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E-bikes, the law, and you

Posted by Sam Hass (Contributor) on August 26th, 2010 at 8:57 am

E-bikes are popping up all
over Portland these days.
(Illustration: Mark Young/Portland Storyboard)

Whether you like them or not, electric bikes have arrived and it looks like they're here to stay. E-bikes can now be found in almost every local bike shop, major manufacturers are adding e-assist to a growing number of urban and cargo bikes, and e-bikes can be spotted among bike traffic more and more. But what about the laws governing their specifications and usage?

This isn't intended to be legal advice, as I'm not a lawyer, but a brief summary of e-bike related law at the federal, state, and local levels.

Sunday Parkways North Portland-6
Sam Hass uses his e-bike to
help pull his friend around.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Federal Law
At the Federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) relegated defining what an e-bike is to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC defines a low-speed electric bicycle as:

"... a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph. (Public Law No. 107-319, section 1, 116 Stat. 2776 (2002))"

This law is also known as HR 727 (co-sponsored by Oregon's own Representative Earl Blumenauer). Since this is a CPSC ruling, it only defines what safety requirements are required to sell an electric bicycle; it in no way legislates their usage.

Also at the Federal level, under Title 23, Chapter 2, §217,

(h) Use of Motorized Vehicles.— Motorized vehicles may not be permitted on trails and pedestrian walkways under this section, except for—...
(4) when State or local regulations permit, electric bicycles...

For the purposes of this statute, an electric bicycle is "any bicycle or tricycle with a low-powered electric motor weighing under 100 pounds, with a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour."

In short, at the federal level there are some restrictions defining e-bikes for the purposes of sales, but the decision to allow e-bikes is specifically delegated to the state or local level.

The Ohm electric-assist bicycle-3.jpg
(Photo © J. Maus)

Oregon State Law
At the state level, e-bikes are touched on by the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) in several places. First, state law clearly says that e-bikes are legally considered to be bikes:

814.405 - Status of electric assisted bicycle
An electric assisted bicycle shall be considered a bicycle, rather than a motor vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute.

And here's the Oregon Department of Transportation's (ODOT) definition of an e-bike:

801.258 “Electric assisted bicycle” means a vehicle that:
(1) Is designed to be operated on the ground on wheels;
(2) Has a seat or saddle for use of the rider;
(3) Is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground;
(4) Has both fully operative pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor; and
(5) Is equipped with an electric motor that:
(a) Has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts; and
(b) Is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground.

Although Oregon's watt limitation is higher than the federal limit, Oregon statute largely follows the federal intent. There are some additional e-bike specific statutes:

814.410 Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk
(1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the person does any of the following:...
(e) Operates an electric assisted bicycle on a sidewalk.

807.020 Exemptions from requirement to have Oregon license or permit...
(14) A person may operate an electric assisted bicycle without a driver license or driver permit if the person is 16 years of age or older.

ODOT's handy pocket guide to
bikes of all types.
-Download PDF-

ODOT has compiled an informational page summarizing the law as it pertains to bikes, e-bikes, pocket bikes, and other vehicles. You can download the PDF here.

Portland City Code
At the local level, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) uses the ODOT definition of e-bikes in determining whether or not e-bikes are legally allowed to use bicycle infrastructure. This ensures consistency at the state and local levels.

Washington State Law (and beyond)
Washington state law is similar to Oregon law, though Washington law further requires wearing a helmet, and requires that the motor not provide additional power above 20 miles per hour. Some other jurisdictions have enacted their own e-bike regulations - for instance, e-bikes are illegal on all streets in New York State, though they are widely used as delivery vehicles in New York City. In Ontario, Canada, they recently completed a three-year test program to determine whether e-bikes could be safely integrated into regular bicycle traffic; their conclusion was to legalize e-bikes, albeit with some additional safety requirements around total weight, braking, and helmet usage.


In practice, e-bikes that are compliant with the above regulations are legally bicycles, and on one you are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities of automobile drivers, as well as other people on bikes. On a typical e-bike frame, 750 or 1,000 watts is going to be excessively powerful; in practice, 250-500 watts is sufficient for most riders. Heavier scooter-inspired e-bikes, legally still e-bikes, may need more power and bump against this limitation, as might e-bikes designed to carry cargo.

