Bicycles and Motor Assisted Cycles (13:XIII)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 4, 2022.



A. Bicycles

A cyclist has the same rights and duties as a driver of a motor vehicle including the duties of safe operation, care, attention, consideration, and provision of information at the scene of an accident, of other highway users. In addition, the Motor Vehicle Act provides that an individual commits an offence if they operate or are a passenger on a bicycle on a “highway” and are not wearing a helmet (s 184). A “highway” is defined as any road, street, or avenue that a vehicle can drive on. Almost every municipality, including the City of Vancouver, has followed this section of the Motor Vehicle Act by passing bylaws requiring cyclists to wear bicycle helmets.

Furthermore, cyclists must ride on a designated bicycle path, if available, or if not, then in single file as near as practical to the right side of the road (s 183(2)). Lamps and reflectors are required for a cycle operated on a highway between one half-hour after sunset and one half-hour before sunrise (s 183(6)).

In the event of an accident, the cyclist must remain at the scene and lend assistance (s 183(9)). Cyclists are being considered increasingly responsible for accidents they are involved in. One particular area where cyclists are being held responsible is where they pass a driver on the right while the driver is also turning right at an intersection. If a cyclist is hit by a car turning right while the cyclist is passing on the right, it is possible the cyclist may be found at fault. This is indicative of a general trend of cyclists being treated like motor vehicles. If a cyclist is hit while breaking a traffic law, it is quite possible that the cyclist may be held at fault.

B. Motor Assisted Cycles

Motor assisted cyclists are subject to the same rights and duties as a driver of a motor vehicle. Per section 182.1 of the Motor Vehicle Act, operators of a motor assisted cycle must be at least 16 years of age to ride on a highway. There is no requirement for a driver’s license, registration or insurance in order to operate. To prevent illegal operation, it is important to consult the legal definition of a “motor assisted cycle” under section 1 of the Motor Vehicle Act. The specific criteria set out in the Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation must also be met.

As defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, a “motor assisted cycle” is a device

a) to which pedals or hand cranks are attached that will allow for the cycle to be propelled by human power,
b) on which a person may ride
c) to which is attached a motor of a prescribed type that has an output not exceeding the prescribed output, and
d) that meets the other criteria prescribed under section 182.1(3)

In R v. Ghadban, 2021 BCCA 69, Ghadban was convicted for not having a valid driver’s license and for driving without insurance. Ghadban contended that the electric vehicle he was operating was a motor assisted cycle, which would not require him to be licensed or insured. The Court held that the vehicle’s primary mode of propulsion was the electric motor rather than the pedals. The Court also stated that the motor never ‘assists’ cycling because the motor does not run while it is being manually pedalled.

For more information on the differences between Motor Assisted Cycles and Limited Speed Motorcycles, please visit ICBC’s page on electric bikes: https://www.icbc.com/vehicle-registration/specialty-vehicles/Low-powered-vehicles/Pages/Electric-bikes.aspx.


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