Bend lawmaker considers e-bike law changes in response to tragic teen death

Teens on e-bikes. (Photo: Megan Ramey)

Less than two months after a 15-year old from Bend was killed in a traffic collision while riding an electric bike, a state lawmaker wants to change Oregon’s e-bike laws in the coming legislative session.

Emerson Levy, a Democrat who represents House District 53, told an electric bike advocacy group about her proposal Thursday morning. “Our laws haven’t caught up with the modern day,” Levy said shared at an online meeting of Electric Bikes For All, an informal working group convened Forth, a statewide electric vehicle nonprofit.

Levy is still formulating specific bill language, but so far the outline includes:

  • updating Oregon to the three class system recently adopted by the Biden Administration as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Oregon is one of 13 states that don’t use the Class 1 (20 mph with no throttle), Class 2 (20 mph with throttle), and Class 3 (28 mph max without throttle) system to regulate e-bikes;
  • remove the current age restriction (of 16 years) for riding e-bikes, but maintain a minimum age of 16 to use an e-bike with a throttle;
  • and require helmets for all e-bike riders regardless of age.

 “If we don’t address it quickly, we’ll get to the point where community attitudes will shift very quickly to ‘Just ban them all.'”

– Emerson Levy, Oregon House Rep
Levy

Use of throttles is especially problematic, Levy said, because many young Bend residents ride “souped-up” e-bikes with aftermarket throttles. She said Bend police stopped a young person going 70 mph last week.

At the meeting, Rep. Levy painted a picture of Bend residents who are outraged at the dangerous e-biking behaviors they see from teens and said her constituents are desperate for action after the tragic crash that killed a teen on June 17th. “I would say that we’re at a point where this is an emergency,” Levy shared.

Rep. Levy acknowledged that legal changes are just one part of the issue and that infrastructure and education are just as important. From her perspective as a lawmaker, something must be done quickly to quell local fervor around how many teens are riding e-bikes in a way some perceive as dangerous.

“It is a difficult space to be in,” she continued. “Because I really want kids to have the freedom to be on bikes, but the situation we have right now is quite unsafe… if we don’t address it quickly, we’ll get to the point where community attitudes will shift very quickly to ‘Just ban them all,’ so that’s why I’m trying to step in right now.

Responses to Levy’s ideas at the meeting were mixed, with several people expressing concern that the attempt to regulate e-bikes in this way was misplaced and could lead to unintended consequences.

Neil Baunsgard, an advocate with a Bend-based environmental nonprofit, said he was concerned about limiting e-bikes with throttles because they tend to be much cheaper than bikes without throttles. “Because most pedal-assist bikes are mid-drive [motors], they’re at least twice as expensive as a pedal assist bikes that have a throttle option,” he said. “So the concern that I have… is that it might lead to just gatekeeping the affordable e-bikes.”

Portland State University researcher and noted e-bike policy expert John MacArthur said, “What are we trying to solve here? What is it about a throttle that we think is so much more dangerous?” MacArthur pointed out that a 15-year-old could go very fast on a non-electric bike. “I understand there are concerns. I’m a parent too…. And in some low-income communities will this be another reason for the police officers to go chase down young people of color?… Is an age restriction what the real issue is?”

When it comes to a mandatory helmet law for e-bike users, MacArthur was clearly worried that it could be a slippery slope where lawmakers will try to apply it to all bikes. He also cited how helmet requirements impact bike share systems like Portland’s Biketown. “Cities that have required helmets for bike share fail. Seattle had that and they pulled it back. In Vancouver, BC you have to carry a helmet around or you will get fined.”

In an email follow-up after the meeting, Rep. Levy said she, “Most likely have to give up the helmets [provision of the bill], but I still think it’s important to have the conversation about head trauma on the legislative record.” 

Sarah Iannarone, executive director of The Street Trust, encouraged Rep. Levy to explore other avenues to improve e-bike safety. She said Oregon should have e-bike related question on the driver’s test (to which Rep. Levy said ODOT is already amenable to) and that “infrastructure is key.”

“We really need to harden up the infrastructure for people using these light individual mobility devices,” Iannarone continued. “And that is going to be critical for youth. Youth who are not driving are more likely to stay alive. The youth who are dying in Portland are dying in motor vehicle crashes. So if we can get these young people riding transit, riding their bikes, rather than even having to adopt driver’s license to begin with, I think we’re ahead of the curve.”