The 20 miles per hour is a reasonable speed limit – of course, it's more important to flow safely with traffic than always ride at the legal speed limit. Other countries limit e-bike speeds to 15 miles per hour; these models tend to feel underpowered on US roads. Finally, a restriction against riding on the sidewalk makes a lot of sense, even if you're not on an e-bike.

-- The article was written by Sam Hass, author of pdxebiker, a blog for discussion of electrically assisted bicycling in Portland. For more articles on e-bikes, browse the BikePortland archives.

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Comments
  • ILikeYourNewHaircut August 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I miss the bicycle comics, what happened to them?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 26, 2010 at 9:32 am

      I miss our weekly "Friday Cartoon" feature too! Mark Young is an awesome illustrator and we loved working with him... but it came down to finances. If anyone out there wants to help us fund that feature, please get in touch. We'd love to find an ad sponsor for it too, so if you know a company looking for a great partnership, let us know.

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  • Ely August 26, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Good to know, thank you.

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  • JAT in Seattle August 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

    How is sidewalk defined? Is the bike and pedestrian portion of a bridge considered a sidewalk?

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  • Ely August 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I think those are "multi-use paths".

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  • pdxebiker August 26, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for publishing this, Jonathan.

    @JAT, my understanding is that the bike and pedestrian portion of bridges aren't considered sidewalks, but multi-use paths, and thus ebikes are allowed there. Just as regular cyclists, people on ebikes are required to use them responsibly.

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  • MattM August 26, 2010 at 10:42 am

    But what about the guys who put gas motors on old mounatian bikes?

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  • VeloBusDriver August 26, 2010 at 10:52 am

    My Giant Twist Freedom DX only assists me up to 15mph which is slower than I can ride my Surly cross-check. Frankly, I wish the speed limit for *ALL* ebikes was only 15mph. There are rare times where I think an extra 5mph would be handy but I really don't miss it.

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  • Stig August 26, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I saw another full size electric scooter (as wide as 2 bicycles) on the 205 path near SE Division in the afternoon going North this week. This time zipping uphill around a blind corner @ 20mph. I've been assuming those things are illegal.

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  • Stig August 26, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Maybe I should have used moped rather than scooter as a better description of the electric bikes I've been seeing.

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  • Dabby August 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Just like the damn segways and scooters,pocket bikes lazy person's rascals, keep the ebikes put of the bike lanes....

    I mean pedaling them in the bike lane is one thing, but if you are using power, get in the traffic lane.....

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  • Aperture August 26, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I am a frequent pedestrian and bicyclist and I agree that riding a bike on a sidewalk is not a good idea, but I do it anyway. The reason is, thanks to a recent "wake-up call" in the form of a bike spill in traffic, this 68-year-old only feels capable or safe riding, except on protected paths. When these are not available, I will use the sidewalks, which is legal outside the downtown area, and yield to any pedestrians, as the law requires. I'd love to get back on the streets again but until Portland fulfills more of its Amsterdam aspirations of many more protected bike paths, I feel the risk of riding outweighs the possible consequences.

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  • VeloBusDriver August 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Not all Ebikes are created equal. Many including my Twist, won't move without the user pedaling. These kinds of bikes are designed to only assist the user - not propel them unaided.

    For those with a temporary or permanent disability of some kind, an EBike can be the difference between continuing to ride vs. being forced to give it up.

    In my case, I purchased my Giant Twist when I was having reoccurring knee problems for years - even after proper bike fitting and physical therapy. After years of bike commuting, I was *very* frustrated. The gentle assist allowed me to continue riding while I was working on stretching out the muscles around my knee. I can now ride 10-15 miles without knee pain on my Cross Bike.

    Enforcement needs to be aimed at the reckless few - Not those of us who are just trying to get back on the bike.

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    • Peter July 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      I am 26 have, and have 2 Blown Knees from ballet 4 years ago ..

      Left was just partly fixed . takes 6 months to heal .
      Right is still 90% torn , ...
      Ill be in this for 6 more months
      http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8004/7452487736_b3d8990d6c_c.jpg

      I have a E bike as Iam sorry but I refuse to pretend I am 70 and need a hoverround .

      My bike is Ideal as It lets me live a normal life.
      I can still walk but its very painfull and can't do more then a few hundred feel a day .
      My Bike lets me blend in to the normal kids on campus .

      pardon the pun but it looks and quacks like a duck .
      Ebikes don't Screem I AM DISABLED .

