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PA e-Bike legislation

This topic contains 17 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  ericf 6 mos, 3 weeks.

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Marko82

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Apr 4 2014 at 8:18am #

A new bill that passed unanimously in the state Senate this week would allow riders of pedal-assist electric bicycles to drive their vehicles in the streets.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny/Washington), would legalize e-bikes under the state vehicle code.

“We’ve seen in Western Pennsylvania a lot of e-bike users being pulled over by their local police departments because there is a misconception that it might be a moped or some other mechanized form of travel when in fact these are really essentially bicycles,” Smith said. http://wesa.fm/post/e-bike-legislation-could-put-cyclists-road

I have mixed feelings on the whole e-bike situation. At some point they are more like a scooter than a bike and I think a license should be needed, but where do you draw the line. Speed? Weight? Watts?


Benzo

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Apr 4 2014 at 8:42am #

I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed on the road, they can be controlled as a bike (and may go faster).

Allowed on sidewalks and multi-use paths with pedestrians? I do not think allowing that is a great idea. I could be swayed.


WillB

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Apr 4 2014 at 8:48am #

I think the issue is whether they need to be licensed as motor vehicles or not (which is why they would get pulled over, when a regular bike wouldn’t). The bill as I understand it would just clarify that e-bikes (with a certain top-speed) wouldn’t need to be registered as motor vehicles).

Although allowing e-bikes on trails has some potential problems, I think on balance it’s a good thing, as long as you regulate how fast they can go. The reason is that I think e-bikes could be a great way to get more people to use bikes as transportation who otherwise wouldn’t because of the challenge of hills (or even because they don’t want to get to sweaty on the way to work). If we don’t allow those e-bikes on trails, though, then that makes them a lot less attractive for getting around town, and reduces the number of potential cyclists.


chemicaldave

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Apr 4 2014 at 9:06am #

The bill, for those interested: http://openstates.org/pa/bills/2013-2014/SB997/

They’re being classified as “pedacycles” just like regular bikes with the term “pedacycle with electric assist.” To be considered that it needs to fit the following definition:

“Pedalcycle with electric assist”. A vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor system rated at not more than 750 watts and equipped with operable pedals and capable of a speed not more than 20 miles per hour on a level surface when powered by the motor source only. The term does not include a device specifically designed for use by persons with disabilities.


Benzo

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Apr 4 2014 at 9:09am #

The only time I saw an e-bike in real life was a total sh!tshow. Some lady smoking a cigarette, riding with feet splayed out not touching pedals, swerving all over the place, stopping with her feet dragging on the ground. I kept my distance, I thought she was going to ram in to something/someone. I will assume this was the outlier, but she was able to go pretty damn fast with almost no work.


Marko82

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Apr 4 2014 at 9:27am #

As I stated earlier I have mixed feelings. I like it that e-bikes can get more people to try cycling, and I don’t really care that they are somehow ‘cheating’ by having the assist. My concern is that the assist will allow inexperienced riders to travel at experienced rider speeds. There is a learning curve to handling and stopping a bike, and usually your fitness level will interact to self-limit the whole thing. Most riders are only able to ride a bike fast if they’ve spent a considerable amount of time already cycling; e-bikes mess with that.

Of course there is a learning curve for scooters and motorcycles too. A noob can go out and buy a motorcycle (or car) capable of doing +180mph without anyone batting an eye. So why should bikes be any different. Mixed feelings for sure.


byogman

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Apr 4 2014 at 9:59am #

To me it’s not about occupant safety (laws should protect OTHER people), it’s about what e-bike traffic is replacing.

I think most folks who already have regular bicycles will keep riding those, so on balance it replaces traffic from vehicles that are heavier and faster… so a very major positive. It’s not like we get very much in the way of skilled, considerate driving by requiring licenses.

The sidewalk thing should be a definite no. The MUP, if wide enough, is a little more ambiguous to me. 750 watts is kind of an absurd amount of power, but if it’s limited to 20mph by a governor maybe it’s ok anyway? Maybe? But you could also tow a ton at 20mph with that kind of power… then you get to momentum levels that don’t seem ok.


J Z

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Apr 4 2014 at 10:28am #

chemicaldave wrote:The bill, for those interested: http://openstates.org/pa/bills/2013-2014/SB997/

They’re being classified as “pedacycles” just like regular bikes with the term “pedacycle with electric assist.” To be considered that it needs to fit the following definition:

“Pedalcycle with electric assist”. A vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor system rated at not more than 750 watts and equipped with operable pedals and capable of a speed not more than 20 miles per hour on a level surface when powered by the motor source only. The term does not include a device specifically designed for use by persons with disabilities.

Under those parameters, I’m okay with it, sans sidewalk. Unless there is some massive uptick in the rate of e-bikes on standard bikes/pedestrians collisions or something.


Steven

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Apr 5 2014 at 12:36am #

Most riders are only able to ride a bike fast if they’ve spent a considerable amount of time already cycling….

Except for hills. But I agree that a motor assist can get a novice in trouble more easily.

I’m sympathetic to the idea of prohibiting e-bikes on sidewalks, but then I think about places where I’d ride a normal bike on a sidewalk: for instance, the stretch of Route 8 from Etna to Saxonburg Blvd, or a bridge with narrow shoulders and fast cars. If I were on an e-bike at 20 mph max, I’d still want to be on the sidewalk in such places, not forced to ride with the 60 mph cars.

So I think some sidewalk use should be allowed for e-bikes. I’m not sure how to prohibit “bad” sidewalk use only, except maybe to use the same rules as for regular bikes, but with a “we really mean it” higher fine attached.

