Public works committee votes to defer decision on whether to allow e-scooters in Toronto bike lanes. Further study needed.
E-bike users say they are a cheap and efficient way to get around Toronto’s traffic-choked streets, especially for people with impaired mobility.
Critics say e-bikes, also called e-scooters, are too fast, too heavy and quiet and should not be allowed in regular bike lanes.
On Thursday, after hearing from supporters and detractors, the public works committee voted to defer a decision on a staff recommendation to permit e-bikes in conventional, painted bicycle lanes.
“There are serious safety concerns … that we haven’t even begun to understand,” said Councillor Mike Layton. The proposal needs more study before any decisions are made, he said.
Councillor Janet Davis, a self-described “Mary Poppins”-type bike rider, also supported the deferral.
“I find these vehicles bulky; they travel faster than the majority of cyclists; they’re quiet, sneak up on you,” Davis said. “You don’t see them in your peripheral vision until it’s too late, and I find them intimidating.”
But Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who chairs the committee and voted to accept the staff recommendation, said the city is shirking its duty because there is potential danger in “forcing those (e-)bikes into traffic.”
“I don’t think that if …they were hit by a car that they would do very well.”
If the cycling community is going to complain about not getting enough biking infrastructure, “then they should be a little bit more accommodating,” he said.
The committee has asked the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada to clarify the definition of “bicycle” and city staff to further study safety-related concerns, with police input.
There are an estimated 15,000 e-bikes in Toronto, compared with 1.5 million bicycle riders, the committee was told.
Under Ontario regulations, e-bikes do not require insurance or a licence to operate if they have an attached electric motor of 500 watts or less and go no faster than 32 km/h.
The staff recommendations maintain the status quo in other respects, prohibiting use of e-scooters on sidewalks, cycle tracks and multi-use paths.