A different perspective was offered by Forth Senior Policy Manager Shannon Walton-Clark. They were supportive of Levy’s ideas and urged the group to consider the political environment in Salem as talks ramp up for a major transportation funding package in 2025. Rep Levy’s proposal should be seen as a seen, in large part, as a “signal that work is being done,” they said. “If communities are not seeing things done about issues that from their perspective are the most important,” Walton-Clark continued, “It is gonna be much harder to convince those communities that infrastructure to support things like e-bikes is wanted and needed. And it’s going to be a lot harder at the legislative level to fight for infrastructure — specifically to protect things like e-bikes — if the narrative is, ‘E-bikes are unsafe, why are we subsidizing them? Why are we supporting them?'”

Walton-Clark’s view struck me as being very similar to the rationale that led to lawmakers passing a $15 tax on new bicycles as part of the 2017 transportation funding package. That tax was pitched as a way for cycling advocates to earn respect and “have some skin in the game” that would lead to more favorable funding and support in future years; none of which has materialized.

This conversation about how — or if — to further regulate e-bikes in light of their immense popularity (especially among teens) is just getting started. Draft bill language for the 2024 session is due in November and Rep. Levy says she’s open to feedback and input. You can contact her via her State Legislature page or at Rep.EmersonLevy@oregonlegislature.gov.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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John L
John L
6 months ago

The broad term “e-bike” includes what are basically electric motorcycles. If you can effortlessly accelerate to and maintain 30, 40, 50 mph, it’s a motor vehicle and should be regulated as one.

dw
dw
6 months ago
Reply to  John L

As an ebike rider, I agree with you. Pedal-assist ebikes are wonderfully transformative for mobility. They allow older people and people who are not physically fit to get out riding. Even for able-bodied, fit people like myself, they extend your range and let you ride a bike for transportation in normal clothes, even when it’s 80-90 out.

If it has a throttle it’s a moped.

Fred
Fred
6 months ago
Reply to  dw

Not sure I agree with you about the throttle. My wife’s e-bike has pedal assist as well as a throttle. She loves the throttle b/c it really helps her get going from a dead stop, especially in a higher gear; otherwise you’d have to shift to the lowest gear each time you stop.

It’s not the throttle – it’s the overall speed of the bike that’s the issue. If it can go over 15 mph, it should be considered a motorcycle, IMO, and the bill needs to address police education on e-bikes. They are the ones who need to get smarter about e-bikes and mopeds. Back when I rode a moped, the various police jurisdictions (state, local, tribal, etc) were all over the place: a state cop would tell me my moped was illegal (it wasn’t) while a city cop would tell me something else. Rep. Levy’s bill should rationalize the whole universe of low-powered bicycles, regardless of power type (electric battery or gasoline engine).

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

otherwise you’d have to shift to the lowest gear each time you stop.

Yes that’s how leverage works. I cannot possibly understand the rationale for not wanting to shift the gears of your bike when you stop. That’s just how you ride a bike! That’s like saying I don’t like turning left because it makes me have to turn my handlebars or something.

On the other hand, I agree the main issue is just the top speed. It makes no difference from a safety perspective if someone has to pedal or not. And I’m sure there are accessibility use cases where a throttle allows some people to ride who are not even able to pedal a little. I’m not sure if that’s a big group, it seems like it would probably be really dangerous to ride a bike if you’re physically unable to pedal a little, but I’m sure there are use cases.

Daniel Reimer
6 months ago
Reply to  John

Sometimes you forget to shift down, or you didn’t have time to shift before coming to a stop. It happens! Even if you are in the right gear, accelerating with a heavy load can be tiring.

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Yeah ok, that’s part of learning to ride a bike and once you know, you just do it. Stops at intersections shouldn’t be a surprise. I agree, stop and go can be tiring, but I was specifically talking about “otherwise you’d have to shift to the lowest gear” as if that’s some unbearable burden.

And how many of these heavy cargo bikes or just any e-bikes aren’t using an internal hub anyway, which you can shift from a stop?

Daniel Reimer
6 months ago
Reply to  John

You’re telling me you are in the perfect gear at every single moment of riding?

Not too many ebikes I’ve seen have been taking advantage of internal geared hubs. Mostly it’s on the very high end ebikes that I see them with.

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Yeah, it’s easy to be in the perfect gear when I’m coming to a stop. I just shift down. I don’t understand how this is a problem after your first week or two of riding.

But you’re right, I looked at the Rad bikes which seem to use derailleurs. I guess an internal hub would add a couple hundred dollars, not nothing.

And it doesn’t really matter, it’s not that important to the overall discussion. Being able to use a throttle should make no difference regulation-wise. Just max speed. I just thought it was an odd reason to want a throttle. But to each their own.

