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Toronto needs similar rules to New York City when it comes to e-bikes: retailer

A Toronto e-bike retailer thinks regulations should change following a fire caused by a lithium-ion battery on the city’s subway system over the weekend.

Toronto fire and transit officials continue to investigate after an e-bike burst into flames inside a TTC subway train at Sheppard-Yonge Station Sunday afternoon. The owner of the e-bike was rushed to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

“When a lithium-ion battery fails and ignites, the response leads to a rapidly developing fire that poses an immediate risk to anyone in the area,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg told reporters Tuesday.

While e-bikes have become a popular mode of transportation, the batteries used to power them can be deadly if misused, causing problems for many urban centres worldwide.

“We are examining similar incidents of e-bike fires that have occurred on transit systems in North America and Europe,” a spokesperson for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) told CTV News Toronto.

New York City has been cracking down on the sale of unsafe e-bikes and aftermarket batteries following more than 200 e-bike fires and 23 deaths over the past two years, including four people who died at an e-bike shop fire that spread to an apartment.

A Toronto-based e-bike retailer says New York City’s rules should be considered in Canadian cities, as it could improve safety.

“We always have the highest standards when we import our products and I know that other companies don’t,” said Parwaiz Nijrabi of Movin’ Mobility.

In the past three years, Nijrabi said he has never had a fire issue with the e-bikes or batteries they have sold.

Lithium-ion battery fires occur when batteries are misused or damaged, or a cheaper replacement battery is used in place of the original equipment from the manufacturer.

In New York City, the new law prohibits the sale, lease or rental of e-bikes that fail to reach recognized safety standards. Retailers will face fines of up to $1,000 for each uncertified device that is found.

Nijrabi said the same rules should be implemented in Toronto to track where e-bikes and batteries come from to ensure they are safe.

“I hope Canada will follow suit and have these regulations. It’s better for the seller, and it’s better for the consumer and the public in general,” said Nijrabi.

When shopping for an e-bike, look for a UL-certified label, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage and always use the power adapter and cord supplied by the manufacturer.

The Toronto Fire Service said it is working on a lithium-ion battery safety campaign and plans to release it later this year.  

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