In late 2019, wanting to get around town much faster and easier, I decided to take the e-bike plunge, seeking a scooter-style electric bicycle. By January 2020, I had invested in an Emmo GT80 e-bike, brand new, from Derand Motorsport in Ottawa, and it got at least some use early on, until Ontario went into lockdown in the spring. Between pandemic-related restrictions and working from home full-time, the bike didn’t get much mileage in the spring and summer, but after I lost my job in late August, I found myself with much more time on my hands, so I made more of an effort to ride as often as I could before wintry weather would arrive in the Ottawa Valley. Thanks to some unseasonably warm temperatures, my final ride of 2020 was in early November, a couple of days before Remembrance Day, along the K&P Trail to Highway 132, just west of Renfrew. This year, I was out around mid-March, likely St. Patrick’s Day, based on what I can find in my Android phone’s images and text messages.
When I am riding, I would like to see local motorists show a little more patience and respect for e-bikers, especially on major roads here in town. Last year, I noticed, on multiple occasions, that some drivers seemed rather annoyed by Renfrew’s handful of e-bikers, myself included, sharing the roads, so I’m gonna clear things up here.
- E-bikes are totally street legal in Ontario and most other provinces/territories in Canada, as long as the bike’s electric motor does not exceed 500 watts and a top speed of 32 km/h. They are permitted to be used on regular roads, except controlled-access roads/expressways, e.g. Ontario’s 400-series highways. Riders are bound by the same laws etc. as motorists and regular bicycle riders.
- Automobiles and e-bikes must share the road.
- E-bikes and their riders don’t need a licence, insurance or registration, though riders are required to wear an approved helmet.
- E-bikes can be used on any trail where motorized vehicles such as ATVs are permitted. In the Renfrew area, these trails include the Algonquin Trail (the route of Canadian Pacific Railway’s Chalk River Subdivision through Renfrew and Lanark Counties), the K&P Trail from Renfrew to Calabogie, and the former CN line between Renfrew and Arnprior.
- E-bikes are not permitted to be used on sidewalks, or any trail/path where the use of motorized vehicles (excluding wheelchairs and similar mobility devices) is prohibited.
For the record, I try to stay off of major roads in town whenever possible, but when I need to be on roads such as Lochiel Street, Hall Avenue or O’Brien Road, I will go as far to the right as I can while staying on the pavement. For most shopping trips in Renfrew’s east end, such as to No Frills or Giant Tiger, I’ll usually get there via the northeast part of town, past Central Public School, the former RCA Victor plant (now home of Deslaurier Custom Cabinets) and the newer subdivision east of Gillan Road. Mostly quiet residential streets, and only about 600 m on the somewhat busy Hall Avenue. I’m especially avoiding Stewart Street this year, as that major artery, part of Highway 60 and the only in-town road crossing the Bonnechere River, is under construction all the way from the bridge/dam to the town’s north edge, near where the Pinnacle Mall stood.
Again, e-bikes’ motors in Canada are not legally capable of going any faster than 32 km/h – the manufacturers are required to include a speed limiter/governor in each bike’s motor or its controller. I know most roads in town are posted at 50 km/h, but there’s nothing I can do to speed up, unless I’m coasting down a hill – if you’re able to safely pass me, you’re welcome to do so, but please don’t come across as being impatient or ticked off.
My bike, like most e-bikes, is fully equipped with LED headlights, tail lights/brake lights and turn signals (lights and beeps), but I take my visibility a step further. Shortly after I took delivery of my bike, I purchased an ANSI-3 hi-vis jacket, similar to those used by many paramedics in Ontario, and this past February, I picked up two more hi-vis clothing items – a bright green T-shirt, and a warm, comfortable hoodie, both from Australia’s BAD® Workwear.
It’s a chilly late April day here in “the Valley”, with slightly sub-zero temperatures and some windchill according to our Acu-Rite weather station in the backyard, and it’s looking like I might be back on the bike this Friday, with the daytime high being around 17°C in the current Environment Canada forecast, and maybe the early part of next week… some rain in the forecast for the weekend.