing is to just keep quiet. Shh!


Re: "there is no legal requirement on the top speed for a bicycle." Don't bicycles still have to follow regular speed limits?


Interestingly enough, MTO's FAQ document is not as clear as some of the better documents. See http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/vehicle/emerging/e-bike-faq.shtml item 1 which states more clearly that the motor must be "incapable of providing further assistance when the bicycle attains a speed of 32 km/h on level ground". Apart from that, the e-bike can be pedaled faster than 32, or can coast down a hill faster than 32.

Also of note, other than the power-assist feature and mandatory helmet use, an e-bike is treated as a bicycle under the HTA. This means that posted speed limits on the road don't apply. (They apply to motorized vehicles only, just like the drunk driving laws.)

Watch out though .. the HTA does not regulate sidewalks, bike paths and multi-use/shared paths - municipalities do. Many municipalities ban cycling on sidewalks (except for kids' bikes), limit bike speed on paths to 20 km/h, and are increasingly banning "e-scooter" types of e-bikes from paths.


I believe that the law states that the motor can only assist up to 32 km/h.
If an e-biker is pedaling along with the motor, then I assume that it is OK to faster as long as the cyclist is contributing the energy to go faster than 32 km/h.

Rob (Mk.II)

When the only limit is the physical fitness of the operator I doubt any speed regulation on proper bicycles would be practical or effective. This is especially the case where cycles weigh a fraction of any car and have better brakes to boot. What I could see happening, however, would be speed limits on, say, the Iron Horse Trail as higher demands are placed on trail infrastructure. Good luck enforcing it though.


Overall, despite my worries about trails, I feel the 32km/h limiter on e-bikes is a good compromise. The carrot of not needing a license balances with a design limit top speed to at least limit the damage these scooters can do.

The vestigial pedals? They're a farce. I saw a scooter on the Iron Horse this week where the rider's seating position would make it physically impossible to pedal. (He was also kind of aggressive about trying to pass, too... not exactly setting a good standard.) Our classification of e-bikes needs to improve. Perhaps a maximum gross vehicle weight?

I know that there is some muttering about banning these things, but I think we need to come up with a better way to coexist with them. There is tremendous value in a lighter, slower powered vehicle that doesn't take up the same room or ecological footprint as a car. It could be what future personal transportation for the masses looks like, instead of over-engineered vehicles (and environments) which have to protect the users from the consequences of moving faster than our species can make good judgements at.

I'm not suggesting that you can't seriously hurt someone if you hit them at 32km/h at something that weighs a couple hundred pounds. But I do believe there is a lesser of evils we can choose.


In theory, I wouldn't have any problem with standard road speed limits being applied to bicycle.

It might be a little tricky to set the laws on that since bikes don't come standard with spedometres. I can't say for sure what the fastest I've gone on a bike.

I think all the regulation on e-bikes is a good thing, at least for the time being. They're new and we're not sure how they fit in to the big picture yet. It's much easier to lift regulations later on than to force everyone to limit their e-bikes to 32km in the future, if we so decide.

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Bill Bean

  • North America is eventually going to figure out that, for all the right reasons, we need more bicycles on our roads. Dust off your bicycle and go cycling. And if the gas-burning dinosaurs start to crowd you, it's your road and you paid for it. Take the lane for yourself.

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