Bill would create statewide electric micromobility task force

Wake Gregg, owner of The E-Bike Store in north Portland, rides a Specialized Haul e-bike. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A bill set to make its way into the short session of the Oregon Legislature that begins next month would create a new statewide task force on electric bikes, scooters, and other small, motorized vehicles.

Currently in draft form as LC 164 (“LC” stands for legislative council, where bills go for final edits and drafting before being given an official bill number), the bill was shared with advocates in Portland this week and was the topic of discussion at the monthly meeting of Electric Bikes For All, a coalition of e-bike advocates that meets monthly via Zoom.

According to minutes from that meeting, this bill will be sponsored by Rep. Hoa Nguyen, a Democrat who represents District 48 (outer southeast). You might remember Rep. Nguyen as the force behind the successful “Bike Bus Bill” that was signed into law last session.

LC 164 is considered a bill that will help lay educational and political groundwork for a more substantive electric bicycle bill that will be floated in the 2025 session. That bill will likely be some version of Eugene House Rep. Emerson Levy’s “Trenton’s Law” that we covered late last year. I’ve reached to both Nguyen and Levy for more background and comment on LC 164 but haven’t heard back.

If LC 164 passes, a new Task Force on Electric Micromobility would be created. It would have 19 members appointed by the director of the Oregon Department of Transportation (currently Kris Strickler). Here’s how the membership would have to be broken down:

  • Two members who represent the Department of Transportation.
  • One member who represents the State Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Three members who represent electric micromobility device operators, manufacturers or businesses.
  • Two members who represent law enforcement and emergency medical services.
  • One member who represents a city transportation department.
  • One member who represents a county government. (g) One member who represents a metropolitan planning organization.
  • One member who represents a public university.
  • One member who represents the insurance industry.
  • One member who represents a nonprofit organization with statewide experience on transportation electrification and micromobility.
  • One member who represents roadway users with disabilities.
  • One member who represents roadway users.
  • Two members who represent active transportation organizations.
  • One member who represents off-road vehicle and trail users.

And here’s the charge of the task force:

  • Review the existing Oregon laws relating to micromobility and personal mobility devices;
  • Examine whether safety and education requirements should be required for motor vehicle users, electric micromobility device manufacturers, retailers and user groups;
  • Examine how electric micromobility devices can be best utilized to promote equity, safety and climate goals in the transportation sector;
  • Examine best practices for the use of electric micromobility devices, including but not limited to use on highways, bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, public lands, public spaces and mixed-use trails;
  • Examine statutory definitions of electric micromobility devices;
  • Address electric micromobility devices for commercial use;
  • Examine provided education and certification programs relating to electric micromobility devices; and
  • Seek input from a broad range of community partners, including but not limited to community partners from institutions of higher education, consumer advocacy groups and small, medium and large businesses.

The State of Oregon isn’t new to the concept of electric micromobility. In January 2023, ODOT published a report on the topic as part of a follow-up to their Transportation Electrification Infrastructure Needs Analysis study. When the TEINA effort first emerged, it had a notable lack of focus on electric bikes so this task force would be another step toward amplifying this particular segment of transportation electrification policy.

Legislative concepts will be made public tomorrow (Friday, January 12th) and the session officially begins February 5th. In order for a bill to have a chance of passing, it must be pushed out of its originated committee by the end of the first week. The short session ends March 10th.


Download LC 164.

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.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

17 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ruth
Ruth
1 month ago

I support this, however I’m deeply concerned that there is no representation requirement for someone representing pedestrians.

Mixed-use trails and pathways are a part of the system to be included in considering this bill. As a pedestrian who uses mixed-use pathways in the city, I experience regular close calls with vehicular traffic (manual & e-bikes) who are traveling too fast in a mixed-use venue.

I would remind you that currently all Portland sidewalks allow cyclists. E-bikes also use sidewalks, though they are not supposed to. Speed is the problem. In a mixed-use setting, vehicular traffic should limit speed to, say, jogging speed. In my cyclist hat, I would not generally choose to do this, and so I ride in the street, not on sidewalks.

