Clarified e-assist bicycle rules head to the Governor’s desk

Both the State House and Senate have passed a bill clarifying the legal status of electric-assisted bicycles on streets, sidewalks and trails. The bill (SB 6434) now heads to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for a signature.

If signed into law, the new rules will help the burgeoning e-bike industry grow by aligning state regulations with existing Federal rules. Until now, there were too many gray areas about when an e-assist bike should be treated like a bicycle and when it should be treated like a motor vehicle. The outdated rules failed to account for modern e-assist bike technology that follows a more nuanced three-class system:

E-assist bikes have huge potential to expand access to bicycling to more people, so it is good for communities across the State of Washington if the e-assist bicycle industry succeeds here. But uncertainty and legal gray areas are no good for business.

Washington Bikes worked hard to advocate for this bill, and they deserve some serious props for getting it through on the first try. It passed 44-2 in the Senate and 86-12 in the House.

One major practical change here for e-bike users is that Class 1 and 2 bikes will be allowed on sidewalks and shared-use trails, unless otherwise prohibited by local laws.

Bikes powered beyond 20 mph (“Class 3”) are now clearly prohibited from sidewalks and trails “unless there is no alternative … to travel over a sidewalk as part of a bicycle or pedestrian path.”

The rules also remove the age restriction for Class 1 and 2 bicycles. I’m pretty sure nobody knew this, but the previous law required e-bike riders to be 16 or older. You still need to be 16 to ride a Class 3 bike.

Local jurisdictions can still make their own rules, and the state law does not pre-empt existing rules. So unfortunately, rules like King County’s e-assist ban on all trails still need to be changed individually. But now that state law has set a precedent, perhaps it will be easier to get local governments to align their rules with state laws.

King County Parks rules (see 7.12.295) use an overly broad definition of “motorized vehicle” that clumsily groups all e-assist bikes with “automobiles, golf carts, mopeds, motor scooters, and motorcycles.” The rules should be updated to allow Class 1 and 2 e-assist bikes the way the new state law does, at least for trails that are paved or gravel.

The new state bill does take a pretty hard stance against e-assist bikes on mountain bike trails. Many mountain bike proponents feel strongly that no motors should be allowed on mountain bike trails at all. I am not a mountain biker, and I cannot claim to have a full understanding of this part of the issue. At this point, both sides make some sense. I can understand the fear that mountain bike trails would become low-power motor sports parks if e-bikes were allowed. On the other hand, perhaps e-bikes could expand access to mountain biking for more people. For now the state says no, but the new bill does allow local jurisdictions to make their own rules if they choose to. Something tells me the e-MTB debate isn’t over yet, especially as more and more people buy e-assist mountain bikes.

Another interesting provision in the new state law is that local jurisdictions cannot make new restrictions to a section of a trail that passes through unless the rules are changed for the whole length of the trail (rules that existed before 2018 are exempted). This makes a lot of sense. Imagine, for example, if e-bikes were allowed on the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle and Kenmore, but not in Lake Forest Park. That would be absurd.

I don’t love that the new bill limits bike motor power at 750 Watts. This puts state law in alignment with Federal regulations, so this beef is really with the Federal rules. But motor Wattage just seems arbitrary to me. I’m much more concerned about the speed of these bikes. If the goal is to limit bike acceleration (which I understand), there must be a better way to achieve that goal. But the power needs of a cargo or family bike are much higher than the needs of a personal bike. What if a company wants to innovate bigger cargo bikes for replacing vans and trucks making local deliveries but are stymied because the 750-Watt rule won’t get them up steep hills? Or what if a cargo bike company innovates a minivan-replacing bike for big families? Or e-bike-powered buses? Don’t laugh, it could happen. This e-assist bicycle thing is just getting started, and we have no idea what innovations are ahead. I bet the Watt limits are the first part of this law to become outdated.

But for now, it’s worth congratulating WA Bikes on getting this bill through both chambers. It’s a big step for legitimizing the e-assist bikes in our communities.

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64 Responses to Clarified e-assist bicycle rules head to the Governor’s desk

  1. Peri Hartman says:

    Good news and bad news. I really hope this is vetoed. Or, at least, I hope Seattle doesn’t become the testing grounds for this proposed law.

    Two principal issues. One is 20mph. That’s faster than most people can pedal on level ground for any sustained distance. I think it would be terribly unsafe to allow that kind of speed. I can’t help but imagine novice riders 12″ from parked cars getting killed at 20mph. Or crossing blind driveways while riding on sidewalks. Or having head-on collisions. And, what if the pavement is wet?

