Electric Bikes

Welcome to our coverage of e-bikes.

Portland is home to many electric-bike makers, tinkerers, riders, and enthusiasts. We do our best to cover it all. Have an e-bike story idea? Drop us an email via our contact page.

City says e-bike use on park paths is a violation, but it’s not enforced

Avatar by on September 18th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Portland City Code prohibits e-bike use on paths like the Springwater.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last summer we stumbled upon an inconvenient truth about electric bike use in Oregon State Parks. It turned out that despite their popularity, it was illegal to operate e-bikes on State Park paths and trails.

Thankfully, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) acknowledged the outdated rules and the State Parks Commission recently approved new ones that explicitly permit e-bike use on their facilities.

Now it appears the City of Portland might have the same problem. [Read more…]

State Parks Commission approves new rule allowing e-bikes on paths and trails

Avatar by on August 31st, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Go ahead and ride that e-thang!
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last summer we threw a bit of cold water on the very hot trend of electric-assisted bicycles when we reported on the little-known fact that e-bikes were prohibited on paths and trails managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).

At the time, OPRD acknowledged that they never intended to exclude e-bike riders from popular paths like the Historic Columbia River Highway and Banks-Vernonia Trail. The situation, they felt, was a matter of the law not keeping up with the times. Oregon’s vehicle code recognizes e-bikes as bicycles; but OPRD facilities are managed with Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) which didn’t mention e-bikes at all. This meant they fell into the category of “motor vehicles” and were managed as such.

In response to public pressure to address the issue, OPRD began the process to amend their rules last September. Today we confirmed with agency staff that the State Parks Commission has approved a rule change that explicitly allows electric-assisted bicycles on all paths and trails eight-feet and wider unless otherwise posted.

The approval means that OAR 736-010-0015 now includes a statutory definition for “electric assisted bicycle” that is a carbon copy of Oregon Revised Statute 801.258.
[Read more…]

Portland wants Biketown to have e-bikes, starting next year

Avatar by on August 22nd, 2018 at 10:49 am

Willamette Week’s Rachel Monahan seems to have broken some news in the 25th paragraph of her story today about how scooters could fit into Portland’s multimodal future:

“The city plans to introduce e-bikes as part of the next bike share contract in August 2019.”

During last winter’s snow, when I was combining MAX and Biketown for my own commute to the Central Eastside, I ran into a couple who seemed to be shoestring-budget tourists at the Rose Quarter Biketown station. They were extremely excited about the bikes.

“You can just rent them and get around the city?” the guy asked me. “How do they get charged?”

My face probably fell a little bit when I realized that he assumed, probably because they’re big and weird-looking, that they must be e-bikes. When I told him they weren’t, the couple lost interest.

I recently rode a shared e-bike up a hill in Seattle. It was freaking fabulous. A few other cities, including Copenhagen, Providence and Birmingham, have introduced e-bikes to their municipal bike share fleets.

E-bikes would be a big improvement for Biketown, and also a substantial investment in both capital and operations. It’s not clear from Willamette Week’s reporting whether the city has funding lined up yet.

(Thanks to Monahan for highlighting this scoop on Twitter.)

Local retailers respond to Trump’s 25% tariff on electric bikes

Avatar by on August 9th, 2018 at 10:24 am

E-bikes, like this one crusing on the Eastbank Esplanade, have become very popular in Portland. A new tariff could chill the market.
(Photo: Will Vanlue for BikePortland)

“Our forecasts predict that a 25% tariff will cause a 65-75% drop in sales as consumers postpone their purchases until sanity returns to our trade policies.”
— Wake Gregg, The eBike Store

In their ongoing effort to achieve more “fair and balanced” trade conditions with China, the Trump Administration has finalized a list of $16 billion worth of products that will be hit with a 25 percent tariff that will go into effect August 23rd.

Among those products are electric bicycles and e-bike motors. Bikes imported from China previously had no tariff. The tariff on motors will be 29 percent as the new tariff will be added to the existing one 4 percent. People for Bikes, a national bike industry advocacy group, fought the move, but has so far been unsuccessful.

