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Tofino considers electric bike restrictions

Rapidly growing industry raising concerns on trails and beaches
The District of Tofino is cycling through new electric bike regulations in an effort to prevent the rapidly growing industry from putting Multi-Use Path users and beachgoers at risk. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Electric bikes are proliferating around Tofino and potential new regulations are expected to be reviewed by the town’s municipal council in the coming weeks to curb that growing trend from irking other trail users and beachgoers.

“We are concerned about the increase in the number of electric bikes on the MUP path and would like to see some rules and regulations in place to protect pedestrians and regular bike riders,” read a letter signed by residents Mara and Robert Love that was reviewed by council during May 25’s regular meeting. “Last fall, we were walking on Chesterman Beach with the dog when we were almost run over by an electric bike coming fast behind us near the shoreline. There was no warning, as the bike was totally silent.”

The district’s Manager of Public Spaces, Cultural and Visitor Initiatives April Froment said a “significant body of work” including stakeholder and public engagement was conducted last year as well as a public, online survey and district staff is planning to bring a draft policy to council in the coming weeks based on the feedback received.

“It has been a challenge how quickly, even over the past year, the e-mobility device including not just e-bikes but e-skateboards and that type of thing has changed and how quickly it’s been adopted,” she said. “This is something council will hear more about very soon.”

Mayor Dan Law said he looked forward to reviewing the draft policy.

“This is a very complex issue,” he said.

Coun. Al Anderson asked if Tofino could align it’s electric bike policies with what the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve plans to do on the 25-kilometre path it’s expected to officially open next summer.

“I believe Parks Canada is going to have some limitations on what type of e-bikes and speed limits and so on and it would be great if we could get to a point where there’s consistent regulation on the West Coast,” Anderson said.

Froment responded that the district has been communicating with Parks Canada staff to try to synchronize their regulations.

Froment told the Westerly News after the meeting that Tofino does not currently have a formal policy around electric bikes, though provincial legislation is in play on the MUP.

“This means that technically, only ‘motor assisted cycles’ that have a maximum speed of 32 km/hr are permitted. Riders of these devices must be 16 year of age and wear a helmet. Anything else is considered a limited speed motorcycle and is not permitted on the MUP. Other e-devices, such as an e-skateboard are not permitted under the Motor Vehicle Act at all,” she explained. “We know that e-bikes and other e-devices are already here and their use is increasing. There are a lot of positives; e-bikes and e-devices allow more people of varying ages and abilities to recreate outdoors and choose more active forms of transportation; it is a cost effective form of transportation; healthier for the environment, and requires less infrastructure than vehicles. Six e-bikes parked at the beach take up a lot less room than six cars.”

She added that provincial regulations around electric mobility devices have not kept pace with the rapidly evolving industry and “is not reflective of the current array of e-devices we are all seeing out there.”

While the district is working on a draft policy, Froment encourages all MUP users to be respectful and alert.

“Ultimately the most important thing is that all users of the MUP recognize that the path is indeed “Multi-Use” and that care must be taken by all users to remain alert to their surroundings, slow to accommodate others users, and exercise safe biking practices such as having and using a bell, using lights at night, and of course wearing a helmet,” she said.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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