Maybe that’s a reason for them to be licensed. Suppose e-bike users have to follow the same laws as regular bike users, but if they don’t, they can get points on a license, and maybe lose it eventually. Perhaps that could serve a “we really mean it” function.


ericf

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Apr 5 2014 at 4:43am #

We don’t need more laws! Spend the money on training the fuzz to enforce the laws we already have.
That said, I do not understand why people would not allow e-bikes the same sidewalk allowances as bicycles.

WTF is this supposed to mean?

Steven wrote:the same rules as for regular bikes, but with a “we really mean it” higher fine attached.

I am all for cyclists obeying the law. You seem to imply that a regular bicycle is given a pass with the “we really mean it” line. I hope you don’t feel entitled to break the law, just because you don’t have a motor.


gg

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Apr 5 2014 at 8:23am #

I think I am okay with these e-bikes having the same laws as regular bikes. I did see a motorized one that was quite fast on a trail and I didn’t like it. It stunk like a two cycle does. Probably was polluting more than a car.


Steven

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Apr 5 2014 at 12:17pm #

I am all for cyclists obeying the law. You seem to imply that a regular bicycle is given a pass with the “we really mean it” line.

That’s great. But I think there’s a general attitude in the bike community that it’s fine to break certain laws because they’re not written with us in mind. Some cyclists take that to mean they don’t really need to come to a complete stop at a stop sign if there’s no cross traffic, just slow way down. Others think it lets them ride on a sidewalk in business districts; perhaps not always, but only when it’s not “too” crowded, or when the street is one-way in the opposite direction and going a different route would be inconvenient, or late at night.

And car drivers as a rule have a similar attitude: speed limits aren’t really the maximum allowed speeds, for instance; you can go over a bit. Slowing down at a stop sign is good enough. The law may say one thing, but hardly anybody operates that way all the time.

But what the community judges as an acceptable violation shouldn’t always be the same for e-bikes as for bikes.


ericf

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Apr 6 2014 at 6:49am #

Steven wrote:But what the community judges as an acceptable violation shouldn’t always be the same for e-bikes as for bikes.

This is what I can’t understand. Why? If speed is restricted to 20 mph, most people who ride regularly hit those speeds. What makes them different?
BTW, I don’t own or intend to own any kind of motorized bicycle.


Marko82

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Apr 6 2014 at 10:38am #

gg wrote:It stunk like a two cycle

Another good point to consider – should there be a difference between electric vs. gas powered? If you mandate a speed governor that limits the bike to twenty mph is that enough? What about noise? Emissions? I certainly wouldnt want to ride beside some scenic spot on a trail and have a lawnmower ride up behind me. But along the Jailtrail would a gas bike really make that much difference from the tractor trailers wizzing by? And if by using a gas powered bike keeps that person from sitting in an SUV on the parkway isnt that a good thing? Ok, I going to go ride my bike now.


Steven

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Apr 6 2014 at 8:46pm #

If speed is restricted to 20 mph, most people who ride regularly hit those speeds.

But riders don’t accidentally accelerate when they meant to brake. Accelerating to 20 mph on a bike normally requires significant sustained effort. Car drivers, on the other hand, just need to push the wrong pedal, and they do, regularly. I’m guessing some e-bikes will be more like cars in this respect. Maybe an e-bike rider going fast comes up behind some pedestrians hogging a trail, and intends to slow down while asking them to move aside, but (oops!) gets the levers confused and plows into them instead.

Another good point to consider – should there be a difference between electric vs. gas powered?

The new law specifies electric motors, and I think that’s good. We already have laws for scooters and motorcycles and mopeds, and they seem to do OK on roads. I’m not convinced that letting them on trails too is appropriate. Maybe we’d encourage more people to use scooters, but it would discourage all other trail use.


chemicaldave

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Apr 7 2014 at 9:36am #

Steven wrote:
And car drivers as a rule have a similar attitude: speed limits aren’t really the maximum allowed speeds, for instance; you can go over a bit.

IIRC, the police aren’t allowed to ticket you for going 9mph or less over the speed limit using an electronic device (vascar, radar, etc).

An on the topic of trail use, are there not already speed limits? Are they enforceable?


Steven

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Apr 7 2014 at 5:10pm #

I think trails have a posted limit of 15 mph, but I doubt they’re enforceable. I’d be surprised if any cop around here has ever given a ticket to a speeding cyclist on a trail. (And presumably if you were only going 24 mph on your e-bike, the speed regulator having somehow “broken”, you wouldn’t get a speeding ticket anyway.)


ericf

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Apr 8 2014 at 5:24am #

Marko82 wrote:I think a license should be needed, but where do you draw the line. Speed? Weight? Watts?

It turns out, the line has already been drawn:
(from http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/fact_sheets/fs-momo.pdf)
MOPED
DEFINITION:
CRITERIA:
A motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals, a motor rated no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour, or an electric motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals and powered by an electric battery.
1. Engine may not exceed 50 cubic centimeters.
2. Engine may not exceed 1.5 brake horsepower rating.
3. Operable pedals required.
4. Automatic transmission required.
5. Design speed may not be more than 25 miles per hour.
6. Does not require inspection.
7. Moped plate issued.
8. Annual registration fee is $9.
9. No helmet or eye protection required for driver.
10. Class C, Non-Commercial Driver’s License required.

So the current legislation seems to be a tweak to a law that is already on the books. It proposes a lower speed limit,and eliminates the automatic transmission requirement, but otherwise the description looks the same.
This is what the new legislation is all about:
“I’m fortunate enough to have an e-bike distributor right in my Senate district,” Smith said. “This would catalyze that economic development and assist those small businesses who are really specializing in the sale of e-bikes.”

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