A Burnaby man wants the public to know electric bikes are not scooters, and they have a rightful place on cycling paths.
Greg Schmidt lives in the BCIT area, and for the past two years, he's been commuting to Vancouver via the Central Valley Greenway on his electric bike. Because his bike looks more like a motorized scooter, Schmidt has been misunderstood by motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians.
"There have been numerous occasions where I have been yelled at or questioned as to if I'm allowed to be on the path with my e-bike," Schmidt said. "I've been yelled at by motorists as well. If you are on the road, - some people think you ought to be going faster. I was told by one guy, 'Get on the sidewalk.'"
That hostility came to a head recently, after Schmidt ran into a man who swore at him. When they crossed paths again last Monday, the same man flicked a cigarette at his bike.
"It totally caught me by surprise. That was the first time there's been any serious altercation," Schmidt said. "If I was on a regular bicycle, I don't think it would have been an issue. - I'm pretty sure he doesn't like the fact that it's a scooter on the sidewalk. It perceived as that way."
Now Schmidt carries a camcorder and has the Burnaby RCMP on speed dial.
"I'm hoping I won't have to use either, but violent actions out of ignorance should not be tolerated," Schmidt said.
Schmidt's e-bike runs on electricity and has a maximum speed of 32 km/h. It's classified as a motor-assisted bicycle, and there's no insurance or licence needed.
Schmidt has to ride his e-bike on cycling paths and along the side of the road, like any other bike. He's hoping his story will raise public awareness about e-bikes and the fact they are allowed to go everywhere bikes do.
"They may look a bit different, but they are supposed to be there, and they are allowed to be there," Schmidt said.
Burnaby resident Gordon World has run an e-bike shop in Vancouver for the past six years, and he's familiar with Schmidt's plight.
"It's not so much an issue in Vancouver. There are just not as many people riding in Burnaby," he said. "In Vancouver, it's gotten to the point where they're virtually mainstream."
The negative reaction usually comes from "bicycle purists" or misconception, according to World.
When the Olympics were on, for example, police from other areas, who weren't familiar with road rules for e-bikes, were ticketing people when they shouldn't have, World said.
"Again, it was just a misconception," he said. "I understand when the unit looks like a motorcycle, but you have to look very carefully."
There are a few differences to watch for: e-bikes have pedals, they are virtually silent, and they are usually labelled as a "power-assisted bicycle."
World's advice to his customers is: Ride within the law and be respectful.
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