Frankly, I’d like to see more dedicated bikeways. A lot more. So that it would be truly practical to travel around town, to work or on errands, on dedicated pathways. Bikes and electric assist vehicles can easily share the same infrastructure. I am more concerned about full electrics, which generally travel at higher speeds and in some cases are more appropriate on mixed use streets.

As we (I hope) move toward a society that utilizes far more bike, e-bike and public transit and far less individual autos, it is important to remember that the rare problems we see with bikes and pedestrians now will become more common. We need to be thinking ahead and envisioning a safe, active and less polluting world for all.

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  Ruth

Thank you Ruth! I absolutely support giving priority and courtesy to pedestrians on paths.
Yielding to people walking is often a better deal than running with bulls.

Motor vehicle access is universally provided and all others sit at the little tiny second table. Bike riders and pedestrians have different needs and when we group them together in one facility they are competing for a scarce resource.

We have a bad precedent in place of grouping all e-bikes as one type and lumping their riders with all motor vehicle operators. That’s the new DUI law. I know there are some poor examples using electrical assist devices but e-bikes generally are a lot more like bikes than cars in weight, power, and top speed. Their kinetic energy is miniscule compared to any car.
E-bike riders are also not cased in steel and buffered by safety devices.

Nick
Nick
1 month ago
Reply to  X

Your statement is mostly true, but you can’t (legally) bike on the sidewalk in large chunks of downtown: https://www.portland.gov/code/16/70/320

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick

Maybe I wasn’t clear, the sharing comes up on multiple user paths that are often the safest option available for bike riders. It’s also the place where we are the big fast-moving things. That’s when courtesy is important.

Yes, bike riding on sidewalks is illegal downtown but the law is largely observed in the breach. When it’s enforced the people who get tickets are probably poor, an identifiable minority group, or perhaps tourists. They might be intoxicated or committing some other offense and the sidewalk violation affords a prima facie justification for stopping them.

The sidewalk law has a purpose but the police only bring it out with extreme discretion.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ruth

I would remind you that currently all Portland sidewalks allow cyclists. 

Not those downtown.

The problem I see is that we are adding an increasing number of somewhat incompatible “modes”: walkers, cyclists, scooters, e-bikes/light motorcycles, buses, cars/trucks/motorcycles, none of which really mix all that well. Is segmenting the road space by mode really the right answer? It may be, but things seem to be getting messier.

It’s been years since this was an issue, but there was a time when our existing bicycle infrastructure was at capacity in some places, and that was before the widespread introduction of scooters and e-bikes.

It’s not really an issue now, but if bicycling sees another resurgence, those capacity problems are going go be more acute due to the growing diversity of vehicles vying for that space.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Ruth

It seems somewhere between hard and impossible to do any regulation of e-bikes to me.

What is the concern about them?

They’re too heavy? Put a bag of groceries on an acoustic bike, now it weighs as much as an e-bike.

They’re too fast? 25 miles per hour is well within reach of average riders. On an acoustic bike. With a bag of groceries. They do it all the time.

The riders are inexperienced? This doesn’t seem true, and even if so it would be a temporary state because eventually everyone on an e-bike becomes an experienced rider. I don’t believe this trope.

The only thing I think is reasonable is regulating the manufacturers, so they can’t sell e-bikes that trivially go above some limit (lets say it’s 25mph), and have a maximum unloaded weight (so they don’t put 100 pounds of batteries on one). Obviously that can be circumvented, but you really have to be aiming to address the majority of riders. Then it’s down to norms, infrastructure design, and possibly enforcement.

Dedicated bikeways seem like the best approach. Similar to how Better Naito added a parallel option to the waterfront. I think that’s preferable in most cases, because my comfortable speed on a bike is too fast to be riding around a lot of pedestrians. It’s the main problem with the Springwater – it’s nice and wide but I just find myself dinging a bell or “on your left” calling constantly, and it doesn’t seem like that’s a good experience for the walkers I’m passing.

