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Making Space for E-Bikes on the Streets and in the Law

11:01 AM PST on February 1, 2018

Photo: Washington Bikes

Electric bicycles are growing in popularity. But the laws regulating e-bike use have to catch up. In many places there's ambiguity about the types of e-bikes that are allowed, and where people can ride them.

An extreme case is New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD are exploiting confusing laws to enforce an all-out ban on e-bike operation, mainly targeting immigrant delivery workers.

In Washington state, advocates are working with state legislators to clarify the rules for e-bike operation on streets and trails. Some e-bikes are more powerful than others, and move too fast for bike lanes shared with slower cyclists. But overall, the goal of the advocacy group Washington Bikes has been to improve access to a healthy, low-emissions way to get around. Here's the framework of the legislation, which replicates e-bike rules that other states have enacted:

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Washington Bikes' Alex Alston explains why the organization is campaigning for this bill:

An 85-year-old with diabetes; a woman who suffered a stroke; a young family living car-free. These are the types of people who are benefiting from the growing availability and improved technology of electric-assist bicycles. Now, Washington Bikes is leading efforts in Olympia to ensure people like them will be able to use their e-bikes on trails and on-street bike lanes.

The e-bike industry has taken off in recent years, with e-bike sales up more than 450% since 2013, according to The NPD Group. As the e-bike industry has been fast to innovate and grow, current state law pertaining to e-bikes is outdated. SB 6434/HB 2782 will update Washington state e-bike laws to national standards and provide certainty for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. Arkansas, California, Colorado and others have already implemented this legislative update.

This legislation will ensure e-bike users can ride their bikes in safe and connected places. E-bikes are important for older adults, family biking, people with disabilities and people who want to ride, but may feel intimidated by a traditional bike. By flattening hills and allowing for ease of pedaling, e-bikes increase accessibility to getting around by bicycle and the health benefits that come with!

More recommended reading today: According to Sky News, a top police official in the UK says motorists should be fined for exceeding the speed limit by 1 mph. And Seattle Transit Blog discusses how to make the region's suburbs more walkable and transit-oriented as they prepare for the arrival of light rail.

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