Ryan
Ryan
6 months ago
Reply to  John

For more context, a throttle is helpful for heavier e-bikes that only use a cadence sensor instead of torque sensor – which is a lot (if not most) lower-cost e-bikes. Even in the lowest gear it can be tough at times to get the cranks moving enough for the motor to kick in. Since that point where you just start pedaling from a stop is typically when you’re least stable, it can be safer (especially for a less experienced rider forced to ride near cars) to use the throttle to get up to speed before starting to pedal.

I wouldn’t mind if they were able to easily make it so the throttle cut off at a lower speed, so that if you wanted to go faster you had to pedal, but like with any of this stuff it wouldn’t be long before workarounds were found.

Amit Zinman
6 months ago
Reply to  Ryan

Regardless of gearing, I will always have to wobble my Tern GSD left and right, or run it up to speed to start up a hill, if I have a big load on it. I WISH it had a throttle.

Hunter
Hunter
6 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I agree with this except the ridiculously low speed of 15 mph. 30 mph and above should require a license

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
6 months ago

In my current experience in Hawaii – much of this “issue” is that the media AND even police do not know what to call these emerging class bending motorized vehicles. And just as John L mentioned, they are labeling electric motorcycles / electric “minibikes” [in the 1970s sense of the term] as “e-bikes”. We have had multiple deaths and injuries from those types of vehicles by children and novice adults versus the pedalec / bike with an electric motor assist (Class 1).

And if the topic of helmets – effective helmets – for Class 2 and Class 3 ebikes (and e-scooters) then they should be ebike rated…vs. the $20 foam bucket open face helmet and a CPSC sticker. Plus a full face design is ideal. Full face to account for how riders of e-scooters and Class 3 e-bikes are thrown off their vehicles differently than say a cyclist medaling at ~10 mph with their upright city bike or a person using a push scooter. The “best” current rating is the Dutch NTA 8776-certified helmet with MIPS. Sadly, the US the bike industry (and traffic safety professionals) is stuck with a bike safety regulatory framework that thinks of ‘bikes as toys’ (CPSC) versus roadway vehicles with DOT / NHTSA oversight. This is a ‘deal with the devil’ that goes back to the 1960s in discussions with the bike industry and regulators. Thus the US does not have an ebike helmet certification, as of yet and for now we fall back the 1998 SNELL ‘Low Powered Vehicle’ standard or the newer Dutch one for ebikes. [Hey Pete, are you listening?] https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/16/part-1203 https://smf.org/standards/l98/L98Std.pdf

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
6 months ago

Interesting that we always look to put regulations on the activities of the vehicular homicide victim. It reminds me of how we criminalized pedestrianism and created jaywalking laws in the 1920s when cars started to force us to rethink how people used their once shared streets.

At that time when car deaths started to skyrocket, instead of doing things like implementing speed regulators on cars which was also being promoted at that time, they basically wrote laws to keep all non car users out of the streets, in a place they had been previously allowed for centuries.

🚲
🚲
6 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

comment of the week!

maxD
maxD
6 months ago
Reply to  🚲

COTW (seconded) I would add that we need some regulation on vehicle height, length and power. The new electric cars are ridiculous- overpowered, over-sized and overweight. Large vehicles contribute disproportionately to congestion and the heavier the car, that faster tires wear which is having terrible impacts on our rivers and salmon populations. Electric cars and trucks will not save us, and the faster and heavier cars may make things worse. Lets regulate our personal automobiles and how our roads are built before we get too worked about e-bikes

EP
EP
6 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Have you read up about how fast Rivian owners are wearing out there tires? It’s been getting some coverage, but will likely be the same for any other huge EV. It seems that a giant, heavy, powerful vehicle just shreds tires in no time.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  EP

Great, so e-bikes are emitting particulate pollution?

maxD
maxD
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Are you referring to the toxic waste created by tires and brakes? Bikes and ebikes undoubtedly contribute, but it far less. Think of the weight and contact patch of a rivian an their 4 tires compared to a heavy ebike/rider. I think it would be 0.5% range- not nothing, but certainly not a “both sides contribute” condition.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago
Reply to  EP

When you’ve paid $115,000 for a truck, the least of your worries is $1500 for tires every two years.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago
Reply to  maxD

I don’t get the super-fast electric vehicles. I see dozens of them everyday and virtually none of them are hot-rodding like, say many Camaros and Ponies. My friend has a Rivian and he says the only time he uses the ridiculous acceleration is to scare his friends.

Arturo P
Arturo P
6 months ago

Should we mandate helmets or make our transportation system safer for cyclists (like the Netherlands)?

mark
mark
6 months ago

My understanding of the Bend death is that it was the result of a poorly designed intersection, and being hit by a driver. This has nothing to do with eBikes, and everything to do with the dangers that automobiles and their drivers pose to all vulnerable road users.

