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Speed bylaw approved to regulate e-bikes on Midland trails next year

Trails turning into ‘a high-speed racing track,’ says resident, 'think the Tour de France'
Bayport Village resident Keith Lovatt gave a deputation to Midland council about safety concerns on the trail system, including the speed factor of e-bikes. Council approved a bylaw later in the session to regulate e-bikes within the Midland parks and trails, set to start in 2022.

Two deputations coincided with a proposed e-bike bylaw in an unexpectedly well-timed occurrence. 

Midland council passed a motion for a proposed bylaw which would regulate e-bikes on municipal parks and trails starting next year, and approved the required resources of approximately $68,000 for enforcement measures.

An e-bike, as defined under the Highway Traffic Act and the Motor Vehicle Safety Act Regulations, is a power-assisted bicycle which uses an electric motor and has two variations: the e-bike which looks similar to a standard bicycle, and the e-scooter which resembles a motor scooter.

The proposed regulation bylaw motion was brought to council as a result of complaints over the use of e-bikes on trails, which some residents felt were a threat to the safety of slower trail-goers.

By coincidence, council received two deputations earlier in the committee of the whole meeting, which addressed those same concerns.

A presentation from Keith Lovatt, a resident of Bayport Village, spoke to the safety and accessibility concerns for pedestrian traffic along the Midland Rotary multi-use trail.

“Some of the traffic really doesn’t belong in the same place as pedestrians,” Lovatt described, “and that’s where we get to the heavy vehicles, the fast vehicles, and some of these e-bikes -- just the regular power-assisted bicycles.

“You see the kids whipping through without pedalling, and I don’t think they realize how fast they’re going, to be honest, because they’re just talking to each other and whizzing by.”

Lovatt called out e-bikes, winter use snowmobiles, and mobility devices as the extreme dangers to trail users, but made sure to note that regular mobility devices “that take people at walking speed, those are welcome and never a concern.”

“We do get the odd ones who treat this as a roadway, and those are the real concern,” Lovatt stated.

In his presentation, Lovatt related several anecdotes where he and acquaintances felt threatened by near collisions with faster vehicles on the trails, with suggestions for council to put up signs at trail access points stating the low speed limits and prohibition of motorized vehicles on the trails.

As per the Ministry of Transportation electric bicycle definitions, e-bikes in Ontario must have a maximum speed of 32 kilometres per hour. Currently, the 1990 bylaw to regulate public parks and park buildings in Midland has outdated definitions that do not address motorized vehicles on trails.

Doug Maund also provided a deputation on behalf of the Tiffin Homeowners Association Trail Safety Committee, explaining that a “small but determined minority” of trail riders use the accessway as “a high speed racing track; think the Tour de France.”

“The issue that I’ve been tasked to raise with you,” said Maund, “is the dangerous and uncontrolled use of vehicles like that under those circumstances on narrow and tightly confined space, such as the easement trail.

“We do ask you to perhaps consider not including as an exemption pedelec e-bikes, because of the classes that can weigh up to 88 pounds and a speed up to 32 kilometres per hour. We think that the simplest and best solution would be to ban all motorized vehicles, whatsoever, on the trails, apart from disability vehicles obviously,” said Maund, who added that his family members too were nearly hit by speedy riders.

Jim Reichheld, municipal law enforcement officer and supervisor of municipal bylaws, informed council that no significant changes to the proposed bylaw occurred after a public consultation earlier in the year, with the exception of a redefinition of pedelec to power-assisted bicycle to correspond with the recent Moving Ontarians More Safely Act (MOMS Act) wording.

Councillor Bill Gordon took notice of the definition of power-assisted bicycle as per the provincial MOMS Act, stating that the province was in error and that council had the opportunity to improve upon it.

In his explanation, Gordon argued that the three components of the power-assisted bicycle definition could be successfully used against bylaw and OPP officers to place faster e-bikes within the lower-class designation and escape a ticket: having two or three wheels; is fitted at all times with pedals that are always operable to propel the bicycle; and is capable at all times of being propelled on level ground solely by using muscular power to operate the pedals.

“I suggested some wording changes to this that removes that ambiguity entirely,” said Gordon, simplifying it to an e-bike requiring a throttle mechanism to move, and an pedal-assisted bicycle which “won’t move an inch, you’ll fall over and land right on your head, unless you are putting those feet on those pedals and pedalling.”

Mayor Stewart Strathearn advised council to keep the wording recommended by staff to align with the province, citing the cumbersome time and expense put into municipal audits on definitions which deviate from a given template.

“While I appreciate Councillor Gordon has made some interesting suggestions with respect to enforceability, and I suspect that people will take those into account and think about them,” said Strathearn, “I think that it’s important that we follow the provincial (wording), however flawed, in so far as being able to track the changes and to be in the position that we can always point to the superior authority and say ‘well that’s the definition, and here’s the prescriptions we’ve put in place with respect that that definition.’”

Coun. Cher Cunningham asked if council had any interest in reducing the speed limit within municipal trails down to ten kilometres per hour, which was met with general acceptance.

Council also discussed the impact of items to be budgeted in 2022, including: two summer staff at approximately $50,000 from May through October; roughly $11,000 in parks and trails signs; two bicycles along with related gear, clothing and training for $4,000; and radios and phones at a cost of $3,000. The total of approximately $68,000 was met with acceptance for its needs.

Council passed the motion for a phased-in approach to regulate e-bikes as of January 1, 2022, with the $68,000 amount to be included in the 2022 draft budget. Also, staff will bring a recommendation for a ten kilometre per hour speed limit within all Midland trails to a future meeting for discussion.

Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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