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A Few Facts about Motorcycle Law in Ontario
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There are three major types of motorcycles: 1) standard motorcycle 2) limited-speed motorcycle and 3) motor-assisted bicycle.
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1. The province of Ontario defines a motorcycle as a self-propelled vehicle with a seat or saddle for the driver designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the road. It includes scooters but not motor-assisted bicycles or “motorcyclettes“.
2. A limited-speed motorcycle is a gas powered motorcycle which cannot exceed 7() km/hr. It has a “step-through–design and automatic transmission. LSMs manufactured after 1988 must have a label on the vehicle identifying it as an “LSM/MVI” LSMs must be registered with the Ministry of Transportation and have a valid limited-speed motorcycle license plate or a regular motorcycle license plate (if plated before November 28, 2005) attached in order to be driven on public roads.
3. A motor-assisted bicycle, or moped, is defined in Ontario as a bicycle with pedals to propel the bicycle that are operable at all times. These vehicles are limited to speeds of 50 km/hr or less and cannot have a clutch or motor-driven gearbox that transfers power to the driven wheel. They can weigh no more than 55 kilograms. Although mopeds are not considered motorcycles, you must still hold a valid motorcycle class license (an M1, M2 (L), M2, M(L) or M) and a valid moped license plate in order to drive on Ontario’s public roads. Riders must be at least 16 years of age, wear approved bicycle or motorcycle helmets, and follow the same traffic laws as cyclists.
Motorcycles are an icon of individualism. Understandably, some motorcyclists like to “pimp their ride”. Custom fitting a bike is an outlet of expression, not unlike custom building a guitar; it signals to others riders your individual style, and the type of `rocker‘ you really are. While the vast majority of bikes come off an assembly line designed within the strict legal parameters of motorcycle construction, three common ways in which bikers like to push the safety envelop is by tampering with their helmets, handlebars and mufflers according to our resident expert on motorcycles.
a) Helmet Requirement
Canada’s motorcycle helmet laws are easy to understand because they are fairly uniform across all 10 provinces and three territories: all passengers on a motorcycle or motor-assisted bicycle must wear crash helmets at all times securely fastened under the chin.
In 2011, a Sikh lost his challenge to the $110 ticket he received for not wearing a helmet while riding his Honda Shadow. Baljinder Badesha claimed the Ontario helmet law under s. 104 (1) of the Highway Traffic Act was “100 per cent” discriminatory under the Human Rights Code, no matter what the safety issues were when riding without a helmet. Justice Takach did not quite see it this way, and dismissed the claim. However, British Columbia and Manitoba DO in fact allow devout Sikh’s to be exempt from their helmet laws.
Motorcycle helmets must meet safety standards approved for use as a motorcycle helmet in Canada. Only helmets that meet CSA CAN3-D230-M85 standards may be worn in compliance with Canada’s universal helmet laws. These are roughly equivalent to helmets certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for sale in America. There should be a label on the helmet indicating the certification.
b) Speakers/Ear Devices
In Ontario helmets may be equipped with speakers, or as an alternative, drivers are permitted to wear ear phones underneath their helmets for the purpose of communication only. They may not play music through them. Wireless communication devices may only be used to make, answer or end a cell phone call, or to transmit or receive voice communication on a two-way radio or handheld microphone or portable radio. Using any type of hand-held device for any other purpose is prohibited.
In the vernacular of the biker, it is called “the 15 inch” law. For the rest of us, it is called the “no part of the handlebars can exceed a height of 380mm (14.96 inches) above the uppermost portion of the operator’s seat when the seat is depressed by the weight of the operator” law.
Handlebars must be maintained at all times, and cannot be loose or damaged in such a way as to interfere with the safe operation of the motorcycle.
If a vehicle fails either of these tests, or any of the safety regulations set out in Reg. 611, it may be deemed “unsafe”, and the operator may be charged under Section 84 of theHighway Traffic Act, for driving an unsafe vehicle and liable to a fine between $400-20,000 if convicted.
Some motorcyclists put on an “aftermarket pipe”, which is essentially a custom designed muffler. The problem is, this often gets them pulled over by the police for making “unreasonable noise”. So how loud is TOO loud? There is no precise decibel level or volume threshold. It all comes down to what the officer regards as “reasonable”. It might also be worth mentioning that offences related to unreasonable noise under the HTA are strict liability offences (intent is not an issue). The regulatory provisions are as follows:
Every motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle shall be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and excessive smoke, and no person shall use a muffler cut-out, straight exhaust, gutted muffler, hollywood muffler, by-pass or similar device upon a motor vehicle or motor assisted bicycle.
However, the above does not apply to,
(a) a motor-assisted bicycle with an attached motor that is driven entirely by electricity; or
(b) a motor vehicle that is driven entirely by electricity.
The engine and power mechanism of every motor vehicle shall be so equipped and adjusted as to prevent the escape of excessive fumes or smoke.
A person having the control or charge of a motor vehicle shall not sound any bell, horn or other signalling device so as to make an unreasonable noise, and a driver of any motor vehicle shall not permit any unreasonable amount of smoke to escape from the motor vehicle, nor shall the driver at any time cause the motor vehicle to make any unnecessary noise, but this subsection does not apply to a motor vehicle of a municipal fire department while proceeding to a fire or answering a fire alarm call.
Once you are pulled over, the fate of your ticket lies at the officer’s discretion. You can choose to light your ticket, and try to prove to the Justice of the Peace that the sounds you made were in fact reasonable and that no accurate reading was taken. However, if you’re driving with an “aftermarket pipe”, proving your muffler has passed all the standard emissions and noise testing set forth by the Province becomes considerably more difficult and time consuming.
Aside from the Highway Traffic Act, a motorcyclist might also be liable for an unreasonable noise violation under a City By-Law in Hamilton. This by-law states specifically that it applies when the source of the unreasonable noise is:
- a condition of disrepair or maladjustment, including but not limited to the maladjustment of any load, of any vehicle or a part or accessory of any vehicle; and
- a discharge of the exhaust of any steam engine, internal combustion engine or pneumatic device except with an exhaust or intake muffling device in good working order and in constant operation that prevents unreasonable noise;
Anyone found guilty of these offences is liable to a fine of no more than $10,000 for a first offence and $25,000 for a second or subsequent offence.
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