Author Topic: e-bikes are motor vehicles  (Read 1227 times)

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Offline oldguybiker

e-bikes are motor vehicles
« on: October 08, 2018, 06:18:20 pm »
The marketing folks have cleverly stuck a happy sounding name on yet another product to disguise what it really is. Seems to me that any vehicle, including bicycles, which have a motor are by definition Motor Vehicles. No doubt the manufacturers, marketers and purchasers will presume they should somehow be given special dispensation and allowed to use them in areas such as bike paths reserved for non-motorized transportation and Enjoyment.  For me, a significant element of that enjoyment is derived from the absence of motor powered vehicles.   
But, you might insist, isn't an e-bike still a bicycle? No, when you boil the issue down to basics, any vehicle, even an "e-bike" surrenders its right to be considered a traditional, non-motorized vehicle (or bicycle) when you put even the smallest motor on it. The size of the motor doesn't matter. A Harley Davidson only has two wheels, too, albeit a much bigger motor, and is an anathema to bicyclists. So where does one draw the line? Electric motors are OK but not internal combustion engines? Two wheeled electric vehicles like e-bikes are OK but 4-wheel electric vehicles like golf carts are not? Make an exception for one and you might as well make an exception for all.  I oppose e-bikes in any guise, but suspect we'll have to wait years for a series of court rulings to see how this plays out. In the meantime, if I see a motor vehicle, including e-bikes, operated in an area posted against motorized vehicles, I'm going to complain to the operator and report it to the police. 
 

Offline John Nettles

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2018, 08:30:49 pm »
Don't pick on me for answering as I agree mostly with you.  It is the size of the motor that typically determines what is a "motor vehicle".  Almost every state has the various vehicles defined, i.e. scooter, bicycle, e-bike, moped, etc. all the way up to extra large semis.  Then it is up to the local government to decide what is legally allowed on the local bike path.
I understand how you feel, but I personally do not have issues with e-bikes (max speed is 20mph I think).  They are just as quiet and just as fast as a regular bike with a strong rider.  However, I do not like "motor assist" bicycles, i.e. a bicycle propelled (partially or wholly) with a combustion engine.  They are just too noisy for me.

If you dislike non-traditional bikes so much, I would suggest you ask your local government to change/enforce its laws/rules.

I actually believe e-bikes will become pretty common in the next 10 years.  They are fairly popular in Europe and parts of the Middle East (especially Israel).  The new up and coming thing are highly powered electric scooters.  Think of the skate board with a stirrer pole/handle type scooter with a motor that can get the scooter up to 25mph.  Very popular in Israel and parts of Europe.  There are at least 2 major companies in the US that rent electric scooters via "scooter share" stations like "bike share" stations in major metro areas.  It is amazing to see these people on e-Scooters riding (driving??) down a major downtown street at 25mph right along withe traffic.  Obviously, it doesn't work on major arterial roads or highways but in high density areas with high parking costs, it works.

Again, I mostly agree with you so don't start arguing with me.  I am just trying to provide you info.

Best, John
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 09:31:50 pm by John Nettles »
Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!
John

Offline DarrenBnYYC

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2018, 09:27:35 pm »
I agree with John, and I have no problem sharing pathways or bike lanes with pedal-assist e-bikes. Personally, I think they are the "gateway drug" to cycling, and the more people we can get on bikes, the better, for all kinds of reasons.

I have a lot of empathy for people who have let their inactivity creep up on them, often to the point where they finally recognize that they have to add some activity to their lifestyles, but are too out of shape to even pedal a bike for 30 mins. E-bikes bridge that gap, getting people out on a bike and having the confidence to eventually progress to a bike with no assistance. I know so many avid cyclists my age that have done this, and I am one of them also.

Offline oldguybiker

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2018, 10:17:16 pm »

Lots of good points, John. I'm not opposed to progress, and as you point out they're already a trend. However, the purist in me wants desperately to keep all Motor Vehicles where they belong on the streets with other motor vehicles and not allow any of them of them no matter what they're called in areas preserved for non-motorized vehicles. Remember, if it's got a motor, any motor, it's a Motor Vehicle! 

