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California governor signs law modernizing electric bike regulations

Published October 8, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BRAIN) — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law a bill that modernizes e-bike regulations and ensures that they are treated like traditional bicycles instead of mopeds.

The law, which becomes effective Jan. 1, creates three classes of e-bikes. Class 1 consists of pedal-assist bikes and Class 2 of bikes with throttles. Both are limited to motor-assisted speeds of 20 miles an hour.

Class 3 consists of “speed pedelecs,” or pedal-assist bikes that can reach assisted speeds of up to 28 miles an hour.

“Electric bicycles are poised to become another healthy, environmentally-friendly way to get around for Californians,” said California Rep. David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who sponsored the measure, Assembly Bill 1096. “Modernizing laws around e-bikes will help us encourage their safe use by new and experienced bicyclists.”

Chiu’s bill passed both houses of the California legislature unanimously.

The California law is the first significant victory for an industry lobbying effort that was launched early this year by the e-bike committee of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, and soon joined by PeopleForBikes and the California Bicycle Coalition, or CalBike.

The BPSA and PFB hope to mount similar lobbying efforts in other states next year. California is a key state because it is a large market for e-bikes and is home to most of the leading U.S. e-bike brands.

By boosting access to e-bikes, supporters believe the measure will help grow cycling by opening up the market to consumers who may be unable or unwilling to ride conventional bicycles.

“Bicycling is great for our state’s economy, for our residents’ health, and for our communities’ prosperity,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of CalBike. “E-bikes make bicycling more accessible to Californians so they’re an important part of that solution.”

“We believe that these new regulations will serve as a model for many other states to follow and provide safe and appropriate access to bicycling infrastructure for the wide variety of low-speed electric bicycles that are being marketed today,” said Larry Pizzi, chair of the BPSA’s e-bike committee. Pizzi is also senior vice president for sales and marketing for Accell North America, the U.S. division of Europe’s biggest e-bike manufacturer.

Class 1 and 2 bikes will be allowed to go wherever regular bikes are permitted. Class 3 bikes are restricted to roadways and bike paths, trails and bikeways that are adjacent to roadways. Helmets for Class 3 bikes are mandatory, and riders have to be at least 16 years old.

Unlike moped riders, however, no one riding an e-bike that falls into one of the three classifications will be required to have a driver’s license or license plate.

Local governments have the authority to restrict access on paths, trails, bikeways or bike lanes by ordinance.

“With a multi-class structure established, states, municipalities and land management agencies can regulate effectively and clear a path for the proliferation of electric bicycles, which we believe will provide access to bicycling for many more Americans,” Pizzi said.

See the Nov. 1 issue of Bicycle Retailer for more information on the California law.

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