Quadracycling in Ottawa

Quadracycles and the Law

Gordon Koppang in Lethbridge


One question that is often asked is "under what rules are quadracycles and electric-assist quadracycles operated in Ontario?"

This is a good question to ask, as the rules are very different for pedal-powered quadracycles versus electrically-assisted ones.

This page will examine the rules for these two classes of vehicles in Ontario and also look at a few special cases, like cycling on the sidewalks in Ottawa and whether quadracycles can qualify as e-bikes.

If you live outside Ontario then you will have to check your local laws to see if quadracycles or electric-assist quadracycles are allowed and, if so, under what rules.

Page Contents

Quadracycle Legalities

An interpretation received by the Ottawa Police department from MTO Policy indicates that under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) quadracycles are "vehicles" but not "bicycles" (which is a subset of vehicles). This is because bicycles include only muscle-powered vehicles that have one, two or three wheels.

slow moving vehicle sign

This places quadracycles under the HTA like other vehicles, but outside the rules for bicycles.

According to the HTA, muscle-powered quadracycles are permitted on any roads in Ontario, except 400 series highways. Being non-motorized they do not require licence plates, driver's licences or insurance. They are required to have a slow moving vehicle sign on the rear of the vehicle.

The slow moving vehicle sign is a good idea anyway - they are cheap to buy and greatly increase the quadracycle's visibility from the rear, which is a safety benefit.

The MTO interpretation that if it has four wheels and is muscle powered it isn't a bicycle, but is a vehicle, creates some problems, although not for quadracycles. This means that small children with training wheels on their bikes don't have to wear helmets, because they aren't riding a bike but a "vehicle". They also have to have slow moving vehicle signs and aren't allowed on bike paths.

If you read the HTA carefully it is apparent that skateboarders and roller skaters also have to have slow-moving vehicle signs, too.

Cycling on Sidewalks

In Ontario it is left up to individual municipalities whether they will allow cycling on sidewalks or not. Most urban municipalities do ban cycling on sidewalks as an issue of pedestrian safety, but check your municipal bylaws to be sure.

Even if cycling on sidewalks is allowed in your municipality you will probably not be able to quadracycle on the sidewalk, since quadracycles aren't bicycles in Ontario.

The City of Ottawa prohibits almost all vehicles from using sidewalks, including bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates and in-line skates. Only wheelchairs, baby carriages, children's tricycles, children's wagons or handcarts used for vending are permitted on sidewalks. City of Ottawa Traffic and Parking BY-LAW NO. 2003 - 530 Regulation 84 Vehicles Crossing Sidewalks, Boulevards and Curbs PDF document (300 kB).

Electric-Assist Quadracycle Legalities

The rules for electric-assist quadracycles in Canada are very different than for pedal-powered quadracycles.

Motor vehicle safety standards in Canada are set by Transport Canada under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA). Under this act pedal-powered quadracycles are not regulated but powered ones are, including electric-powered ones.

The Act defines a vehicle regulated under the Act as:

"vehicle means any vehicle that is capable of being driven or drawn on roads by any means other than muscular power exclusively, but does not include any vehicle designed to run exclusively on rails."

This means that powered quadracycles have to comply with the Act and the associated regulations (MVSR) to be eligible to be imported into Canada or used here.

The regulations classify all powered quadracycles as "low speed vehicles". This category is defined as vehicles for which:

  1. is designed for use primarily on streets and roads where access and the use of other classes of vehicles are controlled by law or agreement
  2. travels on four wheels
  3. is powered by an electric power train (an electric motor and, if present, a transmission) that is designed to allow the vehicle to attain a speed of 32 km/h but not more than 40 km/h in a distance of 1.6 km on a paved level surface
  4. does not use fuel as an on-board source of energy, and
  5. has a GVWR of less than 1 361 kg

This relieves them of many of the requirements of passenger cars, such as bumpers and air bags, but the Standards do set requirements for these vehicles to be acceptable in Canada.

Low speed vehicles are required to have:

  1. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  2. Approved seat belts
  3. Further requirements which are specified under Technical Standards Document No. 500 — Low-Speed Vehicles, including:

"Each low-speed vehicle shall be equipped with:

  1. Headlamps,
  2. Front and rear turn signal lamps,
  3. Tail lamps,
  4. Stop lamps,
  5. Reflex reflectors: one red on each side as far to the rear as practicable and one red on the rear,
  6. An exterior mirror mounted on the driver’s side of the vehicle and either an exterior mirror mounted on the passenger’s side of the vehicle or an interior mirror,
  7. A parking brake,
  8. A windshield that conforms to section 205, Glazing Materials, of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR).
  9. A VIN that conforms to the requirements of section 115, Vehicle Identification Number, of the MVSR, and
  10. A Type 1 or Type 2 seat belt assembly conforming to section 209, Seat Belt Assemblies, of the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations."

If the powered quadracycle you are looking at doesn't conform to these requirements then it can't be imported or used in Canada, even on private property. Individual provinces' Highway Traffic Acts may also have restrictions on the use of low speed or slow moving vehicles. For instance Ontario does not permit motorized low speed vehicles on public roads.

Rhoades Car electric quadracycle models e-one and e-two don't currently meet the MVSA requirements and therefore cannot be imported into Canada or driven in this country.

E-bikes in Ontario

A Stong-brand e-bike

Some people have suggested that electric-powered quadracycles could be used under the Ontario e-bike rules, but this is not the case.

After a three-year trial held between and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) permenantly approved "Electric Power-Assisted Bicycles" or "e-bikes" for use on Ontario public highways.

A long as an e-bike meets the requirements it can be operated in Ontario by people 16 years of age and older while wearing a bicycle or motorcycle helmet.

MTO has a complete run-down on the use of e-bikes, including very complete FAQs.

Anyone considering an electric-assist quadracycle in Ontario should note that the MTO definition of an e-bike includes that they have a maximum of three wheels and thus electric-assist quadracycles are not permitted on Ontario roads. As described above, four-wheeled e-bikes conflict with the Ontario HTA as well as the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The complete definition for e-bikes in Ontario can be found on the MTO website.