PeopleForBikes and BPSA Changing the E-Bike Legal Landscape

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If you bought an e-bike in Arkansas in 2016, your next required steps were to register the e-bike and acquire a license. But e-bikes don’t carry a motor vehicle VIN, and instead come equipped with a serial number as required by federal law, so the DMV couldn’t provide a registration or license. E-bike riders were left with few options but to risk being accused of riding their new e-bike illegally on Arkansas roads and bike paths.

Ambiguous laws and regulations are far from ideal for riders or retailers, considering that e-bikes are the fastest growing category of bicycle sales in the nation. In response to restrictive and outdated e-bike requirements, state legislators began passing progressive e-bike regulations in state traffic codes to ensure common sense rules that provided guidance on where e-bike riding was permitted and what rules people must follow when they ride.

Up until a few years ago, every state’s e-bike laws had a story similar to Arkansas’, each with a different law about what an e-bike is and where it can be ridden. PeopleForBikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association teamed up in 2015 to resolve this. In just four years, PeopleForBikes and the BPSA led the passage of model legislation that increases access for e-bikes in ten states, with eyes on another 20 in 2019.

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington now all have the same e-bike law, with minor variations in specifications for each state. State campaigns are in full swing in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts and Oregon; with a dozen more campaigns in the works.

“When the partnership began in 2015, e-bike regulations were a complete patch work, confusing for retailers, consumers and agencies,” said Alex Logemann, PeopleForBikes’ director of state and local policy. “The goal of the partnership is to ultimately create a better retail and riding environment for e-bikes.”

In 2015, PeopleForBikes and BPSA mobilized manufacturers and suppliers to establish e-bike classifications based on existing U.S. federal laws that control e-bike manufacturing standards, and international regulations that control products in markets across the globe. E-bikes were organized into three classes: Class 1 is a pedal-assist e-bike with a top motor-assisted speed of 20 mph, Class 2 is a throttle-assist e-bike with a top motor-assisted speed of 20 mph and Class 3 is a pedal-assist e-bike with a top motor-assisted speed of 28mph. The class system separated low-speed e-bikes from higher-powered vehicles and simplified the process of establishing regulations around the use of each class.

“It’s a system that manufacturers, dealers, consumers, lawmakers and agencies can agree benefits the industry, customers, cities and states,” said Larry Pizzi, chair of the BPSA electric bicycle committee and vice president of the BPSA. “Passing this law in ten states in four years is phenomenal, and we’re proud to have created a national standard that states now want to adopt for consistency with their neighboring states.”

More information about the PeopleForBikes/BPSA e-bike initiative is available at peopleforbikes.org/e-bikes.