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2018, 07:56:50 am »
In the meantime, if I see a motor vehicle, including e-bikes, operated in an area posted against motorized vehicles, I'm going to complain to the operator and report it to the police. 
 
Except the operator of an e-bike my not be doing anything illegal. For example, some trails prohibit motorized vehicles but allow e-bikes. Your personal equation of the two does not control. I was just riding the Lehigh Gorge Trail, a state park facility, on Sunday. Plenty of signs prohibiting "motor vehicles". However, the PA Bureau of State Parks allows "e-bikes" (defined as less than 750W, max speed of 20 and has pedals) wherever regular bicycles are permitted. As such, reporting their use to the police would be a waste of everyone's time.

Offline DarrenBnYYC

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2018, 03:47:54 pm »
However, the purist in me wants desperately to keep all Motor Vehicles where they belong on the streets with other motor vehicles and not allow any of them of them no matter what they're called in areas preserved for non-motorized vehicles. Remember, if it's got a motor, any motor, it's a Motor Vehicle!
I think a pedal assist bike with a motor that will only get you up to 20 mph is about the same as a non-motorized bike. Seriously, what's the difference? They are almost silent, they weigh no more than my non-motorized commuter bike (a long-tail cargo bike), they go the same speed as a non-motorized bike. You have to pedal them to make them move or maintain a speed.

What makes pedal-assist e-bikes so much different from regular bikes that you refuse to share bike facilities with them and, instead, makes you want to lump them with cars and other motor vehicles? I ask this as a genuine question because I have heard many people with sentiments similar to your own, but nobody has been willing to explain their point of view, other than to say it is an arbitrary distinction and they don't want to use an e-bike.

Offline DaveB

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2018, 07:38:58 pm »
I think one of the potential problems with e-bikes will be "hot-rodding" them.  It's what happened to mopeds in Europe which were initially allowed on "bike paths".   The original regulations allowed for 50 cc maximum displacement, 1.5 HP maximum power. and 20 or 25 mph top speed.  Guess how long that lasted?  Very soon there were aftermarket "big bore" kits and other hop-up parts and quickly they had 10 to 20 HP, 60 mph motorcycles on the bike trails that looked like mopeds but really weren't. 

How long before bigger batteries and more powerful motors do the same for e-bikes?

Offline David W Pratt

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2018, 08:23:12 pm »
My guess is that they are here to stay and the most productive approach is to welcome them, and use the increased voice to expand bicycle friendly modifications to existing transportation modalities, e.g. bike lanes on bridges, racks on busses, carriage facilities on Amtrak, etc.  That said, I agree that hot rodding them is a danger and would ultimately work against them, and us.

Offline TCS

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2018, 10:12:32 am »
In the United States, small displacement motorcycles, mopeds and now ebikes aren't part of the national uniform vehicle code and the 50 states have probably 35 different legal restriction and allowance regimes.  This lack of a uniform market to sell into has always stymied moped sales in the USA and I expect it will do the same to ebikes.

There are different physical manifestations.  Some (legal in some jurisdictions) ebikes will propel the rider without the rider ever pedaling a single rotation on the cranks.  These machines are quieter than traditional mopeds (a portmanteau of motor + pedal) but no different otherwise.  IMO ebkes like this should fall under existing moped laws.

Some (legal in some jurisdictions) ebikes require the rider to pedal, and cut out all assist above 20mph.  Other than rolling my eyes when some yahoo brags about being able to out climb folks on non-assisted bikes, I have no problem with ebikes like this.

Some (legal in some jurisdicitons) ebikes require the rider to pedal, and maintain their maximum assist level as the rider adds power to propel the machine up to 28mph.  IMO ebikes like this should fall under existing moped laws.

I applaud Adventure Cycling ~ a touring organization ~ for belatedly acknowledging that ebikes by themselves are fairly heavy, and with touring dunnage one would most likely be running with assist everywhere but downhill.  The possibility of a longish day with a headwind encourages toting a second battery; this in turn points to staying in motels/B&Bs/etc to access hours of recharging.  Okay.  I have to ask, though: if a couple Adventure Cycling staffers headed out on just such an ebike mounted tour, would they mind if I tagged along on a Velosolex moped?

