Christian Angelo 10-1-21
Electric bicycles - the new alternative vehicle trend. Between 2019 and 2020, E-bike sales increased by 145%. The growth is increasing rapidly as the pandemic continues. E-bikes allow people to travel around while remaining physically distant from other people. The rise of work from home scenarios also means that there are less cars on the road, making cyclists feel safer outside. Additional benefits are also part of the reason why people are buying e-bikes.
As the e-bike community grows, traffic rules and regulations should expand too. In Massachusetts, a non-profit organization is advocating for an updated e-bike legislation. MassBike is proposing new changes such as differentiating low-speed and higher-speed electric bicycles, maintaining regulatory control of local authority, and applying safety equipment requirements.
There are no designated state laws for electric bicycles in Massachusetts. E-bikes are defined under the “motorized bicycle” classification. A motorized bicycle is defined as a vehicle that has a motor with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum speed not exceeding thirty miles per hour.
Riders of motorized bicycles are required to have a license. They are also prohibited from off-street pathways. Massachusetts, along with six other states, require a license for operating electric bicycles because they are still classified as a motorized vehicle and a new e-bike law is yet to be implemented.
However, if your e-bike meets the definition of a “low-speed electric bicycle” (a bike with 2-3 wheels, fully operable pedals, motor is less than 750 watts, top assisted speed of 20 mph), then you are not subject to registration and license requirements.
There is still a lot of ambiguity in where electric bicycles are allowed to be operated. The safety of the e-bike community is being compromised because of the outdated regulations. The e-bike community is growing exponentially while the outdated law remains the same. That is why MassBike is pushing for new legislation.
The goal of the proposed bill is to regulate low-speed e-bikes like traditional bikes. Rules of the road would be the same for both e-bikes and human-powered bicycles. This means that regulations on speed, proper passing, local traffic laws, obeying posted speed limits, and state and local ordinances would be applied to both types of bicycles.
The new definition would place Massachusetts along with 42 other states and the District of Columbia. The proposed law defines an e-bike as a device:
Class 1: The first class of e-bike is equipped with an electric motor that can only provide assistance to the rider when he/she is pedaling. This is also known as “pedal-assist or pedelec”, which can be activated with a switch. This electric assistance stops when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour.
Class 2: The second class of e-bike is equipped with an electric motor that can propel the bicycle even without the rider’s pedaling. This type is also known as throttle mode, which works just like a motorcycle or scooter. To activate this, the rider has to click or shift the switch. The electric motor disengages when: the bike reaches 20 miles per hour, the brakes are applied, or the throttle switch is released.
Class 3: The third class of e-bike works similarly with the first one. You need to pedal in order to activate the electric assist. The main difference is the speed limit at which the motor can be engaged - 28 miles per hour. Basically, a class 3 e-bike is the fastest among the classes.
Significant progress has been made with the new law. It was filed in early 2021 to both the MA House and MA Senate in the 192nd Session. As of March 29, 2021, the bills H.3457 and S.2309 have been referred to the committee on Transportation.
This is just the beginning of a much safer, more enjoyable e-bicycling experience for the people of Massachusetts. Many people are eagerly waiting for the law to be fully implemented because this is very important for the whole community.
The e-bike community is growing as more and more people opt for electric-assisted bicycles. E-bikes can be used by a wide variety of people and can overcome physical limitations. E-bikes also offer numerous benefits for everyone - easier ride, longer travel, outdoor recreation, physical exercise, and family bonding.
An updated legislation would ensure the safety of the electric bicycle community. It would also remove confusion among the people on the road. Enforcing the use of e-bikes would be much clearer if there is a law regarding it.
E-bike sales have boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the main reasons for purchasing is that e-bikes can be used to travel safer. In Massachusetts, the e-bike laws are outdated and not in line with federal standards and the laws of the majority of the states. The MassBike organization is advocating for a legislation update to ensure the safety of all bikers.
With the proposed law, e-bikes would receive a much clearer definition and regulation requirements. As of 2021, the proposed bill has been referred to the committee on Transportation. An updated e-bike law would make the whole bicycling community safer and happier.