Skip To Navigation Skip To Content

Ruling raises issue of how to define motor-assisted cycle

“Perhaps the regulations would benefit from a review.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Justice Brown who made that comment in his decision dismissing the appeals of Mr. Raymond Rei.  Mr. Rei had been ticketed for operating a vehicle without insurance and without a driver’s license.  He disputed the tickets and argued his case at the Provincial Court level.  He lost.  He appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia where he came before Mr. Justice Brown.

The subject matter of the appeal was whether or not the two wheeled “device” Mr. Rei had been riding required insurance or required the driver/rider to have a driver’s license.

According to the laws of the Province of British Columbia, a “motor assisted cycle” is treated like a bicycle.  You can ride it without a driver’s license and without insurance.

Consider the debate about what kind of two wheeled critter ought to require a driver’s license and insurance and what ought not to.

I expect most of us would agree that a bicycle should not.

What about a bicycle that you add a small electric or gasoline engine to, to assist in getting up some of our Okanagan hills?

If we’re going to allow bicycles with engine add-ons, what about scooters that are manufactured with both pedals and small electric or gasoline motors?  They go no faster than a strong cyclist could pedal, in fact in many cases they can’t go as fast.  They are far more environmentally friendly than a car and you get as much exercise as you choose with the pedals.

A line has to be drawn somewhere.  It is the definition of that line that Mr. Justice Brown was referring to when he said “Perhaps the regulations would benefit from a review”.

A “motor assisted cycle” is a defined term in the Motor Vehicle Act.  In order to fit within the definition, the two-wheeled beast must be one “to which pedals or hand cranks are attached that will allow for the cycle to be propelled by human power”.

Of course, nobody actually reads the Motor Vehicle Act.  It is even less likely that anyone would read the Regulations to the Motor Vehicle Act, which is a completely separate document.  The Regulations add to the definition, containing such additional restrictions as an engine shut-off requirement: the motor must “disengage if the operator stops pedaling”.

Incidentally, if you were to actually read the definition of “motor assisted cycle” in the Motor Vehicle Act, you would not see anything alerting you that the definition is incomplete, i.e. that you have to look somewhere else for the rest of the rules.

Even ICBC, the government agency responsible for this stuff, has difficulty explaining it.  They have a table on their web site with a list of requirements to qualify as a motor assisted cycle.  The list doesn’t include the engine shut-off requirement.  To be safe, they have a link to the Regulations so you can read them yourself, but the link currently goes nowhere.  I hopefully expect that the link will be repaired as soon as this column is published as I have been told that my column is required reading for some unfortunate folks at ICBC.

Mr. Rei’s “device” was in the greyest of the grey areas.  His “device” did have pedals, but they were removable.  He could clip them on and off as he wished.  He found that the pedals made his device unsafe because they hit the pavement when the “device” naturally leaned over while rounding a corner.  For safety’s sake, he removed the pedals.

It is not apparent from the court decision whether, had the pedals been clipped on, some sort of engine shut-off mechanism might have been engaged.  On the basis of the pedals alone, he was properly riding without a license and without insurance if the pedals were clicked on, but his “device” became illegal when he took the supposed safety measure of unclicking the pedals.

Mr. Rei had to pay a couple tickets.  No big deal.  Insurance implications can make it a big deal, though.  I am directly aware of a fellow who had been riding a similar “device” and was run off the road by a negligent driver.  For the same safety reason, he had removed the pedals.  He hasn’t been able to work since the crash and ICBC is denying him the significant benefits he would have been entitled to had he not unclipped the pedals.

Is the “device” that you or someone you care about is riding “legal” without a driver’s license and insurance?  Would you be denied benefits if a motorist ran you off the road?  With incomprehensible rules that even ICBC can’t get right, how could you even find out?

