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California e-bike legislation headed to Gov. Brown's desk; industry ponders electric mountain bikes

Published September 16, 2015
IMBA to present findings of eMTB study this week.

LAS VEGAS (BRAIN) — The BPSA is on the verge of notching a significant victory in its campaign to modernize e-bike legislation across the country.

The California Legislature a few days ago approved a measure that creates three classifications of e-bikes — separating pedal-assist bikes, or pedelecs, from throttle bikes, while legalizing "speed pedelecs" that can go up to 28 mph under motor assist.

The bill now goes to California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 11 to sign it into law.

"We are confident the governor will sign it," said Larry Pizzi of Accell North America, who headed the BPSA e-bike committee that launched the legislative initiative. The BPSA worked with PeopleForBikes to manage legislative efforts.

Morgan Lommele and Alex Logemann from the BPSA and PeopleForBikes will discuss the measure at an Interbike seminar today. Their presentation, "Making E-bike Access Easier through State Legislation," is scheduled for 2-3 p.m. at the Electric Theater.

"The bill is great for consumers — no more confusion about where you can or can't ride your e-bike, better commuting options, more options for family transportation," Pizzi said.
Pizzi said the bill helps retailers because they'll be able to more easily explain where e-bikes can be ridden. By increasing access for e-bikes, the bill should also boost demand for them, he said.

If Brown signs the bill, it will become effective on Jan. 1. Starting a year later, on Jan. 1, 2017, manufacturers will be required to apply a permanent label on all e-bikes that identifies their classification, top assisted speed and motor wattage.

The California bill defines a Class 1 e-bike as a pedelec, while Class 2 e-bikes are those with throttles. Both are limited to a top assisted speed of 20 mph but are allowed to go wherever regular bikes are permitted.

Speed pedelecs comprise Class 3. They are limited to roadways and bike paths, trails and bikeways that are adjacent to roadways. Helmets are mandatory, and speed pedelec riders have to be at least 16 years old.

The bill gives local authorities the ability to restrict access to any class of e-bikes on paths, trails, bikeways or bike lanes by ordinance.

The dirt on e-MTBs

Another seminar, scheduled today just after the legislation meeting, will take on the controversial issue of e-mountain bikes on trails.

IMBA's Mark Eller, along with members of the IMBA Trail Solutions Staff, will discuss the results of a study that looked at the relative impacts on soil displacement and erosion of conventional mountain bikes compared with e-mountain bikes and off-road motorcycles (dirt bikes).

Their seminar, "The Dirt on eMTBs," is 3-4 p.m., also at the Electric Theater.

IMBA conducted the scientifically controlled field study this fall in partnership with the BPSA and PeopleForBikes.

According to a fact sheet from IMBA and PeopleForBikes, preliminary results find that e-mountain bikes have about the same impact on trails as traditional bikes.

"We saw some differences between the impacts of e-MTBs and mountain bikes, particularly at turns and grade changes," the fact sheet said. "However, for the most part, the soil impacts observed in this study were not greatly different from those of mountain bikes, and were much less than those associated with motorcycle use."

IMBA's current policy defines mountain biking as non-motorized. However, the fact sheet noted, "IMBA recognizes that eMTBs, particularly those equipped with Type 1 pedal-assist, are substantially different from other motorized uses, and may warrant a separate category and new management strategies."

The study isn't complete; IMBA is compiling results from a survey of land managers, and an analysis of the social impacts of e-mountain bikes on trails. The full study should be finished by the end of the year.

"IMBA's initial study suggests that, with proper management, e-MTBs have the potential to offer a beneficial use of public lands with acceptable impacts," the fact sheet said. "This is a new category of trail use with the capacity to promote outdoor activity and overall health."

The two seminars will be repeated Thursday.

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