Electric scooters are hogging headlines right now; but e-bikes are Portland’s quiet transportation revolution. In the past few years the number of people riding with pedal-assisted motors has skyrocketed and local shops have seen a big increase in sales.
While e-bikes have carved out a safe space in Portland’s street culture, they — like their unmotorized brethren — still exist in somewhat of a legal Twilight Zone. Are they bicycles or “motorized vehicles”? Can they be ridden on sidewalks? Those are just some of the questions people often have about them.
A new legal guidebook by the law firm of Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost aims to answer those questions.
Oregon E-Bike Rights: A Legal Guide for Electric Bike Riders was written by Ray Thomas, Cynthia Newton, Jim Coon, and Chris Thomas. You might recognize that first name as the lawyer behind Pedal Power: A Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists, which is now in its 10th printing and is widely considered Oregon’s bike law bible. Thomas and Newton are also BikePortland contributors (and the firm is a major supporter of bike advocacy in Portland, including a sponsor of our work).
TCNF’s 49-page guide is a comprehensive look at laws that govern the use of electric bikes in Oregon. In addition to a rundown of the relevant Oregon Revised Statutes, the guide also covers insurance policy questions, advocacy efforts to change existing e-bike laws and create better ones, and offers a resource guide if you want to probe further.
Here’s more from the author’s blurb:
Sometimes treated by law as a bicycle, sometimes as a motor vehicle, the bicycle with a battery powered electric motor has created a legal hybrid that defies easy and logical categorization. The Oregon Vehicle Code defines a low-powered “electric assisted bicycle” to be a bicycle, not a motor vehicle, but then also prohibits it from being lawfully ridden on sidewalks statewide. Oregon State Parks rules define the electric powered bicycle as a motor vehicle and restrict its operation to motor vehicle routes.
E-bike law in Oregon and elsewhere is very much a moving target… It is time for the laws to create a more hospitable legal environment for electric bicycle operators and coordinate the use of legal terminology and rules at the local, state and federal level to reduce presently existing confusion about where e-bikes can and cannot legally go.
The guide is available as a free PDF download and you can grab a hard copy from the TCN&F office at 820 SW 2ND Ave, Suite 200.
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