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Michigan becomes 7th state to adopt model e-bike classification

Published November 1, 2017

LANSING, Mich. (BRAIN) – Michigan this week became the seventh state to adopt a three-tiered classification system for electric bikes.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a trio of bills, backed by e-bike manufacturers and cycling advocates, that also allows e-bikes on certain trails.

"Michigan's trails and natural resources bring together Michiganders and visitors from around the world, and these bills help bicyclists experience the beauty of Pure Michigan in a new, exciting way," Snyder said in a statement.

Morgan Lommele, the e-bike campaigns manager for PeopleForBikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, said that with the Michigan legislation, 25 percent of the U.S. bike market is now covered by the industry's preferred system for classifying e-bikes — up from zero in just 2½ years.

Other states that have adopted the three-class system are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee and Utah.

Lommele said PeopleforBikes and the BPSA worked with Bosch, which has a big presence in Michigan, and the League of Michigan Bicyclists on the legislation.

E-bikes "are the fastest-growing segment of the bicycle market and are going to play a huge role in the future of bicycling. So I'm excited that Michigan is one of the states on the forefront of the issue," John Lindenmayer, executive director of the Michigan organization, said Wednesday. "I know other states are before us, but usually we're lagging behind when it comes to policy changes."

Lindenmayer said the group started laying the groundwork for the legislation about 18 months ago. The League met with several interested groups and hosted e-bike demos for Michigan lawmakers. He said the bills moved through the legislature quickly and without controversy.

Although Snyder did not play a role in shepherding the bills through the legislature, Lindenmayer said the governor is an enthusiastic e-bike owner.

The Michigan bill allows Class 1 e-bikes — pedal-assist bikes that can reach assisted speeds of up to 20 miles an hour — to go on any rail trail or other trail with an asphalt, crushed limestone or similar surface.

However, state and local authorities retain the authority to regulate or prohibit Class 1 e-bikes on such trails — or, alternatively, to approve the use of Class 2 and 3 e-bikes on them as well. A Class 2 e-bike has a throttle and is limited to a top assisted speed of 20 mph, while a Class 3 e-bike, or "speed pedelec," is a pedal-assist bike with a top assisted speed of 28 mph.

The rail trail provision was especially important, Lindenmayer said: "We have a ton of trails — we have the most rail trails of any state."

To placate mountain bikers, the bill prohibits e-bikes on nonmotorized natural surface trails, unless approved by local or state authorities.

Lommele said her organizations are actively working on similar e-bike bills in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Idaho, New Jersey and Hawaii.

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