07/17/2012 10:36 EDT | Updated 09/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Electric bikes need pedals to avoid licensing in B.C.

A precedent-setting B.C. Supreme Court decision could have consequences for riders of fashionable electric bicycles.

The machines look like European scooters and many have detachable pedals, but a Chilliwack judge has ruled that riders need to keep the pedals on — if they want to remain street legal.

The issue wound up in the high court after a Chilliwack man was charged for driving without insurance after he removed the pedals on his electric bike, as many owners do.

The man said the pedals made his bike unsafe, but the court said that was not the point.

“Ultimately, the judge found that it ceases to be a motor-assisted cycle once the pedals come off,” said Crown Counsel Paul Blessin.

The judge found that without pedals, a rider has no physical means to propel a bike, making it a motor vehicle like a scooter, which the new bikes clearly resemble.

"So, you need to be licensed, you need to be insured," Blessin said.

Under the terms of the Motor Vehicle Act, electric bikes are defined as "Motor Assisted Cycles."

Blessin said the rules were written before the current crop of machines hit Lower Mainland streets.

“The original design of a motor-assisted cycle, it looked a whole lot a bicycle with an electric motor and battery on it, whereas the current, more common brand looks a lot more like a scooter and a lot less like a bicycle," said Blessin.

The judge also said the province should review regulations surrounding electric bikes.