Published June 13, 2013 in the Kelowna Capital News


Contact Hergott Law


  • This might add some clarity to the situation. I contacted ICBC and asked them: Does the presence of the Transport Canada sticker mean that the bicycle complies with BC regulations as a MAC? Initially ICBC referred me to the office of Vehicle Inspections & Standards. ICBC called me back informing me that they had consulted with Vehicle Inspections & Safety about the question: Does the presence of the Transport Canada sticker mean that the bicycle complies with BC regulations as a MAC? They informed me that the BC regulations are parallel to the Transport Canada Standards with a few minor modifications.
    The first difference in the BC regulations is that a certain wheel size is required. The wheel size under 2(1) requires that the wheels of a motor assisted cycle must be 350 MM or more in diameter. This is not present in the federal regulations at all.
    The second difference in the BC regulations is that they only allow a motor assisted cycle to have no more than one motor for propulsion. [1(1)] The federal regulations allow one or more electric motors. (4) However, they informed me that this was a case that the BC regulations have not kept up with the changing technologies and that some updates needed to occur. The federal standards had been updated more frequently.
    The third difference between the federal regulations regards the matter under 3(2) of the BC regulations. Here the BC standards have three options while the federal standards only give two options. The two options of the federal regulations are: If it is engaged by the use of muscular power, power assistance immediately ceases when the muscular power ceases, OR if it is engaged by the use of an accelerator controller, power assistance immediately ceases when the brakes are applied. The BC regulations have added to these two a third option: or an accelerator controller is released.
    They informed me that for a scooter to meet the BC regulations and be classified as a MAC that only one of the three conditions under 3(2) needed to be met. They said that the BC regulations were not written to say anything different than the federal regulations on this point but only to add a third option. In reality the BC regulations has more options in this area than the Transport Canada regulations. They mentioned that ICBC has never advised anyone that the BC regulations required the motor assisted bicycle to meet all three of these requirements but only one of the three to qualify as a MAC in BC. Further, if the scooter does not engage the electric motor when pedaling the requirement to disengage doesn’t even apply. The BC regulations (mirroring the federal regulations) make this clear when it states: The motor of a motor assisted cycle must turn off or disengage if (a) the operator stops pedaling, (b) an accelerator controller is released, or (c) a brake is applied. The one little word ‘or’ indicates that only one of these three options need apply. If all three of these aspects would apply the BC regulations would have used the word ‘and’ as it does earlier in the same regulations in section 1(2).
    They stated that the BC regulations were primarily written for home kit bikes and not for commercially available scooters. They said that usually corporations are more concerned about stopping the scooter, which is the issue of 3(2)], than the BC regulations because of liability concerns. They were not aware of any of commercially manufactured scooters with the Transport Canada label that did not meet the BC regulations. Other than those three areas he said that the BC regulations paralleled the federal regulations. He mentioned that in reality the BC regulations are not intended to be different than the federal regulations except in these few areas. Therefore they assured me that the consumer could confidently purchase a scooter which had the label of Transport Canada assuming that it also met the BC regulations. Hypothetically, it would not meet the BC regulations if the tires were too small or it had more than one electric motor. The third difference could never exclude a scooter with a transport Canada label because BC regulations are wider in this regard since they allow one of three options rather than only two options.

  • I understood that a gasoline -powered bike assist motor is legal provided there is no sprocket or other geared transmission connecting the motor to the bike. The drive must be directly from the motor shaft to the wheel(front or back).–ie a friction drive on t he bike tire. Speed limit is the same as with an electric motor. Is this the case in B.C.?

    • Barry….it was quite some time since I did the research to write that column but I don’t recall those factors entering into the “legality” of such things.

  • i live in BC CANADA. does anyone know why a MAC is required to have 3 wheels or less? 4 wheels is no wider than 3 ? i want the stability and safety of 4 wheels over 3. if it is un safe for some reason because other drivers do not to treat a 4 wheel MAC as such but instead as a regular motor vehicle. if so i don’t think catering to inherently more dangerous vehicles to operate and their operators lack of willingness to share the road is the solution. we could visually mark MAC’s to clarify the confusion others may be in. or better yet we could just treat all vehicles like MAC’s. opinions?

    and also what is the width limit for a MAC, be it 3 wheel? and the weight and length limit? and towing weight and length limit? can they be enclosed? is a helmet required if it is enclosed?