How long before bigger batteries and more powerful motors do the same for e-bikes?

Uh, yeah, that ship sailed over 15 years ago.  You got a credit card?  You can order up a 45mph+ ebike shipped to your door.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 11:29:46 am by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline TCS

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2018, 10:35:36 am »
What makes pedal-assist e-bikes so much different from regular bikes that you refuse to share bike facilities with them and, instead, makes you want to lump them with cars and other motor vehicles?

Where I live, in today's reality, it's a nothing burger - well, provided the true pedal-assist ebikes are operated in line with the speeds bicycles are traveling.  (In my locale, 'bike facilities' are limited to 15mph - but there's no enforcement of that.)

But I wonder in some future world: say you plan a multi-day tour on Minnesota's extensive paved trail network.  How often could someone on an ebike go sailing past you before it ruined the experience of riding away from powered traffic?  Once a day?  Once an hour?  Once a minute?
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 10:39:24 am by TCS »
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline hikerjer

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2018, 09:11:17 pm »
E-bikes are powered by a motor. To me, that makes them motorized vehicles. Whether they belong on bike paths or not depends on a wide variety of factors i.e.speed, horsepower, weight, etc.  After all, I wouldn't want to prohibited motorized wheel chairs from walking/bike paths.  Just depends on the specifics.

Offline DaveB

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2018, 08:58:05 am »
Uh, yeah, that ship sailed over 15 years ago.  You got a credit card?  You can order up a 45mph+ ebike shipped to your door.
Yes it did and there are now 100+ MPH Electric motorcycles that make no pretense at being anything related to a bicycle.  However, these are definitely classed as motor vehicles  and their use on walking trails and MUPs is not an issue.  The only difference between them and the 45 MPH  "ebike" you describe is the presence of redundant pedals. 

Quote
After all, I wouldn't want to prohibited motorized wheel chairs from walking/bike paths.
Wheelchairs, motorized or not, are a completely different animal from ebikes.  They are used by people who can't walk or ride a bike at all.  It's like people with handicap license plates or hang tags are allowed to park their cars in specified spots the rest of us aren't.  Now, if able bodied people began to use motorized chairs that would be different.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2018, 08:03:42 am by DaveB »

Offline hikerjer

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2018, 09:52:14 pm »
 

Wheelchairs, motorized or not, are a completely different animal from ebikes.  They are used by people who can't walk or ride a bike at all.  It's like people with handicap license plates or hang tags are allowed to park their cars in specified spots the rest of us aren't.  Now, if able bodied people began to use motorized chairs that would be different.
[/quote]

Agreed.

Offline TCS

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2018, 08:56:11 am »
Yes it did and there are now 100+ MPH Electric motorcycles that make no pretense at being anything related to a bicycle.  However, these are definitely classed as motor vehicles  and their use on walking trails and MUPs is not an issue.  The only difference between them and the 45 MPH  "ebike" you describe is the presence of redundant pedals.

And the presence of those pedals would rather definitively make a pretense at being a bicycle, wouldn't you say?
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline TCS

Re: e-bikes are motor vehicles
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2018, 09:00:59 am »
I've been reading up on this general subject...

One of the interesting things about ebikes for touring in the USA is the patchwork of laws governing their use. You can be etouring along perfectly legally, say, in Pennsylvania, cross the state line into New York and be breaking state law by operating an illegal vehicle. Etouring on Georgia's Silver Comet Trail - great, but understand you'll violate Alabama law if you continue on the Chief Ladiga Trail.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws

I'm a bit disappointed that AC hasn't mentioned this in their general cheerleading for ebike touring.

BTW, I'm told that any country that is signature to the 1968 International Convention on Road Traffic has to accept (pedal only, no motor or engine) bicycles as legal vehicles - although local laws & ordinances can specify where they can and can't be ridden.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."