Q&A - Motor Assisted Cycle: No Insurance and Driver's Licence Ticket

Q&A ImageMy son received a traffic ticket from the police for driving without insurance and driving without a driver's licence. He was riding a bicycle that he has attached a small gas motor to and I think that this is a motor assisted cycle, not a motorcycle. If I am right, he doesn't need a licence or insurance and the police should not have issued the ticket. He has driven past police road checks with this cycle and none of them stopped him and told him that it was not legal. They should have done this first and not given him a ticket.

Here is what it looks like:

Gasoline Motor Powered Bicycle


What does the law say it is?

The Motor Vehicle Act defines a "vehicle" in section 1:

"vehicle" means a device in, on or by which a person or thing is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, but does not include a device designed to be moved by human power, a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, mobile equipment or a motor assisted cycle;

This is definitely a vehicle as it is not designed to be moved solely by human power. It is designed to be moved by human power, engine power or a combination of the two.

Also defined in section 1 is a motor vehicle:

"motor vehicle" means a vehicle, not run on rails, that is designed to be self propelled or propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but does not include mobile equipment or a motor assisted cycle;

This also fits the definition of a motor vehicle. The only saving in either case would be if it fit the definition of a motor assisted cycle, in which case it would be excluded from these two definitions.

A motor assisted cycle is partially defined here as well:

"motor assisted cycle" means a device

(a) to which pedals or hand cranks are attached that will allow for the cycle to be propelled by human power,

(b) on which a person may ride,

(c) to which is attached a motor of a prescribed type that has an output not exceeding the prescribed output, and

(d) that meets the other criteria prescribed under section 182.1 (3);

All four criteria must be met to fit this definition. To find out what (c) and (d) refer to, we need to look further. Since we've started with the Motor Vehicle Act, let's look at section 182.1(3) first:

Motor assisted cycles

182.1 (1) A person who is under the age of 16 years commits an offence if that person operates a motor assisted cycle on a highway.

(2) A parent or guardian of a person under the age of 16 years commits an offence if the parent or guardian authorizes or knowingly permits the person to operate a motor assisted cycle on a highway.

(3) The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia may make regulations respecting motor assisted cycles including, without limitation, regulations prescribing

(a) the criteria that must be met by a device in order for it to qualify as a motor assisted cycle for the purposes of this Act,

(b) the requirements that must be met in relation to operators of, and equipment attached to, motor assisted cycles, and

(c) restrictions on what may be attached to or carried on a motor assisted cycle.

It tells us that we have to look at regulations, in this case the Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation made under the Motor Vehicle Act. The first section of this regulation deals with the motor:


1 (1) A motor assisted cycle must have no more than one motor for propulsion.

(2) The motor of a motor assisted cycle must

(a) be an electric motor,

(b) have a continuous power output rating of not more than 500 watts, and

(c) not be capable of propelling the motor assisted cycle at a speed greater than 32 km/hr on level ground.

So, in order to qualify as being a motor assisted cycle in BC, it may only be propelled by only an electric motor. Any other kind of motor brings us right back to the start, where the machine is considered to be a vehicle and a motor vehicle. In fact it would be a specific kind of motor vehicle, a motorcycle:

"motorcycle" means a motor vehicle that runs on 2 or 3 wheels and has a saddle or seat for the driver to sit astride;

A motorcycle, as with any other motor vehicle, must be licenced and insured and the driver must be properly licenced in order to operate the machine on a highway.


13 (1) A person commits an offence if the person drives, operates, parks or is in charge of a motor vehicle or trailer on a highway

(a) without the licence required by this Act for the operation of that motor vehicle or trailer having been first obtained and being then in force,

(b) without displaying on it, in the manner prescribed, the number plates issued or designated by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia or otherwise prescribed to be displayed on that motor vehicle or trailer for the current licence year of that motor vehicle or trailer, or

24 (1) Except when accompanied by a person authorized by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to examine persons as to their ability to drive and operate motor vehicles, a person must not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a highway unless, in addition to any licence or permit which he or she is otherwise required to hold under this Act, the person holds a subsisting driver's licence issued to him or her under this Act of a class appropriate to the category of motor vehicle driven or operated by him or her.

(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence.

(3) A person must not drive or operate a motor vehicle or trailer on a highway unless

(a) the person is insured under a valid and subsisting driver's certificate, and

(b) the motor vehicle and the trailer, if any, are insured under a valid and subsisting motor vehicle liability policy evidenced by an owner's certificate.

So, the police have correctly applied the law to your son's machine, which is a motor vehicle and not a motor assisted cycle. The officer has chosen to issue a traffic ticket for the violation and you will have to deal with it. Unfortunately, you will not be able to claim that it is a motor assisted cycle and therefore exempt as your defence.

I can offer you the article I have written on How to Deal with a Violation Ticket to help you, and I can recommend the links under Legal and Traffic Tickets on the Links Page of this site.