    “it seems the regulations would benefit from a review” ha that’s rich, what wouldn’t benefit from a review… gawd. please do.

    why are regulations so hard to state in binary, in black and white, at least more so than they are? why cant we just state the maximum and minimums for the dimensions and weight along with the motor power and safety equipment (maybe a visual identifier) as a way of integrating MAC’s into peoples consciousness and making them easily identifiable on the road.

    that way many many more people can travel without a licence, registration, insurance, and in a safer vehicle. what values supersede these? please do tell?

    on a side not it should be legal to occupy public property with yourself and your property as long as you wish and are alive. and in turn sleep there as well. i think the world needs a mix of society and the wild to live together, and to foster the range creativity grows upon. opinions?

    well the issue is land(off grid utilities are solved with technology, local and domestic solar panels, rain, snow, de-humidification, well, and stream water collection as well as distillation and filtration(all better than most town water), local and domestic waste management tech, evaporating water fan AC, and wireless transmission.

    i think a percentage of land should be freely available in all towns as first come first serve lots for free public use and LIVING as long as you like. with lots always available to locals.

    we need to have basic survival along with a choice of lifestyle fully provided for all as a base line launching pad for the widest range of opportunity for creativity within any person. lack of necessities and artificially induced necessities fuel the interests of a few which is taking power, energy, space and resources from others for their fragmented ego’s fulfilment.

    opinions on anything?

  • I have today been stopped and cautioned in BC for riding in an AMA restored area on my Cube Fat Tire pedal assist bike (MAC) They ( The CO’s) are classifying it as a motor vehicle, despite having no throttle, and being restricted to a maximum 26kph assist. Finding out if this is correct is proving incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Any clues or information will be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Alan! Unfortunately as you can tell from the column and from the number of replies on it, it’s not a very cut and dry topic. Our best recommendation is to check out this site below, and see which classification your bike best fits under, as it shows the difference between Motor assisted Cycles and Limited Speed Motorcycles:

      I will also point out, as mentioned in Paul’s article, the little piece on this site that stipulates “The vehicle must meet any other conditions in the Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation” which is their way of saying, “in case we forgot to mention anything, make sure you check this too!” The site is linked, but for ease here is the Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation under the Motor Vehicle Act:

      If you’re still unsure, we suggest contacting ICBC for clarification. While Paul is incredibly versed in the ins-and-outs of personal injury arising from motor vehicle incidents, his knowledge on MACs is limited in comparison. Hopefully this ICBC website does give you some clarification, and the answers you’re looking for!

      – Dani (Administrative Assistant)

  • I currently own a 2016 Sheinn biggity dlx fat tire bicycle. I am soon getting a 49cc 2 stroke gasoline engine for it. As I do not know, on a regular street where would I be whrn I have the motor running ? Still on the sidewalk or on the corner outside of the cars lane ? I do not know

    • I am sorry, Caelan. I do not know the answer to that question. I do not have expertise in these laws. I don’t even know to what extent it matters whether or not a motorized device has its motor running. It is critically important stuff, though, and I recommend that you continue your search until you find answers.

    • any gasoline motor on any bicycle in Canada is illegal. Look on the ICBC website, it’s really clear on that subject.

  • So let me get this right.
    One can attach a 100 cc engine to a pedal bike (zoombicycles)
    require no licence, no registration, and no mirrors, and no lights?
    While travelling at up to 70 km/hour

    As long as the pedals are attached?

    • Jason,

      Your question highlights the problem. The rules are inconsistent and (worse) unclear.

      Though maybe things have changed in the years since I wrote that column.

      The only way I would feel 100% confident in the legality of a powered cycle is if I had something in writing from ICBC and from the RCMP about my specific cycle, which is a practical impossibility.


    • Incorrect. I’m in Vancouver. I had a 33cc 2 stroke gasoline friction drive, attached to my regular PEDAL BIKE. (YES, the pedals were still attached.)
      ALSO- My motor could be entirely disengaged from the bicycle tire by the pull of a lever.
      I was pulled over and ticketed for no insurance, no motorcycle driver’s license and no helmet.
      Over $700 in fines, and it put my driver’s license on probation, and increased my car insurance rates by HUNDREDS a MONTH.
      The police were very rude. Even when I insisted the only reason why I was riding it, is because my insurance rates for a vehicle are too high!
      They insisted over and over, “NO, THAT’S A MOTORCYCLE, AND I COULD TICKET YOU FOR MORE”.
      They even wrote “Kuwahara” as the vehicle model on the ticket.

      What a joke, makes me resent the police force even more.

  • I feel the same way. Tonight my Gio Scooter was pulled over by a very rude officer who said he was only pulling over scooters tonight. I was fined $275.00 for not having my pedals attached to the scooter. They were in my seat on the account that they are not safe when riding the scooter they hit the pavement when turning let alone they hit me in the legs. If anyone can make out what they are saying these days about the law in BC for pedals please let me know. I want to fight this. It is my safety.