We can finally do something about cars, or we can legislate more victim blaming.

dw
dw
6 months ago
Reply to  mark

Seriously. Maybe rep. Can I See Your Manager should get to work securing some funding to rebuild the intersection where that young person was killed.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  dw

The Rep IS the manager, and she is taking action.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago
Reply to  mark

Are you sure it had nothing to do with a teen too young to legally ride an ebike cruising along the sidewalk in the direction opposite the flow of traffic?

Aaron
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Perhaps they were cruising on the sidewalk in the opposite direction of traffic because the built infrastructure didn’t give them any other safe place to be?

The Clear-Eyed Realist™
The Clear-Eyed Realist™
6 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

Yes, perhaps. Without some idea of where they were coming from or going to or were riding where they were, it’s all speculation.

What I can confidently say is that where they were was both unsafe and illegal, and illegal because it was unsafe.

Daniel Reimer
6 months ago

And thats equivalent to saying people shouldn’t jay walk because it unsafe and illegal. Take a step back and ask why.

The Clear-Eyed Realist™
The Clear-Eyed Realist™
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

There’s lots of reasons why it’s unsafe, but that doesn’t change the basic facts of the matter.

blumdrew
6 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah, let’s all blame a teenager for their own death. I wonder why they were riding on the sidewalk? Maybe it’s because the road in question is both incredibly hostile to non-car users and a center of commercial activity. You presenting their death in this way is both distasteful and misleading.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

So a 35mph road, with wide painted bike lanes on both sides, wide sidewalks on both sides and a cross walk one block east of the collision site is now “incredibly hostile”?

So hostile that there was no other option for the underage ebike rider, with a passenger and underage for riding without helmets to be going fast enough on a sidewalk approaching a right turn only street crossing to be riding fast enough that an interaction with a vehicle was fatal?

Unless there is video of the car running the stop sign, I don’t know how this is misleading in the slightest.

Daniel Reimer
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

The next crossing in their direction is an entire mile away. Slip lanes are the epitome of car centric design (have you ever seen anyone stop in slip lane that has a stop sign?). 12ft lanes is exceptionally wide for a 35mph road. I don’t know how you can call 4ft sidewalks wide. Everything thing about this location is incredibly hostile to anyone outside of a car https://www.google.com/maps/@44.0550046,-121.2726236,694m/data=!3m1!1e3

Everything about this infrastructure contributed to this teens death. To ignore that and only focus on the teen’s behavior is nothing short of victim blaming.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

The next crossing in their direction of travel is the larkspur trail and it is half a mile away and goes under Highway 20.

Okay, so if the teen is riding a bike they legally can, wearing a helmet as legally required and enters the intersection off the sidewalk at a speed equal to typical walking speed as legally required the exact same thing happens here? Asking those questions and receiving the answer that probabilistically, no, the same scenario doesn’t play out, might be blaming the victim for the outcome, but not without cause.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

If he had been riding a walking speed, it would change my whole view of the crash. But, he wasn’t; he was riding 4 or 5 times walking speed.

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

Paint, on a 35mph road (too fast to ride with) where people actually drive 45mph (extremely dangerous) is yes, incredibly hostile.

SD
SD
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

This design creates a blind spot for where the teen was. Yes, this is hostile.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  SD

No it doesn’t, look at the street view. The blind spot is well behind the crossing, I looked because I thought the same thing.

SD
SD
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

Drivers turning right are looking left for car traffic. Because of the slip lane, they have to look further left than a typical intersection, making it more difficult to see or notice anyone coming from the right on the sidewalk.

mark
mark
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

The stop line is beyond the crosswalk in this particular intersection.

blumdrew
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

Yes, a 35 mph road with 5 lanes and a painted bike lane in a gutter is hostile to ride on, especially if you are somewhat inexperienced (which I think it’s fair to say a 15 year old would be). And hey, considering the sidewalks are wide and crossings aren’t great, there is actually a pretty compelling reason to ride on the sidewalk in opposition to the flow of traffic.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Is the idea that you can create infrastructure that allows for the lowest common denominator participant to make multiple compounding bad decisions and still not get hurt?

SD
SD
6 months ago
Reply to  PS

Yes- but more importantly, where common human errors do not kill children.

The Clear-Eyed Realist™
The Clear-Eyed Realist™
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

let’s all blame a teenager for their own death

I’m not blaming anyone — I don’t know the details of what happened.

Just because the outcome was tragic doesn’t absolve the rider of any role in the events. I feel confident in saying that if the rider had been in the bike lane and traveling with the flow of traffic, this collision would have been much less likely to happen.

