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Ottawa Riders Discovering E-Scooters

Vanier residents who ride scooter-type electric-assist two-wheelers find that while they can use them on city-owned bike lanes, they are banned form the National Capital Commission multi-use pathways.

Published: 08-Jun-2012

There is a new bike gang in Vanier.

The number of people who ride electric bicycles, or e-bikes, is growing rapidly and the east-end neighbourhood is no exception. Described as fun, practical, easy to ride by owners, the economical mode of transportation, is one of the fastest ways for area residents to get around, according to owners.

A number of e-bike enthusiasts gathered on May 30 to talk about their e-bikes and share experiences. A trend that has hooked riders young and old, e-bike owners in Vanier say the number of riders changes almost daily and they credit the popularity to the practicality of the bike and the neighbourhood’s proximity to downtown.

Vanier resident Lucie Marleau bought her e-bike in October and has been extremely happy with it.

“It is a perfect solution for someone like me who lives close to downtown, doesn’t own a car nor wishes to own one,” said Marleau.

The bikes do not require gasoline or special parking and do not require a driver’s license. People riding e-bikes have noticed tension with some drivers when they are out riding and they wish the roads were shared more safely.

“My hope is that e-riders continue to drive responsibly and car drivers share the road,” Marleau said.

The e-bikes are allowed to use city-owned bike lanes, but not on the National Capital Commission multi-use pathways.

The NCC placed a ban on the use of e-bikes on the pathways in December 2011. In a May 24 press release, the NCC reminded citizens the rules of the paths.

“All electric bikes, including scooter-type, are permitted on dedicated NCC bike lanes (as opposed to the multi-use recreational pathways, the Capital Pathway Network),” the press release said. “Scooter-type power-assisted bikes are prohibited on the NCC’s Capital Pathway Network as well as during Sunday Bikedays and Saturday Short Loops programs. Very often, the electric bike with a non-conventional appearance is much heavier than a conventional-type electric bicycle and therefore poses greater risks to safety in the event of a collision.”

The decision was made through a public consultation process, which took place over 2011 through presentations, public meetings and online information kits.

Marleau’s neighbour and fellow e-bike owner, Steve Kemball, finds when it comes to riding his bike he is going to choose the safest option available, which in most cases is a bike lane.

According to the city of Ottawa’s website an e-bike, also known as a power-assisted bicycle, must only weigh 120 kilograms, have wheels with a diameter of at least 350 millimetres and a width of at least 35 millimetres and meets the federal definition of a power-assisted bicycle: has steering handlebars and is equipped with pedals, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is capable to move by muscle power.

Most of the e-bikers, including Marleau and Kemball do not use their pedals. Others say the pedals get in the way and wish they could take them off.

“They beat up my legs and make it difficult to stop,” Teresa Loyer said.

William Leisham, owner of Scooteretti, which sells e-bikes, said he would like to participate in a larger discussion with the city about the need to educate drivers and cyclists and e-bikers to learn to share the road.

“There needs to be education on both sides of the issue,” Leisham said. “And we need to work with the city to make this happen.”

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