You can’t get charged with impaired driving while on a bicycle.
But you can get charged with impaired driving on an electric bicycle driven by any means other than muscular power and going no faster than 32 km/h.
Such was the lesson in motor vehicle safety when Toronto police announced that Heather Mitchell, 27, of Mississauga, was charged with having a blood-alcohol level over 80 milligrams while driving an e-bike Wednesday afternoon on Wellington St. east of Strachan Ave.
The e-bike thus falls into a cycling grey zone.
Under the provincial Highway Traffic Act, it’s not classified as a motor vehicle. But under the federal Criminal Code, it most certainly is — and so impaired driving charges apply.
“The difference is the power,” said Const. Allan Davidson, of Toronto traffic services. “You don’t have to pedal an e-bike; it will move on its own. That makes it a motor vehicle under the Criminal Code.”
The consequences of the Criminal Code charge include an immediate 90-day driver’s licence suspension (although you don’t need one to ride an e-bike, but if you have one, it’s gone) with a conviction carrying the possibility of a one-year driving ban, a fine and a criminal record.
But that doesn’t mean an e-bike is never a bike.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, an e-bike is considered a vehicle, and so the motorized bike is also subject to provincial charges applied to regular bicycles if they run red lights, fail to stop at signs or travel above the speed limit.
Right. So how often does an e-bike rider get charged under the Criminal Code?
‘We probably get one or two a month,” said Davidson, adding that he’s not positive about the numbers.