    Second, a throttle turns a bike into a scooter. If you don’t have to pedal, it’s not a bike. I’m not being altruistic about this but I think it’s important to limit bike facilities to those who are actually biking. If bike lanes, sidewalks, etc., are open to scooters, where will “real” bikers ride?

    The second point is admittedly controversial. I think it may have too many loopholes. Most obviously, what constitutes pedal assist? 95% motor, 5% pedal? I think it can be written out clearly but it will take some thought. Limebike’s approach that the assist drops off the harder you pedal or faster you go might be a solution.

    I want to see a solution that benefits all – existing riders, potential riders, and safety. I will write to Inslee.

    • Julian says:

      Small but important point: many e-assist bikes that you would not consider a scooter do technically have a throttle. For example: Bionx assists have a small button at the handlebar in addition to the pedal sensor assist. This is often used to help when pushing a loaded cargo bike uphill, to give an extra boost when crossing an intersection from a stop, etc. So the presence of a throttle does not automatically make a bike a scooter.

    • Mark says:

      In your original message you ask for stricter limits on the bikes themselves, but then in a reply you talk about riding responsibly. The actual speed in various contexts seems far more important than the mechanism used to get there. Let’s not pretend that it’s pleasant to walk near non-e-bike traffic on any mixed use path in the area.

      Your first issue seems like concern trolling.

      Your second issue about “real” bikers is offensive.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Well, I apologize if I came across as trolling. Definitely not intended.

        I agree, the actual speed ridden in various contexts is the important factor. But I still maintain that a legal limit of 20mph is too much. It allows risks that I think are higher than necessary and reduces the possibility of citing excessive speed if something bad happens. I mean, if you believe in actual behavior being the important factor, why have any limit at all? I’m sure you and most everyone do believe in limits. And I’m saying 15mph is a more appropriate limit than 20mph. Reasonable and safer.

      • Mark says:

        20mph seems like a pretty reasonable compromise to me. Being able to use the 15-20 range on roads to minimize time playing with cars is awfully useful. Paul (below) asks for higher.

        However, I will say that the focus on equipment seems strange to me. Also from Paul, we don’t ban cars that can go 90mph from school zones (maybe a poor example because we should, though for many other reasons). We don’t ban non-e-bikes with gear ratios that allow for travel over 20 (or 15) mph. Heck, we don’t ban Usain Bolt.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      Good is the enemy of perfect. This bill is good. If it needs tweaks, that can happen next year.

    • Fish says:

      I respectfully disagree and it’s not that your concern is not warranted. The way I see it and I see most things is that if we don’t permit 20mph on a trail then that person is just going to end up in a car. I’d rather live in a city where we have more e-bike users going 20mph on a trail in 40-60lb bikes than I would if they ended up driving a car instead at a much higher speed.

  2. Westy says:

    How will this be enforced? How will an officer, or anyone else for that matter, be able to tell a class 1 from a class 3 ebike? Serious question here.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      It may not be so necessary to tell the difference. If someone is riding a class 3 bike responsibly, it’s no different than a regular bike being ridden responsibly versus irresponsibly.

      As well, Seattle, has an ordinance that says a bike must be ridden safely on a sidewalk. If there are peds, the rider needs to be more careful and not endanger them. That law will surely take precedent over any e-bike laws.

      Many laws or policies are enforced after the fact. For example, if you rent a car and only you are allowed to drive, what enforcement happens if you let your spouse drive? None. Unless you have an accident. Then the enforcement triggers.

      • Westy says:

        Peri, I guess that makes sense. I suppose the regulations may aid in the prosecution of, and/or civil lawsuit against, someone who injures another person while illegally riding a class 3 ebike on a trail at 28 mph.

      • David Seater says:

        “It’s no different than a regular bike being ridden responsibly ”
        … except that it’s illegal. We should be legislating behavior, not equipment, otherwise the application of the law is subjective. If the goal is to limit the speed of people on bikes to 20 mph, then make that the law. It’s nonsensical for someone riding a class 3 bike on a trail at 10 mph to be breaking the law while someone passing them on a regular bike at 22 mph isn’t.

        Many e-bikes can also be reprogrammed by the owner to change the speed limit on the assist. There’s really no way for law enforcement to know if a bike is compliant with the law or not.

