Saanich council approves exemption for electric bikes

Council approves recommendation to restore provincial sales tax exemption for torque-assist electric bicycles

If you’re looking at getting an electric bicycle, Saanich council is about to make them a bit cheaper.

On Monday, council approved a recommendation from the bicycle and pedestrian mobility advisory committee to restore the provincial sales tax exemption for torque-assist – also known as pedal-assist – electric bicycles. The tax break is an incentive for residents to use green transportation.

Coun. Vic Derman, who chairs the committee, said the proposal to restore the previous PST exemption came from a local cycling organization and led to a discussion on what types of electric bikes should be exempt. The committee differentiated torque-assist bikes from cadence-assist and throttle-assist, which are not permitted on district trails.

“After some debate, it was pointed out to the committee that there are electric bicycles that require somebody to do some pedalling and they provide assistance to the pedalling process,” said Derman.

“There are devices that are labelled electric bikes that don’t even have pedals on them. I certainly see them when I’m riding down the [Galloping] Goose and they go flying by – they’re really a little motorcycle and they’re actually not appropriate on the Goose.”

Derman said the committee decided to only recommend tax breaks for electric bikes that are appropriate on district trails, meaning torque-assist electric bikes.

“The committee said instead, ‘These are the bikes that are appropriate to call electric bicycles, and these are the ones that we think should be tax exempt,’” he noted.

Coun. Judy Brownoff thanked the committee for its distinction between different types of electric bikes, noting the ones without pedals can operate at a high rate of speed and can be startling to pedestrians on the trails.

Coun. Fred Haynes said he’s been delighted by his own torque-assist bike, but was unsure how to make clear to the public which types of electric bikes are and aren’t allowed on Saanich trails.

 

Derman indicated the committee is looking to address keeping non-pedal bikes off trails at a later time.