Cycling advocates and bicycle manufacturers are urging Ohio lawmakers to adopt uniform rules of the road for electric-bikes, which use motors and human power to make pedaling easier.
Long popular in Europe, e-bikes are now the fastest growing segment of bicycle sales in the U.S. as aging Baby Boomers look to extend their time in the saddle.
“We believe e-bikes reach an audience of people who wish to stay in the sport longer, and it reaches individuals who see the distance or terrain of their commute as a barrier to bicycling more often,” said Laura Estandia, executive director of Bike Miami Valley. “E-bikes are already out there. They are being sold online to people in the Miami Valley and across the state.”
State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, is sponsoring House Bill 250, which would establish three classes of e-bikes based on speed and power, allow local authorities to regulate the use on bike paths, and place restrictions on the use of the fastest e-bikes that have top speeds of 28 miles per hour.
Ohio is among 20 states that lack regulations for e-bikes, according to Morgan Lommele of two national groups, PeopleForBikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association. The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, a trade group representing bike manufacturers, helped pass model laws in six states and is advocating that three more states, including Ohio, do the same, she said in testimony supporting HB250.
The bill calls for:
• Requiring manufacturers and distributors of e-bikes, starting Jan. 1, 2018, to label each bike with the class, top assisted speed and motor wattage;
• Establishing three categories: Class 1, pedal-assisted bikes that go up to 20 mph; Class 2, throttle or pedal-assisted bikes that go up to 20 mph; and Class 3, pedal-assisted bikes that go up to 28 mph.
• Mandating that riders of Class 3 e-bikes wear helmets and be at least 16-years-old;
• Permitting Class 1 and 2 e-bikes on bicycle and shared-use paths, unless local authorities prohibit it;
• Prohibiting Class 3 e-bikes on paths, unless local authorities permit it.
E-bike riders would be subject to most of the traffic and equipment laws that are already applied to regular bike riders.
The bill is pending in the Ohio House Transportation Committee.
“Generally, it’s a good idea,” Estandia said of the bill. “E-bikes are a way for folks who are rehabbing or aging to continue using their bikes for recreation or transportation.”