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Now that I have a visible speedometer (on my e-bike) I’m finding that 15 mph is a pretty brisk clip. Twenty-five mph is actually goddamn fast for somebody normal riding unassisted, on the flat, in calm air, on an open street in Portland. Even if it’s in your power the rough pavement will rack your bones.

If anybody asked me to decide I’d limit power assistance on what we call a bike to 18 mph or below. That’s arbitrary but partly out of concern that a door zone bike lane is no place to go really fast. I don’t want to be either the pedestrian or the bike rider in a near encounter with a 20 mph speed differential.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  X

Yeah I guess it was a bit of an exaggeration. As in, I think most average riders can do 25mph, certainly 20, but they don’t typically cruise at that speed without a hill. Still, 15mph (which is around my speed on flat) is fast. In that case, maybe that’s what e-bike assist should be limited to.

Even if it’s in your power the rough pavement will rack your bones.

That’s why I ride on low PSI 47mm tires 🙂 Actually, the rough pavement is the real motivation that got me to buy a new bike with bigger tire clearance.
I borrow my partner’s e-bike sometimes, and pretty much ride everywhere at the max it assists (20mph). It’s fast. But she keeps the tires too inflated for my taste, so indeed it feels like riding around on roller skate wheels.

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  John V

Any person who breaks the hour on a 25 mile time trial gets my respect.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  X

If anybody asked me to decide I’d limit power assistance on what we call a bike to 18 mph or below.

My Brompton e-bike taps out after 15, and I feel like that’s plenty fast.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
1 month ago

We need to create a Task Force to answer those questions? Wow, no wonder nothing gets done in Oregon in an expeditious manner.
There’s already a joint Transportation Committee in the legislature, why isn’t it (or their staff) answering those questions?
I sure wouldn’t trust ODOT with anything like this.

Matt Bonner
Matt Bonner
1 month ago

I like the general direction of this proposal, and the effort to include people from all affected areas. I can’t help but think that it would be great to have Mike Radenbaugh or someone he designated at least testify. He grew up in a rural area (outer Chico I think), and he made an e-bike to get to school. Seems like a perspective like that could really help inform discussion about how to make e-bikes a useful and safe option for kids in smaller towns in Oregon.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 month ago

New state slogan idea: Oregon – The State That Studies Everything Forever

I will likely be dead, but I hope that some of you are able to enjoy the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Eastside Equity All-Inclusive Mixed Modal Alternative Transportation Pathway on a typical 92-degree April day in 2057. Having a dedicated e-bike lane separated from the power walking and e-scooter lanes between Lloyd Center and Hollywood will be a game changer!

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

Yet another “task force”. Great.

Fred
Fred
1 month ago

I have the task force’s first recommendation – done already! Here it is:

Any four-lane urban highway in the state will be halved, with one half dedicated to motor vehicles and the other half dedicated to bikes and micromobility vehicles.

Voila! – you now have room for everyone, unlike now where motor vehicles get 95% of the room, all the time, and the other users fight among themselves for the crumbs. No longer will Ruth and other ped advocates see themselves in opposition to cyclists.

A few years ago I was cycling on a path in Gabriel Park and I met an older woman at a tight spot on the path. She practically went medieval on my a**, telling me to get off the path, bikes don’t belong in the park, etc. Unfortunately these kinds of negative encounters are all too common for cyclists, and for peds, but it’s only b/c we’ve allocated space in the wrong way.

You’re welcome!

X
X
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

In a moment of bad judgement I once startled a person, also an older woman, by going through a crosswalk near them downtown. I was actually behind their line of travel and if the bike had not rattled they might not have known I was there. Old people are vulnerable in ways that young people don’t always understand. Note to self, etc.

Amit Zinman
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred

unfortunately, due to political reasons, bikes are forced to share their routes with pedestrians quite often. Time to change that paradigm. Bikes, E-bikes and the rest need their own routes, not MUPs.