    • Bill says:

      Require eBike sellers to tag bikes and make users keep tags visible: green Class1. Yellow Class 2 and Red Class 3 – then educate officers to know the difference and educate/enforce the scofflaws who rig their own conversions or try to ride motorized bicycles ( a whole different defined device, at least in California )

      • Gary Yngve says:

        If they’re ain’t a problem, don’t fix it.

      • markinthedark says:

        They don’t even enforce helmet laws which are pretty easy to identify. I just don’t forsee any effort being taken unless there is reckless riding involved or after the fact when there is a serious accident.

  3. Ragged Robin says:

    750 watts is quite a lot, especially considering that’s added to whatever wattage you’re putting through the pedals (a typical normal rider would be able to put out around 150 watts for an entire hour and that might be a little generous)

    • Mark says:

      “A lot” is relative. On an Xtracycle with a few kids, 700 watts plus my pedaling yields 4 MPH climbing Kirkland Ave from the Cross Kirkland Corridor towards 405. If we drop the limit to 500 watts, I can’t get up the hill on a bike.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      A typical cat-3 racer can put out 250W for an hour and 500+W for a minute. e-assist bicycles don’t ride too fast and recklessly. People operating vehicles may do so too fast and recklessly.

    • Ragged Robin says:

      @Mark If legislation exists that would prevent your 700 watts from being available, you would still be able to get up the hill if it was designed around that originally. Sounds likes a flawed product to me (not low enough gear ratio for the application). On the flipside, if you imagine that 700 watts on the flat.. completely unnecessary, considering that the fastest a human has ever traveled on a man-powered bike within an hour was done at 452 watts.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        There is a huge difference between 500W propelling 80kg up a hill and 500W propelling 200kg up a hill.

      • Ragged Robin says:

        @Gary Yngve There is a huge difference between 250W on 50×11 up a 20% gradient versus 250W on 30×36. The solution isn’t adding five hundred more watts to the under geared setup..

      • Gary Yngve says:

        Yes, gearing can reduce the torques so that the motor won’t burn out, but 750W maxed out is going to be pulling 200kg up a 10% grade pretty darn slowly, like 7 mph.

      • Ragged Robin says:

        Gearing plays a MASSIVE role.. you can’t just keep adding hundreds and hundreds of more watts of power to compensate for a product with inadequate (or non-existent) transmission/gearing. At what point do we just call it a motorbike? Within reason, the wattage is almost a non-factor if the available gearing required is within the product’s capability, whether that be a 20×38 equivalent or otherwise. I would say at a glance that 700w at your disposal is pretty generous and if you need more than that then the product is severely under-geared and flawed for its application.

        Also, in your example, a 7mph is not uncommon for your casual not-e-assisted cyclist going up a sustained 10%..

  4. Paul says:

    So my ebike that can potentially assist me up to 28mph needs to be ridden on the surface of Spokane St from West Seattle to East Marginal Way, including on the bridge deck for my daily commute. Drivers are going love me slowing them down to my usual speeds or 20mph and 15-17 uphill on the bridge approaches. I’m glad I don’t cross the 1st Ave S. Bridge; yikes. I appreciate the effort in this bill and recognize the needs it’s looking to address, but there’s some real logistical problems here. Legislate the speed limits on different paths etc not the potential speed of my vehicle. My car can do 90mph but I can still drive it in a school zone.

    • asdf2 says:

      So, there has to be some sort of a cutoff. An all-out motorcycle capable of driving at highway speeds should not be riding on the Burke-Gilman. Class 3, with a 28 mph limit, is an interesting one. Ideally, as long as to stick to 15-20 mph on the trail (and only use the higher speeds on roads), it should be fine. The problem is whether people will be tempted to actually go 28 mph on the trail, because they can, and weave in/out of people, in dangerous ways, when doing so.

      I also believe that any motor on a trail needs be all electric, or pedal-assisted. The smells and noises of internal combustion engines simply do not belong on trails, in any shape or form.

      • Paul says:

        Asdf2, the wattage limit takes care of the your concern, no 750w (peak power) ebike can effectively achieve/maintain 30mph without heroic pedaling let alone “highway speeds. If the city provided protected lanes and trails everywhere throughout the city I’d be happy to limit my assisted speeds but when I find myself in traffic I like the oportuntiy to match speed more closely.

