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April 18, 2013



This is a conversation I’ve had with friends a number of times, you can’t get charged with impaired on a bike, and was also the point of one of the last comics from that great strip Yehuda Moon, http://yehudamoon.com/12282012/ , which has sadly ended.

Bikes are vehicles but not motor vehicles, and this gives some slightly different rights and responsibilities on the road. As this young lady had apparently not kicked off her pedals, she was safe from the impaired charge. But I’m sure the police could still have nailed her with that favourite of informed officers:

Part 4 of the highway traffic act section 17 Lights and reflectors on bicycles, etc. states:

(17) When on a highway at any time from one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavourable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 150 metres or less, every motor-assisted bicycle and bicycle (other than a unicycle) shall carry a lighted lamp displaying a white or amber light on its front and a lighted lamp displaying a red light or a reflector approved by the Ministry on its rear, and in addition white reflective material shall be placed on its front forks, and red reflective material covering a surface of not less than 250 millimetres in length and 25 millimetres in width shall be place on its rear. 2009, c. 5, s. 28 (1).

It is the easiest charge the police can lay as the only people I know who actually do this to their bikes are randonneurs.


Under the Criminal Code ebikes are motor vehicles when being ridden by impaired drivers with or without pedals, or by someone who has lost their license due to a criminal code conviction. If drunk with CC license suspension, two charges likely.

Bikes are not motor vehicles under the Criminal Code and you cannot be charged with impaired.

The Federal Government removed ebikes from motor vehicle class, but neglected to do the same under the Criminal Code. This loophole allows law enforcement to charge impaired on ebike as motor vehicles, but not bicycles.

Peter Parker

Cops can charge you with drunk and disorderly without a breathalizer. It's totally up to their discretion. So even if you're safe from DUI, you're not totally safe.

Also, if you remove the pedals from an e-bike and it becomes a motor vehicle, you'd also legally need to have a license plate and insurance, wouldn't you? DUI might only be one charge you'd face.

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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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