DC's picture

Motorcycle helmet (and other required equipment) for ebike in Calgary/Alberta

First time user here.

I'm looking into buying an ebike conversion kit. I'm confused by the bylaws of the city of Calgary and the Alberta Transportation legislation.

The kit (wheel with incorporated motor) has a 350W motor and can go up to 32km/h. 

Is it correct that I'd have to use a motorcycle helmet, in other words using a bicycle helmet would get me a fine?? This is my main concern, I do not want to have to use a big motorcycle helmet, is a smaller harder shell helmet an alternative? 

Also, it appears I'd need head/tail/break lights, even a side mirror?

Please help, thanks in advance for your help,

DC

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Crivak's picture

Electric bicycles are a new

Electric bicycles are a new thing that people are still adapting to, including the law. 

Calgary recently wrote a new article about electric bicycles on the pathway system: 
http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Pathways/Electric-Bikes.aspx
T
here's a good link at the bottom of this for the bylaws as well.

The long and short of it is, if it looks like a bike and acts like a bike then you're likely going to be treated like a bike. 

There are a few different types of electric bikes:
A pedelec, which is an electric pedal assist that comes with either a cadence sensor or a torque sensor - or in some cases both. These are allowed on the pathway system. This is what gently increases your bike speed while you pedal and can help you get up to speed, battle the wind, or climb a hill with relative ease. 
A throttle,  which is similar to how a motorcycle or a scooter would work. You press a button or twist an the motor kicks in. No pedalling required. These are not allowed on the pathway system, and may be held accountable for the motorcycle helmet bylaw in the event of an incident. 

Many electric bikes are sold as both. They have both a pedelec system and a throttle system. The same goes for many electric bike kits. 

You are not required to wear a helmet on a bicycle in Calgary as an adult by any law, so all you need to know is whether your bicycle will classify as a bicycle after the modifications. 

These are the typically understood classes of ebikes in North America:

Class 1 (pedal assist). The electric drive is only activated through pedalling and can only achieve speeds up to 32kmh. It's probably recommendable to use a bicycle helmet while operating this, but legally there are no grounds to force you into any helmet. 

Class 2 (throttle). As above, this is the twist or button that automatically engages the electric drive. It may ALSO be activated through pedaling action like class 1, so know the difference and if it applies. You would not be able to use the throttle on the pathway system. It tops out around 32kmh. I very much doubt you would be hassled about a motorcycle helmet unless it caused an incident, and in which case, may be overlooked if it was an unavoidable incident and you had a regular bicycle helmet. And of course, no helmet or a bicycle helmet while not engaging the throttle on the pathway system. 

Class 3 (speed pedelec). Tops out at 45kmh or higher and is generally lumped in with class 2 due to its potential speed. 

Class 4 (moped). Pedal assist or throttle, 45kmh or higher, generally considered requiring licensing and registration with restricted use, etc. 

So I would be inclined to say that if the electric kit you are looking at tops out at 32kmh and activates through a pedelec sensor you are perfectly fine to treat the bike like any other regular bike in Calgary. You sound like you want to wear a helmet anyway, and a regular bicycle helmet will do the trick for you. You do need a white headlight and a red rearlight if you will be riding after dark.  You can find more information on the City of Calgary website, IE: 
http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/TP/Pages/Cycling/Cycling-Education-and-Safety/Roadway-laws-and-etiquette.aspx

As a side note, the pathway speed limit is 20kmh. While many users will go 25-35kmh with regular bikes, you may find a bias against electric bicycles doing the same, and I have definitely seen people pulled over by bylaw enforcers for speeding (ebike or not). So make sure you are only topping the electric kit out on the road, or when you know you have clear line of sight and can eke a bit more courteously. 

Mirrors are not required but many use them for better line of sight. You are required to have a bell, but have seen people get off the case by demonstrating they can use their voice to adequately call they're passing (anecdotal, after 4+ years of riding and countless people passing this way, about 5 total have been loud enough for me to hear them properly). 
If in doubt about anything in particular there is likely someone more official you can ask directly. Maybe a call to 311 would work. 

Dionysis's picture

excellent review!

Thank you for enlightening everyone about the latest in e-bikes Crivak.  I did not realize there were different classes associated with the different electric kit types.

One comment - just before you describe the different classes you mention that helmets are not required by law in Calgary when in fact, this only applies to people 18 and older  Laughing

Crivak's picture

I forgive them for writing

I forgive them for writing such a hilarious document since they'd probably never seen a pedelec in 2009. I definitely want to see the authors all lined up together on their ebikes in motorcycle helmets for a picture! I've seen a lot of ebikes the past number of years, none of which had motorcycle helmets. They've passed bylaw officers. I wonder, is this document set to be updated again any time soon? 

I'm assuming this document is referencing throttle "power" ebikes (especially since this is what they would've seen cropping up mid 00s).

edit; to clarify when I say documents I'm referring to the law not the pdf/brochure. 

DarrenB's picture

When the laws are updated?

I suppose they will update these guidance documents when the laws get updated? Right now, they are accurate. Or are you pointing at something else???

Also, bylaw officers enforce city bylaws. The laws here fall under the provincial Traffic Safety Act, so a police officer would have to enforce them, and they would only apply to riding on roads, not city pathways.