  • if someone, who was on a 90 day ban on driving due to a DUI, is stopped by the police while riding a motorized bicycle – would they be able to fight the ticket they got for “driving while restricted”? they honestly didn’t think a motorized bike was considered a motorized vehicle. esp. since you don’t need a license or insurance and anyone can ride one. Plus the cop didn’t impound it but allowed the person to drive it home (which was very close by).

  • A Moped is legal in B.C. Though I do believe ICBC wants them to be plated.
    A Moped has an engine smaller than 50cc
    A Moped cannot exceed 29MPH
    No need for insurance. A moped can also be powered by leg power pedaling
    Pedals do not need to come off as a Moped will not corner with that great an angle.
    Moped must have an audible horn and a headlight and brakelight.
    No need for a helmet.
    The engine must have an adequate muffler and spark arrestor.

    • I am no expert in what is and is not legally operated on our roadways in British Columbia, but my understanding is that any self-propelled device (except for a “motor assisted cycle” or “regulated motorized personal mobility device”, is a “motor vehicle” and must be plated (Motor Vehicle Act, section 1).

      The puzzle I was identifying in my column is what is and is not included in the definition of “motor assisted cycle”.

      Does the particular “Moped” you are referring to fit within the definition of “motor assisted cycle”?

    • Mopeds. Must be registered, licensed and insured for road use. Driver’s licence required (any class except 5 or 7 learner’s licence).

      Low-powered vehicles – ICBC › Pages › Default
      About featured snippets

      People also ask
      What is the law for mopeds in BC?
      You can ride one if you have a full-privilege Class 5 or 7 passenger vehicle licence (except learner’s licence). A motorcycle licence is not required but you must always wear a helmet. You’re also subject to the same rights and duties as the driver of a motor vehicle.

      Mopeds and scooters – ICBC

  • Does anyone have an answer to The Laws in BC -Pertaining to motorized bicycle(kits)–49 cc-mixed gasoline and oil fuel source-??
    It is one of the Greyist areas of Law I have ever tried to find an answer to.
    Talked to RCMP receptionist today June 18 2021-she said go to ICBC Site and there certainly is No exact ruling as far as I can read-
    I have a Class1-Industrial/Hiway air ticket-motorcycle class 6-Drivers License- can operate legally anything in a civized Country
    Just need an Answer -Not afine for no Insurance-Penalty Points also on Drivers License.

  • Re the confusion. It really depends on the cop that sees you on it and if he wants to pull you over. Regardless of the black and white of it there’s something somewhere that will back up the ticket that’s written. Also there’s something that will probably counter the tickets validity too. It depends on your research on the subject and other cases similar to yours that worked out well for the defendant. The ICBC website states that anything that runs on gas is either an low speed motorcycle needing a driver’s license and insurance, or is a motorcycle needing a motorcycle license. The only motorized bikes that are exempt are ones with electronic motors and that are speed restricted and have motors that don’t exceed 500w etc… The eBikes were given the exemption to help encourage their adoption by the public as a means of transportation. However that being said is the ICBC website referring to the law or is it it’s own interpretation of the laws regarding such things. If it’s an interpretation then they need to give a reference or link to that law so that people can go read it for themselves. Just because an insurance company says it’s so doesn’t make it so. Especially an insurance company which aren’t known for interpretations that favor anyone other than their own interests. Personally I’d go from the legal definition as defined by the law book it’s in. And if that definition can be applied to your specific bike. If yours can be described as adhering to that law and done so convincingly in court then you’ll win. After which you can keep a copy of that judegement on you and after youve amassed multiple wins it will eventually stop cops from ticketing you and losing in court until a judge has the whole thing attached to your record which tells all future cops to stop wasting the courts time

    • Okay but I have an electric scooter that only goes when I twist the throtel and stops when I don’t twist the throtel it has a 500 watt motor and has peddles on it but are removed for my safety as they hit the ground when I turn the cop here in chilliwack bc canada are trying to tell me that I need insurance and drivers license to operate it on the road what can I do about that so I can operate it as I can’t get a license anymore is there any one I can talk to make sure I don’t need a license or Dr license as I bought it under the consumption that I didn’t need a license or insurance to drive it