Share the Road
Svend Petersen - June 2009
I see this issue as a matter of how best to utilize our infrastructure
safely and efficiently. We need to share the road, an asset that belongs to
all of us. However we now have factions bent on claiming a large portion of
that infrastructure exclusively for their own use. It is unfortunate that it
has come to this.
The animosity and lack of tolerance directed toward a new, low-speed form of
personal transportation has become quite obvious, and is directly
responsible for the very vocal attempts to discredit these vehicles and
place onerous restrictions, obligations, and unrealistic requirements on the
e-bike and e-scooter in the name of safety. Claims of e-bikes being too
quiet, or too heavy or too wide, as well as the requirement that they be
able to be pedaled, is an Aryan fitness attempt, that is a burden that this
new form of green transportation is subjected to no-where else in the world.
Limiting where slow moving e-scooters and e-bikes can go potentially
excludes the thousands of middle-aged and senior persons who would gladly
leave their cars and trucks at home for all those short trips around the
city, if they had an alternative that didn’t burden them physically,
financially or with unnecessary regulations.
This is not Amsterdam or Paris. Our roadways are often covered with snow and
ice for three or more months of the year. During that time no two-wheeled
vehicle is particularly safe or desirable to ride. For this reason, one size
does not fit all, when it comes to choices in transportation, here or
The initial inaction of the Ontario Government has put us five or six years
behind British Columbia and Quebec and handicapped both riders and potential
investors in green transportation alternatives. The best leadership that the
MTO can demonstrate now is by leveling the playing field and allowing us to
catch up to the rest of the country and the world. Charged with the safe and
efficient use of our infrastructure, the Ministry of Transportation should
not be drawn into a debate about vehicles as a form of exercise equipment.
The demographic of E-Bikes in my experience is from 40 to 75 years of age.
Many, having driven cars or trucks for thirty to fifty years are well aware
of the rules of the road and are law abiding. Some, like me, have health
issues and are unable to partake in an extended bike ride. However they have
the right and desire to participate in our goal of a cleaner greener planet.
Those who feel that the parks and paths and bike lanes of this city belong
only to the able-bodied need only borrow my knees for three hours, to see
the light. Without my E-Bike I have to use my car.
Any attempt to burden this new form of transportation with unreasonable
regulatory requirements would serve to deter its use. Many are holding back
from making an investment due to the uncertainty regarding the ministry’s
intentions. The government could remove doubt and embrace this opportunity
to get people out of their cars.
It is strange that the government has seen fit to seek out information about
E-Bikes from factions that are loudly against them, rather than from people
that actually know the product. There are many things that could make
e-biking safer and have been implemented all over the world, but you will
not learn this from people that don’t want them on the road in the first
In other parts of the world these machines move huge quantities of people
safely and efficiently and they are technically far ahead of us.
We need a government sponsored public education campaign, on billboards,
television, radio and other media, regarding the Rules of the Road.
It would also be helpful if our various Police Departments would set a
better example by asking their bike officers not to ride on the sidewalks.
E-Bikes have a proven safety record all over the world. They are more
visible and better equipped than any bicycle. They are a clean and most
efficient use of our infrastructure. It is in everyone’s interest to move
ahead and concentrate on safety issues for all two wheel methods of
transportation without discrimination.
We all need to display a bit more tolerance and mutual respect as we travel
in and around our cities. Cooperation toward a single goal, of using our
infrastructure in a way that is beneficial to all, will show real