      I have a few options

      Live off disibilty . make you the tax payer suffer.

      Use a hoverround .// again not cheap and medicare will suffer !
      be able to get my Degree in EE and contribute to society
      be able to get a job and live a life.

      Use a Ebike and blend in to normal socity and provide for my self
      be able to get my Degree in EE and contribute to society
      be able to get a job and live a life.

      you can't use a Ebike on a sidewalk ..... .oookkkkay ?

      Why ..
      how is a 200 LB hoverround any more or less of a Ped hazard .

      OTOH I can get a mobility scooter that is 48V and 1.5KW 15 MPH its a MED device .. and its 1.4 Grand and its heavy ! over 200 LBS

      ( and can pop wheeles )

      ...... My Ebike is 450W 48V 16 MPH max and its 50 Lbs ...and was under 500 USD to build ...

      will people ever stop assuming that every one is 6 foot and its 170LBs and and can do a marathon .?

      I dont want pity ............ I ask for compassion .

      Peter..

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  • Eugene Bicyclist August 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Wondering the same thing as MattM (#7).

    Those loud, stinky two-stroke things ( http://motorbicycling.com ) -- are they basically considered motorcycles?

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  • gl. August 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    thanks for the summary, sam!

    eugene, mattm: check the odot pocket guide. i guess it depends on how big the engine is and how fast they can go.

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  • beth h August 26, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    @ Dabby (# 11):

    I see e-bikes as one way to keep people on bicycles for far more of their lives, rather than relegating them to a car when they are too old to pedal full-time.
    As such, I think theyt deserve more respect and a place in the bike lane.

    It will be interesting to see if your perceptions change as you age.

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  • toddistic August 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    You say ebike, I say motorcycle.

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  • PDXbiker August 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Lets see you pedal that motorcycle.

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  • dan August 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I have no problems with e-bikes, but would like to see them observe a top speed of about 2 mph less than however fast I'm traveling. ;-)

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  • Hart August 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    A motorized bicycle is a motorcycle. Fail.

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  • pdxebiker August 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    @Stig, that may well be a legal ebike. If it has usable pedals and meets the other legal requirements, it's an ebike. Riding at 20mph around a blind corner - that's just dangerous riding, whether you're on an ebike or not.

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  • Michael August 26, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Many electric bikes resemble motorcycles.
    Some resemble Bicycles. Some are cool and some are just plain ugly. Examples: motorcycle http://www.ultramotors.com. Bicycle http://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com

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  • jim August 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I think e-bikes should stay out of traffic and in the bike lane. I see mopeds in the bike lanes sometimes and think that is pretty inappropriate, they can go pretty fast

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  • K August 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I think e-bikes should not be in bike lanes UNLESS they are traveling at the same speed as the nearby bicyclists. The last thing I want are some fellow "cyclists" zipping by me on their motorized bikes and forcing me into parked cars/drain/glass on the side of the road. I get enough of that already from cars, and bikes tend to pass other bikes closely.

    That said, I can't wait to get my hands on one of these, if they're legal when their "maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph." If I weigh 110 lbs and can already hold steady at 20 mph with my own power, I could probably zip around at 50 mph on one of these! (In the regular traffic lane, of course.)

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    • Ron January 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      What's the difference whether you get passed by an ebike or a bike? Unless there are just too many of them around, passing you when regular riders aren't Then I can see the problem.

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  • GreggB August 27, 2010 at 12:06 am

    @MattM & @EugeneBicyclist ... gasoline engine-assisted bikes are also bicycles; sharing the same rights and responsibilities. For as long as they have an engine smaller than 35cc & travel at 15MPH or slower. I personally have a 24cc gasoline motor on my bike; helps speedup the mountain climbing on long-distance trips (ie: PortlandBeach), when climbing the West Hills, pedaling up out of SE Portland, etc...

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  • Dan August 27, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Great clarification of the e-bike laws Sam. Sometimes it's hard to sort out the application between fed and state laws. In general, I think they are reasonable. For me, 20mph is plenty and I'm usually well under that. I make it a habit to blend with other bike traffic even if I could go faster. Any bike or e-bike is only as safe as the rider. The laws can only set the limits.

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  • Andy B from Jersey August 27, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I think you missed one of the most important aspects of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2002 promulgation.

