Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ottawa cop terrorizes E-Biker!

New e-bikes cause bylaw confusion

Cyclist gets go-ahead only to be stopped by police officer

Electric bikes can resemble conventional bikes or be like mopeds, like the ones above.

Electric bikes can resemble conventional bikes or be like mopeds, like the ones above.
Photograph by:
Ashley Fraser, The Ottawa Citizen

Electric bikes: Are they or are they not allowed on the city’s bike paths?
That’s the question on Jacki Leroux’s mind. She thought she knew the answer. When she bought her e-bike earlier this summer, she called the city twice to ask where she could ride her new purchase and both times was told
e-bikes were allowed anywhere a normal bike can go.
So imagine Leroux’s surprise Wednesday when an Ottawa police car veered off the road, cut across the grass, and stopped right in front of her as she was riding her
e-bike to work along the Rockcliffe Parkway bike path.
The officer told Leroux her e-bike was not welcome there, although he stopped short of giving her a ticket.
“I felt like a criminal,” the 44-year-old said. “Clearly, something is out of sync here between the city and police.”
An e-bike is equipped with steering handlebars and pedals, travels on two wheels, and can be propelled with muscle power alone. It also has a small electric motor that can power the bike up to 32 kilometres per hour.
E-bikes may resemble conventional bikes or can look more like scooters or limited-speed motorcycles. Leroux’s looks like a moped.
She said she decided to buy an e-bike because “they’re a safe, environmentally friendly option. Never did I think it was going to get me in trouble with the police.”
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, e-bikes are allowed to travel anywhere a conventional bicycle can.
The ministry has advised traffic enforcement officers on e-bike regulations, according to its website.
A potential grey area can develop, however, as municipalities are allowed by the MTO to pass bylaws prohibiting e-bikes from bike paths.
The City of Ottawa’s parks and facilities bylaw technically prohibits the use of motorized vehicles in a city park or on a city bike path.
However, e-bikes are considered bikes, not motor vehicles, under the law and were “not contemplated” by the city when the bylaw was drafted, wrote city spokesman Barre Campbell in an e-mail to the Citizen.
Campbell added that “the city has no objection to allowing the use of an electrically assisted bicycle in a park or one of its bike paths.”
The National Capital Commission has the same policy, said spokesman Jean Wolf. The path where Leroux was riding her bike is the NCC’s.
Sgt. Al Ferris, a traffic escort officer with the Ottawa police, said Leroux shouldn’t have been stopped, but said the emergence of new-fangled bikes and other new vehicles has meant many new rules for officers to memorize.
“It’s so difficult sometimes to stay abreast of all the new hybrids out there and the regulations that go along with them,” he said. “Perhaps the officer in this case was just ill-informed or unaware of the law on e-bikes.”
Leroux said she will continue to ride her e-bike to work.
“I bought it for that purpose,” she said. “I’m going to keep riding it. I just hope I don’t get stopped again.”

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