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Judge rules electric bikes count as motor vehicles

by Lisa Brown

 BRIDGEWATER - Electric-assist bicycles count as motor vehicles so don't get caught riding one if you're a prohibited driver.

 That's the message that came out of Bridgewater provincial court May 10 in the case of a man caught riding such a vehicle twice in three days last summer.

 Thomas Allan Mailman, 57, defended himself on two counts of prohibited driving.

 The retired teacher told the court he drove the bike for 13 months between early July 2009 and the end of July 2010, putting 3,700 kilometres on it. He bought it after losing his licence for a year on a drunk driving conviction.

 But on July 27 of last year, police charged Mr. Mailman with prohibited driving after he was spotted travelling on Dufferin Street and Exhibition Drive three days earlier.

 About three hours later, they pulled him over a second time after seeing him riding on Dominion Street and into the Bridgewater Plaza parking lot.

 Mr. Mailman argued that he checked both federal and provincial regulations before buying the bike. Both indicated it was not considered a motor vehicle. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, it's considered a bicycle.

 "I didn't buy the bike with any intent to slip through the cracks," Mr. Mailman testified. "I drove it in front of probably every police officer in the town, morning, noon and night."

 But Crown attorney Paul Scovil argued that Mr. Mailman was warned not to drive the bike with the motor engaged. Police told him it fit the Criminal Code definition of a motor vehicle.

 In the end, Judge Gregory Lenehan confirmed that analysis.

 "There's no question it's a motor vehicle," the judge said, whether the rider pedals or coasts or whatever, simply because it has a motor capable of being engaged.

 However, Judge Lenehan concluded it was possible that Mr. Mailman didn't understand that until he was charged the first time because he had done his "homework" and may have believed otherwise.

 But once charged, it was a different story.

 "You knew that, from a police perspective, that was unlawful," Judge Lenehan said. "Once you were charged, that changed the water on the beans, so to speak."

 He acquitted Mr. Mailman of the July 24 offence, but convicted him of the July 27 charge and fined him $200. He also prohibited him from driving by court order for a year.



posted on 05/17/11
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