This is bad news for the e-bike market. As we shared last week, sales of the pedal-assisted bikes have been a major bright spot for bike companies and retail shop owners. Here in Portland, we have a thriving e-bike scene and shop owners report brisk sales. There’s been a sense that — after years of challenges due to an educational and cultural bottleneck — the U.S. market for e-bikes had finally matured. And like many bike trends, Portland is at the tip of the spear.

Here are reactions to the new tariffs from three local shop owners:
[Read more…]

Portland firm releases free legal guidebook for electric bicycles

Avatar by on August 1st, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Cover

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.
[Read more…]

E-bikes and Oregon State Parks & Recreation Rules

A J Zelada by on May 1st, 2018 at 4:03 pm

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)
[Read more…]

Oregon begins process to legalize electric-assist bikes in state parks

Avatar by on April 10th, 2018 at 10:28 am

E-bikes are currently illegal on paths like the Banks-Vernonia. A new rule would change that.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wants to update their rules regarding electric bicycles.

As we were first to report last summer, electric bikes are not currently legal to ride on paths in Oregon State Parks. That’s because park paths are governed by Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR), which currently classify electric bicycles as “motor vehicles” — thereby prohibiting their use. (Note that roads outside of state parks are governed by Oregon Revised Statutes which define e-bikes as bicycles). With the rising popularity of pedal-assisted e-bikes, State Parks officials recognize that the OAR is outdated.

Now they’ve begun the process to officially amend the rules to make it clear that electric-assisted bicycles (as defined in ORS 801.258) are allowed in State Parks. The OPRD website has posted a “notice for proposed rulemaking” and there’s a comment form to receive public feedback.
[Read more…]

Let’s help Samantha Taylor buy an e-bike

Avatar by on October 9th, 2017 at 11:36 am

(Photo courtesy Samantha Taylor)

We met Samantha Taylor during Steph Routh’s interview series. In it we learned why she isn’t commuting:

The most that I’ve ridden a bike was this summer when I had a GenZe bike. I have chronic pain, and I have arthritis. I know that there are other people out there with similar experiences. Having an e-bike allowed me to ride comfortably in a way that suited my body’s needs. It’s unfortunate that e-bikes are so expensive. Since I had to give mine back, I haven’t been riding.

[Read more…]

Organizers pull plug on Portland Electric Bike Expo due to “eclipse mania”

Avatar by on August 10th, 2017 at 9:28 am

Portland Electric Bike Expo-5.jpg

A scene from the 2016 event.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Hysteria around the total solar eclipse that will make its way through Oregon two weekends from now has caused a major bike event to cancel its plans.

Organizers of the Electric Bike Expo had planned to bring their event to Portland on August 18th through the 20th. But when they started calling around for essential services like tents, fencing, port-a-potties, and backup power generators, they quickly noticed something was wrong. With concerns over historic levels of traffic and camping due to the millions of people expected to flood Oregon for Monday’s celestial show, providers were unable to guarantee availability of the aforementioned services.

This realization sent Ray Verhelst and Bill Sell of the Electric Bike Assocation scrambling. They tried to reschedule the event for the following week — a move that also meant they had to find a different venue because the planned location at Portland Meadows Racetrack wouldn’t be available. They then considered moving the event to October but worries about bad weather tanked that idea.

But with such late notice and with many of their vendors and customers having already made travel plans, Sell and Verhelst announced this morning that they’ve cancelled the event.
[Read more…]

Not so fast e-bike riders: Motors aren’t allowed on bike paths in Oregon State Parks

Avatar by on July 6th, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-57

Riders on the Historic Columbia River State Trail.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we posted a story about how electric bicycles have opened up new riding opportunities in the Columbia River Gorge. But it turns out it’s illegal to ride an e-bike on the Historic Columbia River State Trail — or on any other paved bike path within the Oregon State Parks system.

We’ve since updated that story with a note after learning about the issue from a commenter (Park Chambers, who happens to own Fat Tire Farm and Hood River Bikes) and then confirming the facts in a phone call with an Oregon State Parks spokesperson.

This prohibition of e-bikes on paved trails caught me off-guard. As pedal-assisted bikes gain in popularity, I think the issue merits a closer look.
[Read more…]