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Old 06-14-2011, 12:43 AM
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wsbob wsbob is offline
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Default E-bikes...categorically speaking...bikes?...or motor vehicles?

Interesting article in the Monday, June 13, 2011 New York Times:
Battery Power Gives Deliverymen a Boost, at a Cost
By COREY KILGANNON and JEFFREY E. SINGER/NYtimes



Poor NYC... . Shouldn't have been too hard to figure out that low income people trying to scratch out a living delivering stuff, would realize e-bikes could work out just fine for the job. One problem though, is, NYC has it figured that e-bikes aren't legal to use on the street, because "... because many do not meet federal motor vehicle standards. ...".

Bikes...those that are propelled exclusively by people pedaling them, gravity, etc., are legal to ride on the street. Knowing that e-bikes are being resorted to in a typical NYC immigrant manner of innovation by Chinese food takeout delivery workers, what's the New York legislature doing about categorizing e-bikes? It's thinking about giving certain wattage e-bikes...bicycle status. In other words, throw the speeding, under pressure delivery people astride e-bikes, onto the people pedaling their bikes at the far side of the road, in the bike lanes, etc.

E-bikes already have a power source independent of the riders muscles. Equip them with big, bright motorcycle type tail lights, turn signals, mirrors and headlights, and they'll be reasonably well equipped to safely run in the main lanes as a low powered, low speed motorcycle or scooter.
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Old 06-14-2011, 06:01 AM
canuck canuck is offline
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I think the line in the sand is speed.

If they can't go faster than 20mph, a speed which can be maintained by many riders then they are a bike.

I've seen many around Portland, and the riders I've seen appear to be very conscientious about how they ride. Most actually pedal the bike and only use the motor on inclines. As well as the bike being an actual bike with electric assist.

I do take issue with the Scooter style machines that use the speed loophole to produce a vehicle that resembles a Vespa scooter with pedals. Those pedals are so far out from the center line of the vehicle, and have a ridiculous gear ratio, that they are completely useless for propelling the vehicle. In these cases it isn't a bike, it's an electric scooter and like an electric car should require licensing etc.
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Old 06-14-2011, 06:16 AM
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There are a couple of caviats to make it pedestrian assist instead of motor vehicle. Think of the powered wheelchairs, for instance; no pedals and able to locomote with electric power. My wife rides an electric scooter capable of a whopping 15mph on a 20 amp motor. Powered hubs are suppose to be rpm limited to 25mph in a defined configuration (rim size, watts, and rated RPM-supplied voltage). For gas power, there is yet another limit in CC's. I donlt recall the limit at the moment but I recall something on the order of under 50cc on scooters w/ or w/o pedals (skateboards and kid scooters included). I don't recall -any- speed limitation on the gas units. None of these require registration or a license to operate in Oregon.

Last edited by Simple Nature; 06-14-2011 at 06:20 AM.
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Old 06-14-2011, 09:26 AM
canuck canuck is offline
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I would put electric assist wheel chairs and the like in a different category.

Considering they have the legal right to use the sidewalk, where "bikes" depending on jurisdiction do not.

I would consider someone in a wheel chair the equivalent of a pedestrian.

But it does start to get confusing.
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Old 06-14-2011, 11:50 AM
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In Oregon, Motor-assisted Scooters, Mopeds and Electric-assisted Bicycles all can be used on Oregon's public roads if they meet the defining specifications Oregon has accepted for each of those vehicles.

First of all, mopeds have to be titled and registered. Motor assisted scooters and e-bikes don't have to be registered.

Beyond this, aside from a few other general defining characteristics, Oregon uses top mph speed and motor wattage or engine displacement to determine which each of the aforementioned vehicles is which.

Mopeds (fuel powered, not electric.) stay a moped as long as top mph is no greater than 30mph (beyond that top speed, I supposed they'd be considered motorcycles.).

Motor assisted scooters have specs of 1000 watts/24mph.

