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GO Transit to inspect e-bikes starting next month

In a news release Monday, the transit agency said starting in April bikes will be inspected for certain certifications and receive a tamper-proof seal if they meet the new safety requirements.  (Saloni Bhugra/CBC - image credit)
In a news release Monday, the transit agency said starting in April bikes will be inspected for certain certifications and receive a tamper-proof seal if they meet the new safety requirements. (Saloni Bhugra/CBC - image credit)

Anyone taking an e-bike on GO Transit will soon have to have their bike inspected by staff before being allowed to board a vehicle, Metrolinx announced Monday.

The news comes after Metrolinx said earlier this month that only bikes with certain certifications would be allowed on GO Transit. In a news release Monday, the transit agency said starting in April bikes will be inspected for those certifications and receive a "tamper-proof seal" if they meet the new safety requirements.

Bikes without seals or with outdated seals will be inspected.

Under the new rules, which will be enforced starting on April 9, GO Transit can remove any e-bike from its vehicles if a battery is deemed unsafe. The new measures come after an e-bike battery fire filled a TTC subway car with smoke late last year. At the time, Metrolinx told CBC Toronto it would be reviewing its e-bike policy.

David Shellnutt, managing partner of The Biking Lawyer LLP, said the new inspection program is something his office will be keeping an eye on.

"We're hoping that before this sort of crackdown comes on April 9th that there's a lot of advanced notice to people [that], 'this is going to happen, these are your rights, this is what we're looking for,'" he said.

All e-bike batteries will need to meet UL or CE requirements, Metrolinx said. There must also be no physical damage to the battery case or warranty seal.

"CE" stands for Conformité Européenne certification, which signifies that products sold particularly in Europe have been assessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements, according to the European Union.

Meanwhile, "UL" stands for a certification by the Underwriters Laboratories Of Canada, an independent organization that conducts product safety testing, certification, and inspection.

Shellnutt said when it comes to batteries, there needs to be better regulation to stop potentially harmful batteries from ending up in bikes on the province's roads.

"We can't have products that can hurt Ontarians on our streets or on our buses or subways or trains like this," he said.

In a statement, Ontario's Office of the Fire Marshal said e-bikes can cause fire safety issues when not maintained or operated properly. The office said people should never make a homemade battery, and they should unplug batteries when they're fully charged.

Metrolinx adding bike coaches

Metrolinx is also making more room for bikes on trains, by building eight new bike coaches. Once implemented, there will be one bike coach per trip on the Kitchener line and seasonal weekend Lakeshore West trips to Niagra Falls.

The coaches can hold 22 bikes and seat passengers. Metrolinx did not say when the coaches would be finished.

GO Transit riders walking through Union Station with their e-bikes told CBC Toronto on Monday that extra bike coaches would be a welcomed addition to the transit lines.

"Those who take the GO train, they are also getting frustrated with [the bikes], I do understand that," said Lovepreet Singh. "But if they will add some coaches for the bikes, that will be very helpful for everyone."

GO Transit rider Janice Jim, who rides the train with her regular bike, said the bike coaches on the Kitchener line are already packed.

"But you know, I don't blame the couriers, they're going into town to make a living like me, I'm bringing my bike in to use to get get to my meetings."