And yes, Bend should make its roads safer.

blumdrew
6 months ago

Are you sure it had nothing to do with a teen too young to legally ride an ebike cruising along the sidewalk in the direction opposite the flow of traffic?

This comment assigns no blame? None at all? Get a grip.

I’m not blaming anyone…

… doesn’t absolve the rider …

How exactly would you not absolve while also not blaming?

The Clear-Eyed Realist™
The Clear-Eyed Realist™
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

How exactly would you not absolve while also not blaming?

Easy — by withholding judgement until all the facts are available. Crazy, I know.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I ride this stretch of road multiple times a week for the past twenty years, and had very few close calls. It is a typical, super-busy commercial urban State highway with every good bike lanes.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
6 months ago
Reply to  mark

https://www.bendsource.com/news/bend-teen-dies-while-riding-e-bike-19368081

The teen death in Bend apparently involved a helmetless teen riding on a sidewalk with a passenger on the back. “The bike was traveling westbound on the sidewalk on the eastbound section of Hwy 20″ (a very busy road). Looking at a view provided by BikePortland, it seems that either the bike did not see or ignored a vehicle approaching the intersection and in any case, still attempted to cross the intersection, or, the driver approached the intersection at a high rate of speed and failed to yield to an e-bike already entering the intersection. The fact that the driver was not cited makes it seem more likely that the driver was not at fault.

https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/bend/fatal-e-bike-accident-puts-spotlight-on-rising-safety-concerns/article_23cf3572-0c0a-11ee-9249-6b293e040a97.html

In any case, there are certainly problems that need to be addressed in a reasonable way to prevent re-occurrences.

“Even before the fatal e-bike accident on Saturday, in which a 15-year-old rider was killed, community members have witnessed increasing scenes of Gen Z e-bike riders violating the rules of the road — traveling on them at high speeds, sometimes with multiple friends balanced on a single bike, riding without helmets, on sidewalks or riding against traffic. And that’s not to mention that kids under age 16 are not legally allowed to ride them.”

comment image

SD
SD
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

The fact that the driver was not cited makes it seem more likely that the driver was not at fault.

Nope

X
X
6 months ago
Reply to  SD

Nope²

“The fact that the driver was not cited makes it seem … likely…” –that the police officer responding to this tragic incident, after spending most of their working life behind a windshield, most likely empathized with the motor vehicle operator. We can guess that person was distraught. A cop in that situation isn’t likely to pile on and give them a ticket.

Perfectly nice people can have carhead. It’s a thing.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago
Reply to  X

Having interacted with BPD at least a dozen times over bad driver behavior, I have come to the conclusion that they treat cyclists the same way they treat drivers. There is virtually no enforcement of either bad driver behavior vis-a-vis cyclists or vice versa. It is essentially a free-for-all over here.

PS
PS
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

The passenger on the ebike was unhurt, given the physics lesson above on the quadratic forces of vehicles it seems unlikely that the vehicle was moving fast, but the bike hit an immovable object.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago
Reply to  mark

It was primarily the result of a really bad decision by a young rider, approaching a right-turning driver from his right, on the sidewalk. Not sure the legalities, but I am pretty sure the driver was not found to be at fault, or even charged.

SD
SD
6 months ago

Shannon Walton-Clark’s perspective is part of a legislative bunker mentality that gets it wrong over and over again. People already have entrenched feelings about these things and what is going on in the legislature is not going to lead to a positive or reasonable shift in attitudes. In fact, it will probably make it worse, by formalizing the view that e-bikes are so dangerous they have to be specially regulated, while ignoring the real dangers of drivers and poor road design in Bend.

🚲
🚲
6 months ago

I am an e-bike commuter in the West Hills. It upsets me that some BP commenters have dismissed e-bikes as motorcycles and said they are dangerous. What is dangerous is speed and mass (literally exponentially). Thus cars are much more dangerous than e-bikes, and car drivers are the ones injuring and killing others. (I know there is the case of a delivery person in NYC killing a pedestrian on a side-walk). 

E-bikes also have a much lower environmental impact than cars. Yes, they use lithium batteries, but since they are much lighter and smaller than cars, their battery is also smaller, exponentially. A BEV’s battery is up to 1000 lbs and 100-200 kWh, whereas an e-bike is about 10 Ah (at 36 V) that is 0.36 kWh (277 times less, and they also weight maybe 2 lbs).

But you’d ask: why not just use a regular bike? Because I’m not so young, not in shape and the hills are steep. Bus service in my neighborhood is pitiful. My only alternative would be a car.