        The author’s complaint about the wattage limit doesn’t really make practical sense to me because I don’t see allowing the hypothetical truck/van replacement ebikes of the future on MUP’s.

      • Ragged Robin says:

        @Paul That is simply not true. You are talking irrespective of whatever gear that e-bike support. For example, someone at the very peak of human physiology can only go 33.5 mph at 452 watts for an hour on the equivalent of around 50×11. At the same wattage but smaller gear ratio, it would be much, much slower.

  5. Rob says:

    I think it would be a lot simpler to just keep E-bikes off the MUTs and trails altogether. Motorized bikes AKA E-bikes can tough it out on the street with other motorized vehicles.

    • tudza says:

      So you’ve never been on a route that you *could* do on a bicycle, but everyone,you and drivers both, would be much happier if you took the trail? That covers a lot of trips I’ve made.

      Also, you’ve already got the label “War on cars” and now you want to add “War on ebikes” for no practical reason I can see.

      I’ve commuted every day for four years on an ebike and I really can not see that I use the streets and trails any differently than a regular bike. This bill matches what I believe is correct. Actually, I’m surprised you get 20 mph and not 15.

      But stay off the sidewalks if at all possible. Riding on sidewalks sucks for many reasons.

      • Rob says:

        @tudza I’m not sure what you mean by “War on cars.” I like cars. I own quite a few, though I own a lot more bicycles. And I’ve seen plenty of E Bike riders use the MUT “differently than a regular bike.” IE going too fast for the conditions through crowds of people, while not even pretending to pedal. They make plenty of electric motorcycles that can go on the freeway or over bridges just fine, so why not do that?

    • asdf2 says:

      @Rob – if you had it your way, how is an E-bike, designed for 15-20 mph supposed to get across the Lake Union Ship Canal? Or Lake Washington? If you can’t ride on the trail, but you can’t ride the freeway, you are essentially saying that a bike with a motor can’t cross the lake at all, without going all*the*way*around (and even then, you’d have to go 15-20 mph on SR-522 because you can’t ride on the Burke-Gilman trail). In a city like Seattle, rules like that would make E-bikes all but useless.

      • Paul says:

        Pretty much any bridge in the city, 1st ave, Spokane, Ballard, Fremont, university, montlake. All bike infrastructure on these bridges off limits to class 3 bikes in current bill.

      • Kirk says:

        Class 3 bikes, or any bike for that matter, can always use the standard street lanes. A class 3 bike can go 28 MPH, most of the bridges you’ve listed have 30MPH speed limits. I’ve taken most of those bridges on my road bike.
        If you want to go faster, get a motorcycle.

      • Paul says:

        I apologize Kirk, the point I was concerned with was buried in there if discernible at all. I may be able to ride it but the traffic on the spokane bridge is going to be apoplectic stacking up behind me as I climb the incline at 15mph. My top assisted speed may be 28 mph but that is not a speed I can achieve going up an incline like the spokane bridge or for that matter 90% of the terrain/conditions city wide.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      “Motorized bikes AKA E-bikes can tough it out on the street with other motorized vehicles.”
      LOL, John Forester would have said that 40 years ago. Most people don’t feel comfortable operating an e-bike at 20 mph on a road where drivers regularly go 40 mph (e.g., Sand Point Way). I wish we could educate people on vehicular cycling, but the motordom’s bullying and cyclists’ irrational fears are just too great.

  6. Josh says:

    The law still needs to distinguish between the speeds a vehicle is capable of and the speed at which it is operated.

    On the streets, that’s enforced (quite imperfectly) with speed limits. But state law (RCW 46.61.415) doesn’t allow any highway to have a speed limit below 20 mph without expensive engineering studies. (Yes, MUTs are highways as defined in state law.)

    State law should be modified to allow enforceable speed limits lower than 20 mph on nonmotorized facilities. Many trails aren’t designed to be safe at 20 mph, some have design speeds as low as 10 mph. That’s slower than the potential speed of even a Lime bike — clearly the issue on such trails is not the potential speed of the vehicle, but the speed at which it’s actually used.

    • Rob says:

      MUTs were never designed with E Bikes in mind, and the current infrastructure can’t handle the increase in traffic from E bikes or the increased speeds.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        The BGT was never designed with Seattle’s population of today in mind. If you are alone on the trail, go as fast as you want (taking care at crossings). If you are on the trail on a sunny Sunday afternoon, over 10 mph may be impossible, e-bike or not.

