A new ruling gives greater clarity to the issue of what constitutes a motor assisted cycles (MAC). Motor assisted cycles are a class of vehicle that do not require a licence or insurance to operate. As a result, people who are unable or do not want to obtain a driver’s licence, including those with driving suspensions, often use them to get around.
The problem is they are easily confused with small, limited speed motorcycles, such as scooters, which do require a licence and insurance to drive. MACs, on the other hand, are uninsurable. ICBC does not sell insurance for them.
The difficulty in differentiating between MACs and limited speed motorcycles has caused problems with enforcing Motor Vehicle Act regulations. The two classes of vehicles are tricky to tell apart and they come down to a set of specifications.
What are motor assisted cycles?
The Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation sets out the requirements of the vehicle category. It defines a motor assisted cycle as a device to which pedals or hand cranks are attached that will allow for the cycle to be propelled by human power. Its motor must also not exceed a prescribed power output of 500 watts.
The motor must be electric, and the speed of the vehicle must be limited to 32 km/hr on level ground. The cycle must not have more than two wheels in contact with the ground and the wheels must not exceed 350 mm in diameter.
R. v. Wojtkiw
A BC Supreme Court decision affirms the importance of pedals when it comes to classifying a vehicle as a motor assisted cycle. A police officer pulled Terrence Wojtkiw over after spotting him riding a “Tag 500” scooter on the hard shoulder of a highway. Mr. Wojtkiw contested that he did not need a licence or insurance because he was riding a motor assisted cycle. Nevertheless, the officer charged him with driving without a licence, driving without insurance and passing vehicles on the right of the roadway.
At provincial court, a judicial justice had to decide if the vehicle was a motor assisted cycle under the MVA and Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation. The vehicle’s pedals were positioned side-by-side rather than one always ahead of the other. Mr. Wojtkiw testified that he could change the position of the pedals in two minutes using a wrench that he carried with him.
The judicial justice said that although this was unconventional it did not preclude the vehicle from being classed as a motor assisted cycle. The judicial justice also found that since the vehicle was uninsurable, the rider should not be found guilty of driving without insurance when he couldn’t possibly obtain it in the first place.
The Crown appealed the lower court’s decision at the Supreme Court of BC. The judge found the judicial justice erred in classifying the vehicle as a motor assisted cycle. The Supreme Court stated the pedals are “an essential marker” of a motor assisted cycle.
The judge stated: “With his pedals in an unusable position and the significant weight of his scooter, it is obvious that Mr. Wojtkiw had been using the electric motor to supplant, not supplement, propulsion of the scooter.” In other words, in order for a vehicle to be a motor assisted cycle it has to have the ability to be propelled by human power alone. Since Mr Wojtkiw was not able to use his pedals without stopping and adjusting them, they could not be used and the vehicle was not a motor assisted cycle.
The judge also acknowledged the issue surrounding insurance, however, this did not prevent it from being classed as a motorcycle. The judge said: “I acknowledge that a gap in the insurability of limited speed motorcycles may be problematic for Mr. Wojtkiw and those who operate similar scooters. But the fact that Mr. Wojtkiw may not be able to insure his scooter does not make it a MAC.”
The lesson here is, if you are riding a motor assisted cycle without a licence, make sure you can use the pedals.