Now, to the proposed regulation. I am in favor of consistent regulations across the country. Class 1 and 2 are limited to 20 mph. So when someone gets stopped at 70 mph, that’s an infraction right there, you don’t need to make the regulations stricter. My e-bike is a conversion and has a throttle. It’s perfect. Since the E-bike store did the conversion in 2008, I’ve have the bike, the battery and the throttle replaced as needed. Aside from the electric stuff all the parts are standard and I can fix it by myself. No risk of the fancy e-bike company going out of business (thinking of you VanMoof). The throttle also allows me to use the motor when I need it, going up-hill, and just bike normally when it is flat or when I’m with people without motors.

Also, I want to second this “Because most pedal-assist bikes are mid-drive [motors], they’re at least twice as expensive as a pedal assist bikes that have a throttle option, so the concern that I have … is that it might lead to just gatekeeping the affordable e-bikes.”

blumdrew
6 months ago
Reply to  🚲

What is dangerous is speed and mass (literally exponentially)

It’s quadratic, not exponential – which is an important distinction. A bike/rider system carries 1440 Joules (70 kg person + 10 kg bike, 6 m/s [~13 mph]) of energy at cruising speeds. An ebike/rider system carries 3847.5 Joules (70 kg person + 25 kg ebike, 9 m/s [~20 mph]), so about 2.5x more. A car carries something like 500,000 Joules at cruising speed (1530 kg car + 70 kg person, 12 m/s [~26 mph]), which is about 130x more than an e-bike.

Annoying physics comment aside, I think a lot of the chatter around e-bikes sort of misses the forest for the trees. E-bikes do pose some genuine danger for the riders, especially those who are unfamiliar with handling bikes at higher speeds but it’s not comparable at all to the damage a car can do.

Jesse
Jesse
6 months ago
Reply to  🚲

It upsets me that some BP commenters have dismissed e-bikes as motorcycles and said they are dangerous.

It’s the bikes here https://sur-ronusa.com/ that get people to dismiss e bikes as motorcycles. The copy for these are as such:

The Surron is taking the USA by storm. Mid drive electric bike that you can ride anywhere. Fast, long range, and reliable. SurRon USA is one of the first to introduce this bike and we are proud to continue the tradition offering both bikes and upgrade parts.”

Ride it anywhere! Who cares, it’s a bike! Micromobility! Lets not gate keep the bikes!! Oh yeah, a easy mod to make them capable of 50 mph. So a $3500 bike that’s gonna do 40-50 mph and handed off to a 15 year old? This will get people to gatekeep all e bikes with regulation.

Matt S.
Matt S.
6 months ago
Reply to  Jesse

Just like how all e-bikes destroy mountain bike trails…

Iconyms
Iconyms
6 months ago
Reply to  Jesse

A sur-ron in a mode that can hit 50 mph is already breaking ebike regulations though… However if you limit a sur-ron to 750w and 20 mph then it’s legal.

I’m confused about this mentality that there are ebikes breaking the law & regulations so people think it will lead to more regulations? Why not just enforce the ones we have? Not sure what adding more would do?

1kw
1kw
6 months ago
Reply to  🚲

I think the whole discussion should be leaning more to have some some reasonable regulations, just like we do with gas powered “scooters/mini bikes/assisted bicycles”. I’m ALL for battery powered micro mobility, but you cannot overlook the simple physics. Some of these vehicles are NO DIFFERENT than the above gas powered ones in regards to power/weight ratio, so that need to be the calculus for regulation. The physics is what make controls the velocity so effortlessly ( gas or electric -physics doesnt care) and ultimately can kill you.
If kids under 16 cannot ride gas “scooters” on the streets because they are to dangerous, they shouldn’t be able to ride DC powered ones either… Buy em a damn mountain bike( and a helmet).

John
John
6 months ago

I think the helmet aspect is interesting. On the one hand, I don’t think you should ever ride without a helmet. For all the hand waving about how people don’t wear them in the Netherlands, yadda yadda whatever, it is way too dangerous to ride without one. Just falling over from that height can give you a concussion even at tiny low speeds everyone can reach. I just don’t buy any of the anti-helmet talking points.

On the other hand, that’s just my personal choice and I don’t see why they should actually be mandated except for younger kids, for the same reasons we require car seats for babies. But if helmets aren’t mandated, I don’t understand the justification for seatbelts in cars. Maybe the argument for cars is that the burden on healthcare is so big, because car crashes are so bad, that we simply have to for practical reasons. I.e., helmets unarguably make you safer, but not as much safer as a seatbelt? I don’t know.

pierre_delecto
pierre_delecto
6 months ago
Reply to  John

On the one hand, I don’t think you should ever ride without a helmet … Just falling over from that height can give you a concussion even at tiny low speeds everyone can reach

So I’m sure you also believe that people walking, jogging, running, or driving should also wear a foam beer cooler?
.
Right???