  7. ChamoisDavisJr. says:

    Seattle has a 15 mph limit on the BG. While the majority of e-assist riders and meat-engined cyclists stick to this limit in general and even reduce their speed in mixed traffic areas, there are a few who sadly do not.

    • Josh says:

      Actually, Seattle doesn’t have any speed limit on the BGT or any other trail.

      Outside Seattle, King County has a “reasonable and prudent” requirement on trails including BGT, and treats speeds over 15 mph as a rebuttable presumption that you were going faster than reasonable and prudent, but there’s not actually a “speed limit” per se.

      • ChamoisDavisJr. says:

        Correct, I should have said King County and yes, it is not official but speeds beyond 15 mph are considered “unreasonable and imprudent.”

  8. Zach says:

    I have an e-bike with 1000w motor and 5 power levels in addition to a 1 x 9 manual drivetrain, and it has revolutionized cycling for me for utility trips such as groceries or going straight up hills. For recreation I still use my manual bike, including almost all times I use regional trails.

    My bike doesn’t move if I don’t pedal, and typical levels of effort produce 18-22mph on flat ground, or 14-18mph on hills. If pedaling hard on Power Level 5 I can get up to 28mph on level ground, but that’s a stretch. It seems bizarre to me that my bike would be illegal based on its capability rather than on my actual behavior. Cars are capable of exceeding 100mph in an emergency, even though such speeds are uniformly illegal.

    This seems solvable by not banning e-bikes and dedicating some occasional speed enforcement on regional trails. I already will not exceed 20mph on the Burke out of basic courtesy and safety. I hope others would do the same.

  9. Law Abider says:

    And the Seattle Bike Blog plays the fiddle as our state legislature dooms our multi-use trails to become an e-wasteland. Seriously, the small amount of e-bike usage is already becoming an unsafe nuisance. I hear claims of “anything that will help increase cyclists!” constantly. If the law allowed assists of up to 10 mph, I would buy that argument. But the law that is being shoved through is just going to be a tsunami of 20+ mph e-bikes.

    I also wonder how the ban on local jurisdiction setting policies on trails in their jurisdictions would fare in court, especially if that portion of the trail was not paid for with state funds.

    Also, this post reads like it was underwritten by an owner of an e-bike shop:

    (1) It attempts to shame King County into forcing them to overturn their e-bike ban, for no good reason.
    (2) It concern trolls the continued ban of e-bikes on mountain bike trails. I also don’t do any mountain biking, but allowing e-bikes on mountain bike trails just seems like a terrible, horrible idea. Also considering the current flouting of the law that e-cyclists do (in addition to the couple of manual mountain bikers that ride on bike-banned trails), it won’t be long before you get some selfish person that decides that they want to e-bike the Wonderland Trail. It’s just not worth it to open mountain biking to the few individuals who have the desire, but not the physical prowess.
    (3) There are effectively zero reasons to allow unregulated e-bikes on our sidewalks, trails and streets. This post spins its wheels in an attempt to justify reasons for unregulated e-bike use. It does sloppily hit on one legitimate use, but doesn’t really expand on it: cargo bikes. I would be 100% in favor of allowing commercial cargo e-bikes. It’s a no brainier for a dense city and could increase efficiencies for delivery companies and reduce in-city diesel pollution. Of course, I would also push for a license registry for the cargo bikes, in addition to requiring a short course and permit for operators of the cargo bikes.

    In the end, all this law is going to do is take our now calm and safe multi-use trails and turn it into a freeway for 20+ mph e-bikes. This has already begun, as 99% of e-bike users (probably around 1-3% of total riders) I see on the trails are 25-40 year old, able bodied men, flying by at almost 30 mph. If you ever get the chance to ask them why the choose to flout the law, their response is: “I can bypass traffic and get to work quickly, without sweating”, AKA lazy people taking advantage of lack of enforcement.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      Our MUTs are already a aerobar triathlete / 3-abreast racing team paceline wasteland! :P

    • Rob says:

      I agree 100% with this post.

    • asdf2 says:

      Perhaps the e-bikes that are going slower, you don’t even realize are e-bikes in the first place. Thus, the observation that e-bike=fast may be biased.

      • Law Abider says:

        That’s my 99% part of the comment. There is a little old lady on an an e-assist bike that I regularly pass (it’s pretty easy to spot an e-bike), going probably about 10 mph. It’s just unfortunate for her that a bunch of lazy commuters are taking advantage of the current unenforced infrastructure and I take zero issue with her type of usage.