    And I quote:

    Pursuant to Executive Order No. 12988, the Commission states the preemptive effect of this regulation as follows. Section 1 of the Act provides that its requirements ``shall supercede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements referred to in subsection (a)[the Commission's regulations on bicycles at 16 CFR part 1512].'' Public Law No. 107-319,
    section 1, 116 Stat. 2776.

    Read the complete Federal Law at:
    http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr03/low.html

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  • EmGee August 27, 2010 at 9:02 am

    I bought a used ebike (an Ezip) a few months ago, as part of my self-styled exercise/recovery program after the repair of a shattered vertebra.

    It has been very useful in pedal-assist mode on hills. And in giving me the confidence to do longer (10 mile) rides where I was not sure that I would be able to make it back on my own steam. I'm now doing 100+ mi/wk on my regular bike and will be putting the ebike up for sale soon.

    The ebikes have their place on the bike paths.

    That said, they are pretty limited: 15 miles of battery power; lugging a lot more weight around; and a much lower fun quotient. I can't imagine any healthy and fit cyclist preferring one except for special circumstances (recovery from injury, a daily commute with a nasty hill, etc).

    The biggest problem with ebikes is that noobies to bicycling can too easily get themselves into trouble. On a standard bike, it takes half a season or more before a noobie is fit enough to go fast enough that their mistakes become dangerous. Usually they learn what not to do when they are barely going faster than walking speed. The ebike changes that.

    The ebike store on N Alberta and Vancouver offers lessons to new riders. Hopefully other shops are also doing this. The problem isn't the ebikes; the problem is a combination of ignorance and stupidity (and at least one of these is correctable).

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  • GreggB August 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Before I continue - I am not a lawyer, find someone who can prove they're a lawyer, and heed their words, before making decisions on what I say below.

    I think there's a critical point that @AndyB and others are overlooking. The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission only writes and enforces rules and regulations concerning safety requirements required to sell products (in this case, a power-assisted bicycle); it in no way legislates their usage, including what an owner may or may not do after purchase. Put another way; their rules apply only to equipment that's commercially manufactured for resale, at the time its sold, their rules do NOT apply to equipment (re)manufactured and used by the same person.

    If it were not for Oregon's law of a maximum 1KW electric motor, some nut could build an eBike w/ a 20KW motor, and it could still be classified as a bicycle. Oregon's LAW has thankfully established that 1KW is the maximum permitted power on any electric-assisted bike. In the Portland Oregon area, 1KW of power is barely enough to climb some of our surrounding hills, at speeds anywhere near 10-15MPH. Although a huge point, is that when you're sharing the road, and climbing at 10-15MPH, instead of 2-5MPH (as I did for years, prior to my power-assist days). I've found drivers to be far less aggressive, and have been involved in far fewer close-calls. Put another way; there's no doubt that I'm safer on the roads with a moderate power-assist, than without.

    For the number crunchers: 1 horsepower roughly equals 750Watts of electrical power. The 35cc gas engine requirement also respects Oregon law's original spirit, that no bicycle should be using a power-plant capable of producing more than around 1HP (a modern/stock 35cc 4-cycle gas engine could do ~1.1HP before exceeding manufacturer's specs). As for fuel efficiency, I'm certainly enjoying my ~250 miles-per-gallon gasoline-engine-assisted bike.

    Putting things into prospective, even the two-seater Smart Cars (curb weight: ~1,800lbs, max speed: ~80MPH) have ~60HP engines, larger cars have engines with horsepower ratings far into the triple-digits. A smallish 250cc motorcycle engine could put out around 20-40HP...the point is, there's a huge gap between power-assisted bicycle power-plants, and automobile/motorcycle power-plants. When considering how "evil" a power-assist setup might be, it wouldn't hurt to keep this reality in perspective...

    As for rude cyclists...well, nobody needs a motor to be rude; that's a decision that those individuals are making. Would you rather they were back behind the wheel of a steel beast?

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  • electric bike nut August 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    In my opinion electric bikes should not have a throttle but require the rider to pedal to get electric power.
    The electric motor would not need to be bigger than 250 watt, that is already 3 times the power of an average Joe biker.

    The Sanyo eneloop is a low key example of a great electric bike that should be allowed to help us weaker folks along on bike ways without any regulation: Eneloop hybrid electric bike

    It tops out at a whopping 16 mph so you roadies will still be the king of the road.

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  • wsbob August 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Sam Hass...good, informative article, and GregB, your #29 was very good as well.