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  pierre_delecto

If you walk around at 10mph (a tiny low speed everyone can reach) at a height higher than a standing person on a machine that keeps you from catching yourself with your feet and possibly your hands in a fall, in situations where you are extra likely to be interacting with other vehicles (of any kind), sure.

I know people are weirdly contrarian about this, but you’re more likely to hit yourself in the head on a bicycle, and you’re always going to do it on hard ground. Heads are easy to break.

Like I said, I’m not big on mandating it, I just think it calls you out as an idiot if you ride without a helmet regularly. Especially in the US with our bad infrastructure.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 months ago
Reply to  John

All modern bike helmets are great for frontal head injuries; it’s possible to design a helmet that protects against injuries to the side of the head and even to the face as well. However, a helmet is not going to stop a car from hitting you on the rear, side, or front, and the resulting injuries to your spine and the rest of your body may kill you or severely injure you even if your head is OK.

One question I do have is, does wearing a helmet make you more likely to be a cautious defensive bicyclist? Or are defensive cautious bicyclists more likely to wear helmets?

John
John
6 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Yes, a helmet gives you some protection from certain kinds of (not unrealistic) crashes. And it would take some convincing for me to believe it doesn’t also protect your head from the ground, even on the “weak” sides of the helmet, in a fall.

Nothing is going to make you invincible out there, not even if all the cars disappeared. I’m not making an argument that they should be mandated for adults (absolutely for kids). I don’t think I had a point really, mostly that it just seems like an interesting contradiction that we mandate seatbelts but not helmets. And we do mandate helmets on motorcycles. So I guess the difference is just speed and the likelihood of severe injury.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 months ago
Reply to  John

No, I’ve heard from emergency room doctors and technicians say that helmets would have an even greater impact with car drivers too, if the use of them were made mandatory for all drivers and passengers, and not just NASCAR drivers. Apparently there a lot of serious head injuries from air bags deploying (and even more when they fail to deploy) for the folks up front, while the rear passengers often have no protection at all. And you might also see more drivers driving cautiously and defensively if they are having to wear these helmets – it would be easier for police to identify violators that it currently is for seatbelt nonusers.

X
X
6 months ago
Reply to  John

You can make the same argument for taking a shower. People showering are often standing barefoot on a smooth wet surface surrounded with irregular hard objects. Does this seem facetious? It’s not, I know someone who suffered a head injury while showering. They seem to have recovered well, fortunately.

Is the state of being an idiot transitory? Does it only kick in when you leave the helmet home? Since you have a helmet, be sure to put it on every time you shower.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
6 months ago

Having been in Bend for several days last month, I was amazed at the amount of e-bikes being ridden- including by what appeared to be young teens. E-bike use seemed to be more common than bicycles, and friends there said the circumstances of the fatal teen accident were not unusual.

And regarding John MacArthur’s comments that a 15-year-old could go very fast on a non-electric bike, “and in some low-income communities will this be another reason for the police officers to go chase down young people of color?:

A. A 15 year old is not going to go 70 mph on a bicycle (unless in a free fall off a 160 foot cliff).
B. Bend is not a low-income community. I suspect that is why there were so many e-bikes there- proportionally more people in Bend can afford them. Additionally, virtually all of the riders I saw, esp. young teens, were not people of color.

The bottom line is that, while e-bikes present an important addition to transportation and mobility, they should be regulated as appropriate to type (especially top speed) of bike in a way to protect riders and anyone they encounter.

p.s. As a reminder, Portland city code prohibits bicycles from blocking sidewalks, ADA ramps, etc, and can be impounded if doing so. PBOT decided not apply the same restriction on e-scooters, because, as they essentially told me, “bicycles are owned by individual citizens while most e-scooters are owned by corporations” (I will let you draw your own conclusions to such sentiments).

So one must wonder if PBOT will treat e-bikes as bicycles or e-scooters in that regard.

blumdrew
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Bend is not a low-income community

Massive over-generalization. Bend and Portland have the same median income for households (within margin of errors), and it’d be stupid to call Portland “not a low-income community”. Bend has a very high cost of living for a city its size, and primary industries of hospitality and tourism which aren’t exactly known for their huge salaries.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
6 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Thanks. The point I was trying to make is that I observed lots of e-bikes in Bend, proportionally much more than I see in Portland, and that many seemed to be driven by teens. I did not mention Portland’s income as far as I can tell.