        Again, I would be in favor of legalizing e-assist up to 10 mph; allowing 20+ mph is just ridiculous. I would still maintain a ban of full throttle at any speed; at that point, get a moped and ride on the streets, don’t make our trails unsafe. For now, full throttles are a rarity during my rides.

      • asdf2 says:

        Sometimes, if you’re trying to get up a very steep hill, even with an e-assist bikes, you have to put a lot of force on the pedal, just to trigger the switch to engage the motor. On hills like it, it is preferable to just use the throttle, then switch back to e-assist mode upon reaching the top.

    • Josh says:

      “I also wonder how the ban on local jurisdiction setting policies on trails in their jurisdictions would fare in court, especially if that portion of the trail was not paid for with state funds.”

      Cities and counties are creations of the state and derive their ability to regulate bicycles from the state. The Legislature could entirely pre-empt local regulation of bicycles if they chose to do so, and local jurisdictions wouldn’t have any legal leg to stand on as long as the Legislature was clear in its exercise of authority.

  10. Rob says:

    Banner day on the Burke this afternoon. First I saw a guy on a E-Bike easily topping 25mph through UW pedestrian crowds near the stadium. He was dressed like he belonged on a SWAT team and was barely pedaling. On the way back from my ride I saw another guy driving an E-Cargo bike for some delivery service on the Burke. Finally, I saw my first Lime Bike casualty. Looked like the poor guy took a header (no helmet of course) and was surrounded by six fire fighters and two fire trucks.

  11. Phil says:

    The article, legislation, and comments are great, but they focus only on the vehicle and its operation. If that’s all we are doing, the legislation itself is pretty benign and even useful for categorizing types of powered bikes. What has been left out of the discussion so far is the accumulated impact of increasing numbers (and percentages) of faster vehicles on the adequacy of design of multi-use trails. The vast majority of trails in this region were built to a AASHTO-generated design speed of 20mph, which is a factor in the decision taken some time ago to promote 15mph as a sort of prima facie speed limit (it’s not a real speed limit, but that’s a story for another day). Setting a speed limit at the design speed of a trail (or road) is a bad idea, and I hope that readers of this blog should understand why.

    If a higher proportion of users are going to be using the trail at, near, or possibly in excess of the design speed of the facility, and if those users don’t necessarily have the skill one would expect from a bicyclist capable of pedaling 20mph, then we have a problem that this legislation won’t solve. A similar issue exists with the width of some cargo bikes, truth be told. Our trails have (with a few recent exceptions) been designed around principles of landscape and recreation, not transportation. King County’s trails are managed by a parks department, and the trails (while they have an obvious transportation function) are mostly considered Parks facilities. Viewed in this light, the King County Trails Ordinance is hardly clumsy, and was written to address real-world conflicts.

    Yup, it’s time to revisit that ordinance, but until trail design catches up with the technology, some prudence is not a bad idea. One can test this by riding down the new Westlake Trail at 20mph at around 5:15pm…

    You go first.

    • Rob says:

      This is what I have been trying to point out, but I think you said it better. ;)

    • Gary Yngve says:

      “One can test this by riding down the new Westlake Trail at 20mph at around 5:15pm…” Obviously this is dumb. But going 20mph on the Westlake Trail on Sunday at 6am is completely reasonable. Don’t legislate things. Legislate the a-holes who misuse the things.

  12. Rich Knox says:

    One thing to consider. For a novice rider on a non-motorized bicycle it will take weeks or months before the rider can do 20 mph on the flats. On an e-bike the novice rider can do this immediately.

    • Kirk says:

      And I’ve seen plenty of novices on ebikes who can’t control them. Last week I had to move off of the trail on Elliott Bay for some guy on a huge Rad “ebike” motorcycle that was going too fast for the corner and took it way too wide. This is going to happen more and more.

  13. Al Dimond says:

    In the grand tradition of people that spend a day in Amsterdam and think they know everything about cycling…

    I spent a day in Amsterdam and saw actual electric scooters, with little windscreens and no pedals at all, using bike paths at suitably low speeds and appearing to get along with everyone in perfect harmony. Just like they get along OK, along with bikes, on mostly-pedestrianized streets and squares I walked later in France. This idea that suddenly our paths will become overcrowded with speeding hordes seems off. If the path is crowded there won’t be much speeding going on, and of course if the existing bike paths become overcrowded because e-biking is popular there should be plenty of political support for expanding bike infrastructure in street ROWs.

