I realize many fitness freaks may not be interested, but for my own edification I’ve been checking out the laws governing ebikes. While ebikes are NOT fitness machines, my personal opinion is that as the US becomes greener and ebike technology (particularly the batteries) gets better, ebike sales are going to skyrocket. I want to be familiar with the legal landscape on these increasingly popular forms of transportation.
So here’s the deal: there is an apparent misconception in the e bike community there is a federal statute stating an e-bike with a motor less than 750W and that travels under 20 MPH has to be treated as a bicycle for ALL purposes. This is not true. The federal statute only dictates which federal agency’s safety standards apply to ready-made electric bicycles sold in the United States. Electric bicycles sold in the US with speeds under 20MPH and motor under 750W simply have to meet consumer bicycle safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The rationale for this lower safety standard for “low-powered electric bicycles” is they are a consumer product, not a “motor vehicle.” Bikes with specs exceeding these standards sold in the US have to meet the more stringent safety standards for mopeds and motorcycles set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), meaning more robust frames and brakes as well as signal lights, headlights and tail lights. Congress has left it up to the individual states how to regulate the operation of electric bicycles on public rights of way, including licensing. Many in Congress do not appear to be big fans of electric bicycles. With respect to federally-funded pedestrian/bike trails and walkways, Congress issued a prohibition on their use by electric bicycles unless a State has authorized such use by “electric bicycles”. (See the permanent amendments to Section 217(h) of Title 23 of the United States effective upon enrollment of Public Law 105-178.) The obvious next step is a survey on the laws of all 50 states on how they regulate the operation of ebikes. More to follow…..eventually.