RI House passes bill to regulate e-bikes and allow them on bike lanes
Kislak said the legislation “safely encourages the use of a healthy, carbon-free mode of transportation that many other Rhode Islanders will adopt over time. As we work toward our carbon reduction goals , e-bikes will help expand opportunities for some people to replace some car journeys with bicycles.
But House Minority Whip Michael W. Chippendale, a Foster Republican, voted against the bill, questioning why e-bikes don’t have the same registration, insurance and safety inspection requirements as e-bikes. motorcycles.
“A bike that weighs around 70 pounds – some more, some less – traveling up to 28 mph can induce 500 pounds of force on impact, and that’s more than enough to blow a human skull off,” did he declare. “So if a little old lady crossing the street gets caught by someone on an e-bike and is killed, no one will be able to tell them what the license plate was” or “get them to cover the damage.”
Kislak argued that e-bikes are more comparable to traditional pedal bikes than to motorcycles.
In a recent tweet, she said she was riding her traditional bike on the East Bay Bike Path and had seen at least four e-bikes that were “entirely indistinguishable” from her bike – except for the “hum silent from their engines” and the fact that two older men “were not out of breath at all after climbing the hill”.
I’m on the bike path and saw at least 4 electric bikes totally indistinguishable from mine except for the bright red jump bike, the quiet hum of their motors and the two older men who weren’t at all out of breath after climbing the hill. (Me, on the other hand… it was a big hill!) pic.twitter.com/uoDSyYUv5T
— Rebecca Kislak (@RebeccaKislak) May 30, 2022
Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. wrote to the House Corporations Committee raising concerns about Kislak’s bill.
“Having e-bikes sharing the same ‘rules of the road’ as bikes and pedestrians is dangerous for everyone and could be nearly impossible to design housing for pedestrians, bikes and e-bikes together,” Alviti wrote. “Additionally, allowing e-bikes to enjoy the same pavements etc. and in the same way as bicycles would mean that e-bikes would be allowed on our many cycle paths.”
The state now bans e-bikes on its bike paths because “they create a hazard for pedestrians and cyclists,” Alviti said.
When the bill was presented to the House Corporations Committee in March, Kislak noted that e-bikes are not allowed on state bike paths at this time, but she said the ban is not enforced and “we should have laws that reflect reality”.
“E-bikes are really important. They are here to stay,” Kislak told the committee. “They help us to have access to different modes of transport, which will help us to move forward and to move around other than by car.”
She said a friend of hers had multiple sclerosis, but they were able to go on a bike ride together because her friend rented an electric bike. She said it highlights how e-bikes can help people with different abilities and physical challenges.
For example, e-bikes can help people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pedal up College Hill in Providence, Kislak said. “We have a very hilly town, and the e-bikes provide the assistance we need to make it easier to get around our state, with all of our beautiful hills.”
The PeopleForBikes Coalition, a national advocacy group, urged the House Corporations Committee to pass Kislak’s bill.
“E-bikes are loved by people from all walks of life, and they’re being widely adopted by Americans of all age groups,” wrote coalition policy adviser Alex Logemann.
Until recently, e-bike regulation had been done “in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way,” Logemann said. But six years ago, American bike makers developed the three-class system for e-bikes, and that’s reflected in Kislak’s bill, he said. He said 36 other states, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, have adopted this three-class system:
- Class 1: Pedal Assist Electric Bicycle — Rider must pedal for motor to engage, has a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
- Class 2: Throttle Assist E-Bike — Motor can provide power regardless of whether the rider is pedaling or not, has a top speed of 20 miles per hour.
- Class 3: Pedal-assist electric bicycle with a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour.
The legislation would also require new e-bikes to carry a permanent label from the manufacturer showing their class, maximum speeds and other motor information. Faster Class 3 e-bikes should have speedometers.
The bill would require helmets for any rider 15 or younger on any type of e-bike, and for all Class 3 e-bike riders. It would prohibit anyone under 16 from riding a Class 3 e-bike, except as a passenger.
To maintain uniformity across the state, the bill prohibits cities and towns from imposing additional limits on e-bikes except by regulating speed limits.
Kislak said there is no companion bill in the Senate, but broader legislation introduced by Sen. Dawn Euer, a Democrat from Newport, contains a provision on e-bikes.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.