    Well, later my bubble was burst when, back in America, I read an article that lots of people in Amsterdam didn’t like the scooters on bike paths and were trying to get them banned. But I didn’t really see the harm in them — their riders seemed content to act like they belonged. That’s really the thing. Maybe in Amsterdam, where the bike network is actually more connected and useful than the road network, it makes sense for people to scoot on bike paths purely for convenience. In Seattle the road network is much more convenient and connected than the bike network. You’re only going to be on the bike paths if you really want to be there.

    I think pedal power will always be at the center of cycling. The joy of self-propulsion is the reason cycling blurs the lines between recreation and transportation. The constraint of the human engine has historically kept bikes light, small, and slow compared to motor vehicles. Bikes really improve people’s range much more than their speed — most people can’t ride twice as fast as they can run, but can ride many times farther. Being light, small, and slow allows people on bikes to interact with people on foot in more casual ways, while cars and even motorcycles have required more rigid laws and larger, more intense infrastructure. E-bikes and even mini scooters built and operated to follow the same paradigm, to fit in with the bikes that fit in with the humans, should be fine. We just have to be ready, if we achieve a mass-cycling culture sooner than expected, to get the space we need on the roads.

    • ronp says:

      People are over-reacting. I am on the NE stretch of the Burke 10 times a week and occasionally see the one speeding guy on a black e-bike, but most of the time they fit in fine.
      For planetary health reasons I think we need to encourage as many e-bikes as possible and expand the road and trail space when needed, as well as periodic enforcement/ticketing of scofflaws.

      • Liz says:

        I agree. I do see one speeding ebiker daily during my commute. He moves really fast. However, the rest of us are just moving along with everyone else. I love my ebike commute and have put 1300 miles on my bike since Oct.

        It seems that people in Seattle like to complain. First they complain about all the cars and traffic and parking prices and bridge tolls. Then they complain and wring their hands when people get out of their cars and ride a new kind of bike. So much for progressives…

        Ebikes will actually get people out of their cars! Isn’t that what everyone has been wanting?

  14. mark smith says:

    The goal is to get people from four wheels onto two healthy ones. If that’s an ebike-great. If it’s a pedal bike, even better. But you know what, that’s the goal. Everything else is esoteric and forced minutia. It’s not perfect, but this isn’t a Utopia society where we all ride bikes 1 mile to our University jobs.

    • Ibike, not Ebike! says:

      My goal is to get to my destination safely on my bike. This is not esoteric or forced minutia. I could care less about people stuck in traffic in cars and I don’t care at all if they stay in them or get out of them. Speeding, heavy ebikes that are in fact mopeds on narrow bike trails are a very real threat to my safety and I would like them to be regulated, LIKE THEY ALREADY ARE. No motors on the trails please.

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  16. Frederick Alt says:

    I’m a disabled vet with heart disease and I need exercise. I can’t jog or run and I can only pedal for about 100 yards before angina kicks in. I bought an ebike with the hope that it could prolong my life. I know that young physically healthy bikers don’t appreciate ebikes but I feel your being very selfish and unreasonable. The bike trails are public, meaning for everyone, young, old, disabled and healthy. We should be encouraging bike use for everyone. It would help with pollution from cars. Help our obese nation get some excercise and reduce our insatiable need for petroleum, and finally, ebikes are fun while giving us older folks some exercise.

  17. Neo Smith says:

    It is time-tested that legislation about behavior (ie, operating safely and at a safe speed) has superior real-world applicability, enforcement, and longevity than legislation about a specific technology that was in place at the moment the law was passed.
    That’s said, if Olympia and municipalities are going to legislate e-assist bicycle classes, I just do not understand why Class 2 (has e-assist AND full throttle-only capability) are allowed on multi-use trails but class 3 are now not. To me it seems the spirit of MUTs is they are our commons for pedestrians and for using various wheel and gear transportation technologies, including gear technology that allows a person on a bike to go faster than with only a single gear. All that technology whether e-assist or not allows a person to move safely OR unsafely around other people. As far as I know roller blades are not technologically legislated, yet some of those users weave in and out of other users aggressively.
    Let’s legislate around the spirit of good considerate safe behavior and using reasonable safety equipment (lights, reflectors, brakes) and not around whatever new technology happens to be available this instant.

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