E-bikes have specs of 1000 watts/20 mph.
The bill that the New York legislature is reportedly considering would have e-bikes of 750/20mph watts regulated as bicycles. The NY times article explains that for Chinese food delivery people, bikes powered exclusively by pedaling had been the vehicle of choice prior to the entry of the e-bike. They like e-bikes because of the increased ease of travel distance powered bikes allow over that of bikes required to be pedaled...up to 80 blocks/approx 6 miles.

The bikes the food delivery people are currently going after don't cost a lot of money...a little more than a $1000. There really could get to be a lot of these bikes on the streets of NYC. There could get to be a lot of these bikes used...everywhere. It's only 6 miles from Beaverton to Portland.

Occasional e-bikes on bike lanes and bike trails and MUP's amongst commuters and recreational users is one thing....commercially used vehicles is something quite different, I think. I'm not sure NYC or any city would be very smart in deciding that powered vehicles used for commercial purposes should be subject to the same road use regulations as are bicycles that are powered exclusively by pedaling, except maybe...if the volume capacity of the portion of roadway assigned exclusively to bike became much greater. In other words, much wider, bigger, and better.
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Old 06-14-2011, 01:02 PM
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I think the speed issue comes down to basic courtesy and not whether the vehicle has a power assist or not..

Plenty of runners who don't think about the pedestrian congestion.

Plenty of cyclists who feel the need to power through congestion at 20mph.

So it's not an issue of the power assist so much as people who don't consider the level of congestion when choosing what speed to travel.

Just because you can pedal 20 mph or the motor can get you to 20 mph means you travel at that speed.
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Old 06-14-2011, 09:50 PM
Alan Alan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wsbob View Post
Occasional e-bikes on bike lanes and bike trails and MUP's amongst commuters and recreational users is one thing...commercially used vehicles is something quite different, I think. I'm not sure NYC or any city would be very smart in deciding that powered vehicles used for commercial purposes should be subject to the same road use regulations as are bicycles that are powered exclusively by pedaling, except maybe...if the volume capacity of the portion of roadway assigned exclusively to bike became much greater.
That's an apples-and-oranges comparison which deserves picking apart. Essentially you're talking about a two-by-two matrix of commercial or non-commercial (on one axis) versus human or artificial-power (on the other). (i.e.: commercial/human, non-commercial/human; commercial/e-power, non-commercial/e-power)

If the question is commercial vs. non-commercial, then should bike messengers and bike delivery people be treated differently than non-commercial bikers? Prohibited from using MUPs or bike-specific infrastructure? If you are riding to or from work, is that commercial? Such differentiation would be quite a change in most places I know of, where all riders are treated similarly, and I don't think it's a change I'd like.

Around here, I'm not seeing any great conflicts with e-bikers and other MUP or street users. Granted, some riders disdain e-bikes because they make it too easy for less trained riders to do what used to be reserved for hard-core riders, but bruised egos do not seem like a good reason for prohibitive laws. Anyway, in Oregon at least, e-bikes are already legally accepted.

So then I have to wonder why, when all four quadrants of that 2x2 matrix are presently green, should the "commercial e-bike" quadrant be selected for new regulation? Are there really problems in that quadrant which need new laws? Should uses like those delivery e-bikes in NYC be discouraged? (Sure seems like an improvement to me, and the food vendors wouldn't be doing it if it didn't make sense to them.) Why else should one group be treated differently than another?

Hillsboro Mayor Willey's misplaced rhetoric to double-tax bicyclists actually misses the more important aspect of how public roads will be funded as gas and private car use, and the resulting public revenue, declines in coming decades. Taxing commercial e-bikes might make a (very small) dent in that budget but it also opens up taxing other bikes and won't address the bigger picture. Fixing that will take considerably bigger changes in tax structures and social norms than just picking on a single transpo mode. If a goal of a municipal government is helping distribution of goods and services to support its population in an economically viable way (roads!), it seems to me that policies which encourage a multitude of space-, energy-, surface-wear- and otherwise generally efficient vehicles would be a Good Thing(tm).