Iconyms
Iconyms
6 months ago
Reply to  Bob Weinstein

Ebike tops speeds are already regulated though. That’s what I don’t get, so much talk about changing the laws and regulations but we already have laws and regulations around ebikes.

Ken Laszlo
6 months ago

The ideas for accepting the bike classification system is a no-brainer.

I think bundling the helmet requirement w/ the other age restrictions for those younger than 16 would make this much much more palatable. Yes, everyone should wear a helmet, but such a law would *really* complicate bike-share companies. This happened in Seattle w/ their nascent bike-share program in ~2016, and was headache for them.

Honestly, while they’re at it, they should prohibit class 3 bikes from pedestrian trails. 28 MPH is serious speed. I own a class 2 bike, and I regularly feel 20 mph is too much on those paths.

Atreus
Atreus
6 months ago

It’s absolutely maddening that we’re talking about limiting speeds on e-bikes when every single car on the road can go 150 mph easily. When will we require speed limiters on cars and trucks?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 months ago

New message from BP while I was editing my own comments within the 30-minute window: “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.”

Are staff are having issues with commenters editing their own comments?

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  David Hampsten

Not at all. Maybe that was auto-generated, I didn’t write it, and Jonathan usually signs his name, plus it doesn’t seem like something he would do.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago

I’m having that problem too; it started happening Thursday or Friday.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Watts

Thank you, might not be able to fix until Monday.
Jonathan, please note annoying msg commenters started receiving when re-editing comment.

Watts
Watts
6 months ago

Try posting while you are not logged in, then edit post, and I’ll bet you see it.

X
X
6 months ago

E-bikes are a disruptor, for bike riders, for heavy motor vehicle operators, for police officers, and for legislators. It’s crazy to try to write a law focused on details like whether or not an e-bike is equipped with a throttle because really smart people are working hard to change the technology as fast as they can.

A person in an enclosed vehicle weighing tons, with over 200 horsepower, needs to be hyper conscious of humans outside their box when they are in an urban area. It’s stressful. They hate it. E-bikes bring more people into that space.

We already have well meant safety laws that are ignored, like that Vulnerable Road User thing. You can’t grind out a law amongst a bunch of people who drive cars hundreds of miles to get to work in Salem, Oregon, that will keep people safe on a 50 pound, one horsepower device. Let’s use some laws that we already have.

If somebody is dead it seems clear that some of the people involved were going to fast (with the clear exception of the poor bodies who were just standing on the sidewalk). We have a rule for that.

chris
chris
6 months ago

This fear/hatred of throttles is totally foolish. They can literally be a lifesaver, especially when crossing a busy road like SE Powell on an 80pound bike with a 40 pound kid on the back.
I thought Portland, and this website, is supposed to be inclusive?
We’re here, we’re electric, get used to it!!!

Amit Zinman
6 months ago

I no longer have an ebike with a throttle but when I did, it’s main use was to help me get from 0 to 5Mph, then perhaps to 10Mph quickly. If I had to stop on my way up a hill fully loaded with equipment (I work with my bike) it helped me go up, period. It also served me well quite a few times when I got injured.
In none of these cases was I riding dangerously or fast. In fact, I was able to clear intersections more safely and in a prompt manner, even while carrying an adult and a trailer with my bike.
Sure, there are lots of unsafe electric motorbikes out there that are cheap, go very fast and from time to time have their batteries explode.
How about, instead of harassing e-bike users, limit the size of cars sold to people and improve all intersections. That will save many more lives.

Stephen Scarich
Stephen Scarich
6 months ago

Yesterday in Bend, I saw two girls, no older than ten, riding an e-bike together in heavy Downtown traffic. I just crossed my fingers and said a prayer as they wobbled by, barely in control.

Rob Nob
Rob Nob
5 months ago

Anyone look at the white painted stop line from Dean Swift Rd north’s right turn on to HWY 20? It is in the middle of the sidewalk alignment! I am not saying that contributed, but anyone stopping legally at the line would be smack dab in the middle of the crossing?!?!
https://maps.app.goo.gl/vuSDxGyFX8aDwjU66

CDD
CDD
2 months ago

Same argument like the Mofa (Motorfahrrad) in Germany: A Mofa must comply with the following:

  • It must be less than 50cc
  • It must use less than 0.5 Kw of power
  • It must weigh no more than 30 Kg when empty
  • The front wheel must be no more than 26cm wide
  • The back wheel must be no more than 28cm wide
  • Max speed 45km/h

Somehow teenagers soup them up as soon as they get them, and then the local cops have to prove they are souped up by way of confiscation. It’s a daily cat&mouse with cops and then dodge traffic all over Germany with these Mofa’s…