Originally Posted by crichman
It's not often that you get a chance to raise electric cycling issues with a national panel of cycling policy gurus ranging from the NYC Transportation Commissioner and the founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus to David Byrne. (Yes, that David Byrne, author of Bicycle Diaries
and formerly of the Talking Heads.)
I had that chance last night. For more, see http://electriccyclist.com/cities-bi...cling-included
A quarter of the bikes sold in Holland are electrically-assisted now. It's time for us to recognize that our niche and the mainstream are getting closer all the time, and we ought to make sure that electric bikes are included as the US upgrades its cycling infrastructure.
What I worry about is that many early adopters of e-bikes get too caught up with speed and power that they forget safety, in terms of build quality, equipment and operation. In the long run, will this lead to bad publicity because of crashes and unsafe operating behavior? Given the risk aversion the US public has developed, I would say yes. Whether the bad publicity will lead to out right bans or draconian restrictions, who knows?
The US Congress isn't a real friend of e-bikes. It issued a prohibition on the use of electric bicycles on trails that get federal funding unless a State has authorized such use by "electric bicycles". (See the permanent amendments to Section 217(h) of Title 23 of the United States effective upon enrollment of Public Law 105-178.) Congress has also allowed the states to determine whether to let e-bikes ride on public roads and what conditions should be imposed (licensing, insurance, etc.) One state--New York--has a total ban on the use of electric bicycles on public roads. (There is a mis-perception held by many e-bike enthusiasts that there is some kind of federal standard that mandates that states allow e-bikes to be owned and operated on public roads. This is simply not true. There are only federal standards that come into play with respect to determining which federal agency's safety standards apply to electric bikes sold in the US. Those electric bicycles sold in the US with speeds under 20MPH and motor under 750W have their safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Administration rather than the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration under the rationale that they're a consumer product, not a "motor vehicle." Those bikes with specs exceeding those standards that are sold in the US have to meet the more stringent safety standards for mopeds and motorcycles set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.)
At present, e-bike conversion kits don't get caught up in the safety standards issue. As e-bikes get more publicity, and as Chinese conversion kits with 1000W motors and up become more readily available, I expect to see Federal regulators and possibly Congress intervene to regulate the sale of these more powerful electric motors. Those of us who have adopted e-bikes in the US will do ourselves a huge injustice if we don't focus our attentions on safety as we build and/or operate our wonderful electric bikes.