Every third Wednesday around the lunch hour (11:30 am), The Bike Walk Leadership Network meets via zoom with the purpose of connecting local leaders to share stories and ideas on how they are lifting the walking and bing culture in their communities. Register here if you haven’t already joined the network: https://bikemn.salsalabs.org/bikewalkleaders/index.html
Last month, the Bike Walk Leadership Network Webinar featured Dorian Grilley and Matt Moore, who discussed electric-assisted bicycles (e-bikes), e-bicycle law updates, and more.
Active Transportation Funding Opportunity
Before rolling into the main topic, Jake Rueter, Active Transportation Coordinator with MDOT, shared information on their Active Transportation Program Planning Assistance opportunity, which is open for applications until 5 p.m. on Friday, June 10, 2022. The program supports community-wide efforts to creates an active transportation plan with help from a consultant. The goal is to help more people safely walk and bicycle to destinations where they live, work and play.
Dorian spoke of BikeMN’s successful e-bike advocacy work last year at the state level as well as the work still needed to be done. Matt spoke of the Quality Bicycle Products’ growth – starting in a garage in Bloomington to becoming the leading retail supplier for bike shops in the United States – along with their most recent conversion into a B-Corp business.
Matt highlights the work of People for Bikes in developing model e-bike legislation, highlighting a 2021 law distinguishing 3 classes, with 36 states who have adopted it, with more pending. The goals were to make the classification of different e-bikes uniform across states as well as to provide clear manufacturer labeling. Before 2012, e-bikes were in the same legal class as mopeds.
What is the legal definition of an e-bike now?
From MS 169.001:
Subd. 15a.Class 1 electric-assisted bicycle. “Class 1 electric-assisted bicycle” means an electric-assisted bicycle equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Subd. 15b.Class 2 electric-assisted bicycle. “Class 2 electric-assisted bicycle” means an electric-assisted bicycle equipped with an electric motor that is capable of propelling the bicycle without the rider pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Subd. 15c.Class 3 electric-assisted bicycle. “Class 3 electric-assisted bicycle” means an electric-assisted bicycle equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.
Matt noted that even with e-bikes having the capacity for higher speeds, in practice they typically are used at the same speeds as other bikers.
What is not considered an e-bike?
- Vehicles that are designed and marketed for use on public roads that can travel in excess of 20 mph on motor power alone are “motor vehicles” and regulated by NHTSA
- Motor exceeds 750 Watts
- The vehicle has multiple “modes” programmed by the manufacturer and one or more allow for speeds in excess of defined class limits
Question & Answer
Where can you ride an e-bike?
On any roadway, bicycle path, bicycle trail, or shared-use path unless specifically prohibited/restricted by those with jurisdiction and authorization
Why isn’t homeowner insurance covering e-bikes?
They should be able to now. Insurance underwriters are playing catch up. Typically they don’t cover motor vehicles, but now that they are legally defined as otherwise this should become standard practice and be covered. There is growing coverage, but if that’s not the case there may be options to purchase additional coverage. One way to check would be to get a preliminary ruling, email your insurance provider that you have an e-bike, ask if it is covered, and get from them in writing if it is.
Do any jurisdictions currently limit e-bike use?
Currently, the only know site by the presenters was at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (DNR).
Cars are not regulated by speed capability like e-bikes, how might we act to also regulate cars to ensure safety?
Dorian spoke to BikeMNs work and the big push to allow lower urban speed limits. Many communities have been implementing them since. The bike industry probably doesn’t have the capacity to go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Congress and say, we want a law that internally restricts car speed. However, Matt highlights how easy that would be with so many electronics in new cars. They are tracking everything you’re doing that can be recalled if you’re in a serious crash. This may possibly be worked into self-driving cars.
How can we proactively address perceived safety concerns around e-bikes being used in different trials?
Matt highlighted that the same issues coming up around e-bikes also came up when mountain bikes came on the scene being used on hiking trails and horse trails. There was a perception of them not being safe so a lot of work had to be done including rider education and designing separate trails for mountain bike users only to address that. For e-bikes, there are safety concerts that People for Bikes recognizes and putting time and attention into rider education – not just where can you ride and how fast, but how should you ride. Currently, the epicenter of rider/walker user conflicts and accidents has been in southern California along the LA beaches. This could lead to them being restricted, but the best approach is user education, Matt said. Dorian agreed and also thought that with the support e-bikes have from the legislature and local government, that they also agree user education is the better route to take rather than regulation. Many cases of accident or injury are coming from new users who may have gotten their bike online not through a shop, take it out for their first ride and there is something wrong with the bike assembly. It’s really more important than for retailers and online sellers to educate users on the capabilities of their bikes. This is why Quality Bike Products supports people buying bikes from retailers who can both give advice on what bike is right for them and they can get follow-up maintenance.
E-bikes as a source of empowerment
For some users, riding a non-electrified bike up a hill or against the wind is a big obstacle. People on the call highlighted how their e-bike has been empowering and allowing them to ride every day and to more places. It has also allowed people to more easily ride together. Where one would struggle to keep up with a friend on a non-electric bike, having an e-bike has allowed people to keep up with each other.
**The Bike Walk Leadership Network meets every third Wednesday around the lunch hour (11:30 am) via zoom with the purpose of connecting local leaders to share stories and ideas on how they are lifting the walking and bing culture in their communities.
This month on May 18th, we will hear from OurStreets about Open Streets.