Changing technology has reduced the cost of manufacturing e-bikes and made their batteries much more powerful and has made the bikes less clunky and more sleek. This in turn is fueling their popularity throughout North America. The market is in fact exploding with more and more commuters purchasing the bikes and using them to run errands, and travel to and from work.
Many of the e-bikes look almost like regular bikes and have wonderful features like 'smart pedals' that can adjust the amount of assist the motor gives the driver of the bike. They can travel at speeds of up to 32 km/h. Drivers of the e-bikes have not necessarily kept up with the regulations surrounding their use. In many municipalities there have been serious conflicts between the riders of e-bikes, pedestrians and even other cyclists. Collisions with cars are also a problem.
Our regulators have been looking at foreign jurisdictions where the explosion of e-bike popularity occurred more than a decade ago. In China, Beijing banned electric bikes for several years where they were dubbed "silent killers" due to the number of pedestrians that had been killed in collisions. E-bikes were responsible for 15 percent of all traffic accidents in Shenzhen.
In Ontario the province has enacted regulations to govern the use of e-bikes. Municipalities can also pass specific by-laws to govern their use. If you are considering purchasing one you should familiarize yourself with how they work, the rules governing their use where you live, and be sure to use the safety equipment required by law.