Last edited by Alan; 06-14-2011 at 09:53 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 06-15-2011, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan View Post
That's an apples-and-oranges comparison which deserves picking apart. Essentially you're talking about a two-by-two matrix of commercial or non-commercial (on one axis) versus human or artificial-power (on the other). (i.e.: commercial/human, non-commercial/human; commercial/e-power, non-commercial/e-power)

If the question is commercial vs. non-commercial, then should bike messengers and bike delivery people be treated differently than non-commercial bikers? Prohibited from using MUPs or bike-specific infrastructure? If you are riding to or from work, is that commercial? Such differentiation would be quite a change in most places I know of, where all riders are treated similarly, and I don't think it's a change I'd like.

Around here, I'm not seeing any great conflicts with e-bikers and other MUP or street users. Granted, some riders disdain e-bikes because they make it too easy for less trained riders to do what used to be reserved for hard-core riders, but bruised egos do not seem like a good reason for prohibitive laws. Anyway, in Oregon at least, e-bikes are already legally accepted.

So then I have to wonder why, when all four quadrants of that 2x2 matrix are presently green, should the "commercial e-bike" quadrant be selected for new regulation? Are there really problems in that quadrant which need new laws? Should uses like those delivery e-bikes in NYC be discouraged? (Sure seems like an improvement to me, and the food vendors wouldn't be doing it if it didn't make sense to them.) Why else should one group be treated differently than another?

Hillsboro Mayor Willey's misplaced rhetoric to double-tax bicyclists actually misses the more important aspect of how public roads will be funded as gas and private car use, and the resulting public revenue, declines in coming decades. Taxing commercial e-bikes might make a (very small) dent in that budget but it also opens up taxing other bikes and won't address the bigger picture. Fixing that will take considerably bigger changes in tax structures and social norms than just picking on a single transpo mode. If a goal of a municipal government is helping distribution of goods and services to support its population in an economically viable way (roads!), it seems to me that policies which encourage a multitude of space-, energy-, surface-wear- and otherwise generally efficient vehicles would be a Good Thing(tm).

Good questions raised here. First of all, NYC is the setting we're primarily talking about. In that setting, it was interesting to me that the story focused on Chinese food delivery people's use of e-bikes, because I've been aware that in China itself, based on an article I read a year or so ago, e-bikes have taken off big time in city there...Bejing maybe (if I take the time to look, I may have the story bookmarked.) Chinese immigrants here correspond back and forth with relatives in China, get the news, recognize that e-bikes have potential for their job need...voila!...the e-bike phenomena spreads like wildfire in NYC.

The caution over approval of use of e-bikes on bike infrastructure that I see, is complicated. If e-bikes are defined as bicycles and subject to regulations for bicycles, it's likely that e-bikes will have to use the area of road reserved for bicycles, rather than traveling in the main lanes.

Road infrastructure for bicycles is an often...could be said generally meager, percentage of the entire roadway area. Rapid, wide adoption of e-bikes as a travel mode, which a commercial application such as takeout food delivery in a big city could conceivably inspire, also could easily overwhelm infrastructure assigned to bicycle traffic.

This is why, upon reading the NYtimes article, to me it seemed that for the NYC situation, it would make more sense to define e-bikes as a type of motor vehicle that would be adequately equipped for travel in main travel lanes, where used for tasks such as delivery.

In some cases, '0' effort is required to propel e-bikes compared to the exertion required to propel a bicycle. General physical health and conditioning is not nearly the obstacle to practical use of an e-bike, that it can be for using a bicycle for travel purposes.


Again, I suppose that what it was in reading the NYtimes article that raised my concern is that wide adoption of e-bikes could overwhelm bicycle assigned road infrastructure, and people prepared to use that infrastructure on bikes they propel by their own exertion.

If people are physically capable of doing so, and the requirements of their job allows it, exerting themselves to propel their bike is probably the better way. It wouldn't do to discourage these people by overwhelming them with a lot of traffic represented by people exerting no effort whatsoever astride e-bikes.
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