ON Monday April 23rd, Oregon Parks and Recreation (OPRD) held their first open hearing regarding allowance of e-bikes on state park paths and several beaches.
What I found fascinating was that all the personal testimony of individuals and also 3 businesses which rent and sell e-bikes were completely positive. In March I was at the League of American Bicyclists in DC and attended a presentation regarding regulation of e-bikes. That meeting was very contentious and polarized. It appeared to me an old guard of “e-bikes are not real bikes” versus “e-bikes are here to stay” crowd were leading to a civil war. Not happening here.
I was happy to be in Oregon on Monday hearing real stories of how e-bikes make a difference. One Hood River resident, 79 years old man, who had ridden his bike to work for 40 years has found his strength difficult to bike as much during the past two years and had stopped bicycling. He – in the past month – tried an e-bike and he was embracing a new life as he spoke. Another testimony came from an athletic man whose wife did not have the love of road bicycling and he said that an e=bike had given them a togetherness again in bicycling together (twas sad we did not hear her voice this tale). And of course the vendors stated the smiles apparent on everyone trying out an e-bike. Another wonderful testimony was from a walker on the Hatfield tunnel/Mosier trail who commented that the strength-training-lycra-human-powered crowd were zooming by most of the e-bike users and pedestrians at 30+ mph. Given that the e-bikes have hair dryer equivalent 750/1000 watt electric motors, she was most elegant retiring the worry of ebikes going over 20 mph. (for you engineers: 746 watts equals 1 horsepower)
The rules being discussed are dependent on the ORS defining bicycles on the roadway. One of the issues is still old statues regarding defining the number of wheels for ‘bi’cycles. Today the restriction is 3 wheels. While this OPRD ruling cannot redefine this ORS, we need to consider the adaptive world of bicycles: for example -simply- new tandem side by side quadriwheels enable blind bicyclists to be a companion to a sighted cyclists. I made a request that OPRD work in tandem with ODOT and the legislature so that the bicycle definition would be inherited and updated automatically for OPRD rulings if the legislature redefined ebikes to not only include adaptive bicycle types but also adopt the potential standard of care definition of ebike classifications as is slowly happening across the US and Canada. We have a dramatic growth of ebike sales jumping from 2016 sale of 1 % to 2017 sales hovering near 7%. The faster curve of adoption is happening.
We have several states who redefine ebikes into 3 classes:
Class 1 electric bicycle: A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 2 electric bicycle: A bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 3 electric bicycle: A bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and is equipped with a speedometer.
Our own Portland State University TREC has a good information about each state and province electric laws & classifications:
A second insightful March 2018 PSU TREC publication, A North American Survey of Electric Bicycle Owners captures a change about behavior. (http://trec.pdx.edu/research/project/1041/National_Electric_Bike_Owner_Survey_ )
We are all stuck in thinking about riders falling into the four categories of bicycle riding: strong/fearless, enthused/confident; interested but concerned; and no way no how. This publication finally expands and shows us advocates how to expand these categories.
In the PSU/TREC discussion section of the article above, they define an attractive expanding group of riders by three definitions:
“The results of this study suggest three ways in which e-bikes potentially serve to increase the total number of miles traveled by bicycle and the total number of trips made by bicycle. First, e-bikes aid populations deterred from bicycling by physical limitations, topographic barriers and distance to cycle. Second, e-bikes support longer trips for both recreational and utilitarian pursuit. Finally, e-bikes can appeal to new audiences through enhancing perceived safety and the joy of riding. These benefits have the capacity to promote environmental (i.e., reduced emissions) and public health objectives (i.e., enhanced physical activity and increased time outside); however, they will not be met to their full potential in the absence of policies and regulations which support and protect the use of e-bikes.”
This is simply great news and it is all branded with our Oregon inclusive values. And as the article paraphrases, work is needed so that we need to update our ORS, our ODOT, and our OPRD rules and statutes.
Comments can be submitted online at www.oregon.gov/OPRD/RULES/pages/index.aspx; in writing to OPRD, attn. Katie Gauthier, 725 Summer St NE, Suite C, Salem; via email toOPRD.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comment period will close on May 18th 2018. The OPRD commission will address these issues at their June 12/13th meeting.