    I think, or at least like to think that once people become familiar with the idea of e-assist, the number of people that use bikes for at least some of their travel needs, might double or triple. This could help get a lot more efficient use out of the roadways.

    A bit off-topic, but today, riding Millikan way in Beaverton, a guy was cruising down the sidewalk on his Segway, full speed, which is 12-15mph. For hundreds of feet in either direction, as far as my eye could see, nobody was on the sidewalk, so it was basically o.k. to do that.

    I suppose there hasn't been enough of them around for many people to develop opinions about whether these vehicles should be ridden on the bike lane or the sidewalk. Looking over from the street and seeing them travel along the sidewalk, the image doesn't so readily convey an idea that they shouldn't be there, as for some people, it seems to when bikes are seen ridden on the sidewalk. The speed they can travel though is roughly what I think is considered to be a typical speed for the less aggressive, practical cyclist that is hoped will make more frequent use of bikes in place of cars for short trips.

    Out on the bike lane, I could pass him easily, but it was impressive to note the distance he was able to cover in a short time.

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  • GreggB August 28, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    @ElectricBikeNut (#30) I do agree that power-assists should only function while you're moving. So much battery/gasoline power is wasted if these are used to accelerate from stops. I also believe that such power-assists should only function while you're pedaling, otherwise they're not really a power-assist... Although safely and reliably implementing such options are far more complicated and expensive than simply enabling the operator to manually throttle their power.

    As for only 250W...I have to disagree with you here. I primarily implemented a power-assist to help improve my hill climbing speeds, thereby making me far safer on the roads. To climb many of the steep hills around here, a 200lb bike+cargo would need 500W-750W of power.

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  • resopmok August 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I've got no problem with ebikes. It's not my thing, and the sharing the trail with them is easy when being generally courteous to other users. I ride fast myself, and try to always be safe by giving people plenty of room when I pass and slowing down when approaching children, animals, and unpredictable pedestrians. If you can ride an ebike and do that, you're cool in my book.

    What I do have a problem with is people who flagrantly disregard "No Motorized Vehicles" and ride their gas engine converted bicycle (which stinks and is loud), gas powered scooter, fully electric scooter, moped or otherwise obviously motor-powered-only vehicle on MUPs. I ride the marine drive, 205 and springwater trails pretty often, and the 205 is definitely the most notorious for this sort of thing (in my estimation) but not at all alone.

    I don't remember how much the ticket is, but really, splitting hairs over ebikes makes no difference when there is lack of enforcement for the law in the first place.

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    • Nick April 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Are ebikes allowed on the Springwater trail?

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  • Duncan August 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I will start by saying I am not a fan of e bikes, motorized cycles etc... Not that they should be outlawed, because there are a million other things that are legal that I am not a fan of either, but they ore mostly legal too. Like the Oregonian ferinstance...

    I do think that for safety the laws should be designed in such a way that ebikes will travel at roughly the same top speed as bicycles, so that peddlers won't get run down by them on MUPS, I also think that noise requirements should be included on the two stroke kind because it does kinda defeat the purpose of a bike path to have loud motors.

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  • ChaseB August 30, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Reading the ODOT pocket guide, I noted that gas scooters and mopeds can legally ride on bike paths such as the Springwater or I-205 path, but that gas scooters and mopeds cannot use crosswalks. So what, pray tell, are those people supposed to do when they are riding on the bike path and get to one of the many crosswalks at the intersecting surface streets? Clearly, these laws were created by a committee and not someone who actually rides those contraptions. Not being allowed to cross streets kind of limits the usefulness of bike paths, don’t you think? Particularly since bike bridges/tunnels are so few in Portland, unlike the European bike networks we are trying to emulate.

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  • David Feldman August 30, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Maybe the standard should be, can an E-bike stay with traffic on a suburban arterial street with a 35mph or higher speed limit? If it can't, like even a very strong cyclist usually can't, you can ride it on a bike path.

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  • Bob August 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    My wife started riding a bike again (yeah!) after dozens of years of not riding. Why? Because he electric throttle assist lets her deal with the hills, lets her get where she needs without getting too sweaty, let's her carry more groceries in her panniers and get going from stop signs more quickly. She feels safer and, with time, as she gets stronger and more confident, is using the battery-power less and less. And SHE DRIVES LESS!

    I've been bike-commuting for more than 30 years, rain or shine. I love her e-bike.