New Case Law - May 8, 2015

The case of R v Calderone heard before Judicial Justice Burgess in Kelowna takes issue with Judicial Justice Gordon's decision and finds Mr. Calderone guilty of operating without insurance in circumstances similar to this issue.

power assist bicycle

Hello Anonymous; These bicycles have been around before bicycle laws were introduced, when bicycle laws were introduced the above so called vehicle was under these laws and still are. They are not limited speed cycles, for many reasons: LSCycles have the right to drive in the middle of the road as they can match city and highway speeds: but, do not exceed 78kmh. 80kmh and more is a motorcycle under ICBC laws or regulations and you need a motorcycle license. ICBC does not insure the above power assist bicycles; because, they are a bicycle and are under bicycle law. The LSCycles and the MACycles are a new type of vehicle and both of them have specific manufacture qualifications. MACycles are to follow bicycle laws; eventhough, they are not a bicycle. LSCycles don't follow bicycle law they follow motor vehicle laws. I personally have never drove my bicycle so why is a pedal assist bicycles ticketed as a automobile when a bicycle is to follow bicycle law and respect road law, when we have not the full rights to road use. Safety has to do with the operator and not the vehicle or bicycle, driven or ridden. Federal law in 2001 stated that a PABicycle is not a LSCycle for any vehicle is a bicycle if it has pedal and has 3 or less wheels. Believe it or not, the people have no longer the free right of passage and are not allowed their mobility rights as the automobile own the roadways...fact.

Submitted by E-mail (original poster)

Just to let your know that we attended the so called “Trial” re: Mac Bicycle or motorcycle. We will be returning later as to judges ruling as appears is in a ICBC deep pit for clarification. Stay tuned for the results. Maybe more knowledge and compassion could have been applied by attending officer. Also a total safety clarification may now apply, which was my intention in the first place. Maybe some people grow to big for their stripes. In any case, I am all in favour of proper justice to all and total explanation of rules concerning any so called vehicle ,no matter what it is on our highways. That is called Democracy and this is Canada. So was this smart good mannered, experience, compassionate,informed,common sense, intuitive and all round #1 judge. I thanked him. Maybe I made a difference as not intimidated by constable and confident in my abilities due to age and experience. Will do more to correct wrongs if I can. Will post results for everyone’s benefit later when Judge makes decision. Bravo to him. Will help others to deal with the communication or written or computer skills required to defend themselves in the Court system if I can. This made my day after almost 6 months of anguish.

Case Law

Here is the provincial court decision as reported in R v Ryan by Judicial Justice H. W. Gordon.

He has dismissed the charge on two grounds, that a driver cannot be convicted of driving without insurance if the vehicle is not insurable and that Ryan had inquired with police prior to the offence and was given conflicting advice regarding whether it was legal to operate the motorized cycle on the roads or not.

The first part is certainly a confusing decision. On one hand Justice Gordon is clear that the motorized cycle meets the definition of being a motor vehicle for the purposes of the Motor Vehicle Act. The Act says:


24(3) A person must not drive or operate a motor vehicle or trailer on a highway unless

(a) the person is insured under a valid and subsisting driver's certificate, and

(b) the motor vehicle and the trailer, if any, are insured under a valid and subsisting motor vehicle liability policy evidenced by an owner's certificate.

On the other, he says that if it can't be insured, then a driver cannot be guilty of violating the law requiring insurance. I am concerned that this is not a correct interpretation of the law.

The defence of due diligence is another matter. Ryan sought advice from people who should know (the police) and was told by some that it was acceptable to ride this motor equipped cycle on the highway. The courts will accept this as a legal defence to the charge if it can be established reliably.

The justice also made another interesting comment in his decision with regard to crossing double solid lines. He opines that it is not illegal to do so if one inadvertently slides over it due to poor road conditions and are exercising care when you did so. This is correct if the offence is one of strict liability. Many Motor Vehicle Act offences are ones of absolute liability, and that would mean a driver would be guilty regardless of whether they were exercising care or not.

Submitted by E-mail

I agree that this matter wasn’t totally clarified as we had requested while in the court room.

    It however was a correct decision as the governing body issuing tickets was authorized to
    clarify the matter in question very early in the problem and had the authority to contact
    the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles directly as that is part of their responsibility and
    failed to do so. Highway safety should be a Canadian law. It is very dangerous and misleading
    when a province has it’s own set of standards. Transport Canada sets the safety standards for
    vehicles with combustible engines for transport vehicles and states that if a vehicle meets safety standards
    and meets all requirements, a seal of approval sticker will be given and vehicle can be legally insured and licenced.
    This should be made a standard across Canada and combined with Provincial Highway laws for all vehicles.
    There are so many vehicles(pedal power bicycles and electric scooters etc.) that are a treat to human life on
    our roadways. We have hopes of all of this being clarified and made part of the law as requested by us to the court.
    Everyone knows that you can’t insure a vehicle without a VIN #.
    Through all of this my hope is that we have started the ball rolling.

Submitted by E-mail

In Vancouver Provincial Court today JJP Schwartz handed down a decision relating to a no insurance violation ticket for a gas powered bicycle being driven on a highway.  In her decision (R. vs Al-Faouri) JJP Schwartz found the disputant guilty of driving without insurance contrary to section 24(3)(b) of the Motor Vehicle Act.  The disputant had presented Case Law from a 2012 case R. vs. Ryan where  JJP Gordon dismissed the charge on a similar fact case reasoning that the vehicle was uninsurable and therefore the disputant could not be found guilty of drving without insurance. JJP Schwartz referred to this case in her decision but determined that the inability to insure the vehicle is irrelevant.  The Prosecution presented two similar fact cases that assisted in her decision R. vs. Rei BCSC  and R vs. Fox Provincial court.

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