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  • Andy B from Jersey August 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I'm not a lawyer either but I've worked for several years as a policy analyst on bicycle and pedestrian issues.

    The CPSC regulates the sale of bicycles. The ruling I site above states that for all purposes, e-bikes that fit the description of a "low speed electric bicycle" shall be considered equal to a regular bicycle.

    Federal laws supersede state laws, so if the feds say that a "low speed electric bicycle" is the equivalent of a "bicycle" then I read that as also meaning any state laws that refer to the operation of a "bicycle" also apply to "low speed electric bicycle" as well.

    It is my understanding that the manufacturers and distributors of "low speed electric bicycles" use this ruling to say that a "low speed electric bicycles" are legal to sell and operate in all 50 states because they are "bicycles" ... and they DO have lawyers.

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  • Andy B from Jersey August 30, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Also,

    I'm quite sure Todd at Clever Cycles would know more about this since he developed the Stokemonkey to comply with this law. I'm somewhat surprised he didn't chime in on this.

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  • GreggB August 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    @AndyB #38, not sure what your point is, as Oregon law already establishes the same thing...

    ORS 814.405, Status of electric assisted bicycle: (1) An electric assisted bicycle shall be considered a bicycle, rather than a motor vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute.

    Vendors may point to the feds, saying its legal to SELL, but that doesn't mean its legal to USE; the CPSC has nothing to do with prescribing what's legal to USE. Oregon thankfully permits a reasonable degree of eBike usage.

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  • Bill Stites August 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Thanks Sam for the clarifications.

    I have endeavored to keep the new Truck Trike project under the legal limits, so it is classified as an e-bike.
    With Oregon law allowing 1,000 watts - that is pretty good for ancillary power to carry the heavy loads anticipated.

    Once again, I chime in on the limited power that e-bikes have. This depends largely on the batteries - they are the bottleneck to the power system. While someone might be able to get up to a higher speed, it will tend to be short-lived as the fixed amount of energy you can carry in the battery is still very limiting.

    Riding an e-bike is an exercise in smart and efficient riding. Basically, one should pedal all the time, and kick in the e-assist only as needed. I use mine to get started from a stop, hill climbing, and heavy loads.

    E-bikes are just not that fast, nor should they be. I certainly don't think the Truck Trike should be cruising 20 mph or more on a regular basis - scary!

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  • pdxebiker September 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks all for the comments; it's nice to see an ebike comment thread not devolve into vitriol. Keep your eyes open for ebikes out there - most people on ebikes I've met love them, and love talking about them, too. I'd encourage anyone take a test ride, you may find you like ebikes, or at least understand how they can fit into the transportation mix.

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  • Craig Armstrong April 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    I’m a bit handicapped and can only walk short distances so I use an electric three wheeled mobility cart to get around town. It doesn’t use ga$ and getting outside is great. I really want to use it to go farther (12 mile return range) but it only goes 5 MPH and takes 4 hours to go 10 miles. I would rather have an e-bike and get a little exercise. It would be great if it would go 20 MPH traveling Hwy 99 and those long stretches with low bike traffic. I would always be respectful of other bicyclists because they were first and bike lanes were made for them, not somebody going at high speeds. As more and more e-bikes take to the road I think everybody will adjust with our built in American values of mutual respect and kindness. You think?

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  • Roger May 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    "The 20 miles per hour is a reasonable speed limit – of course, it's more important to flow safely with traffic than always ride at the legal speed limit."

    Um, 20 really isn't reasonable for a serious ebiker. The average speed in the completely non-electric Tour de France is over 24 mph, with a peloton of incredibly tightly grouped riders. At times they go much faster. I ride an ebike, and while I don't go for extreme speeds, the low to mid-20s are easily achieved with motor/human power, and there is no reason to go slower in many circumstances, when cars and scooters are going much faster right next to you.

    And of course, coasting down a steep hill, any old bike will top 30 mph. Are we supposed to brake all the way down? What fun is that?

    Here in my home state of Missouri, the law is much more sensible..it groups ebikes with 49cc scooters, with a max speed of 30 mph. I can live with that. I don't even use the motor on dedicated bike paths. 30 allows me to keep up with traffic in flowing congested conditions, as the author alluded, and not cower on the edge of the pavement.

    Hopefully Oregonian ebikers will claim their fair share of the road and up that lame speed limit.

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