Courtesy of People For Bikes
Two bills that will modernize California and New York’s vehicle and traffic laws for electric bicycles have progressed in their respective state legislatures with just a few steps left to go into effect. Both bills will clarify confusion at the state level to define and regulate electric bicycles as bicycles, not motor vehicles, and create safety and operational criteria for their use.
In California, AB 1096 (Chiu, D-San Francisco) passed the State Assembly on May 22 with 74 in favor and 0 against. Before reaching the Assembly floor, the bill sailed through the Assembly Committee on Transportation hearing as well as the Appropriations Committee, also without opposition. The bill faces a bigger hurdle in the Senate and will be heard by the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee in late June. California advocates and industry have been meeting in order to craft the regulatory framework that best enables more people to ride bicycles in California.
The California bill defines three classes of electric bicycle: Class 1, with a 20 mph top assisted speed and pedal-assist; Class 2 with a 20 mph top assisted speed and throttle assist; and Class 3 with a 28 mph top assisted speed and pedal assist; all with a maximum power output of 750 watts.
In New York, S.997-Dilan, which would amend the vehicle and traffic law for electric bicycles but not define classes, passed the State Senate, 59-3, on May 19, after a 15-4 vote in the Committee on Transportation, but the identical bill, A.233-Gantt, did not make it to the Assembly floor for a vote in the recently-ended session. It is expected that the bill will be heard in the next 2016 legislative session.
Although A.233-Gantt carried wide ranging support from the New York City Department of Transportation, a majority of Assembly members, national bicycle manufacturers and New York retailers, the bill faced many challenges, including changes in leadership in the Assembly and Senate, a difficult sponsor, and opposition from the City of New York.
On the advice of the expert team of lobbyists who counsel the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, New York Bicycling Coalition, and PeopleForBikes on this bill, there is opportunity to take the time between sessions to build a strong base of support outside the bicycling community to ensure passage in the next session. Between now and early 2016, the team will work primarily to cultivate a coalition partners – environmental advocates, tourism groups, chambers of commerce, business groups, and consumer protection groups – that can demonstrate wide-ranging support for the bill; hold regional legislative hearings; host community board meetings in New York City; connect district members with strategic coalition partners; engage local elected officials in strategic districts; and lead a community grassroots effort in support of electric bicycle legislation.
The group will also consider modifying A.233-Gantt’s language and potentially finding a new Assembly sponsor for the bill. Currently, the New York bill is consistent with the existing federal definition of electric bicycles, with a 750-watt maximum power output and a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
In addition to California and New York, electric bicycle legislation has advanced in other states. So far during the 2015 session, bills to regulate electric bicycles like traditional bicycles passed in Nebraska and Montana. A new law governing electric bicycle use also passed one chamber of the state legislature in South Carolina, and will be taken up by the Senate in January 2016. BPSA and PeopleForBikes also intend to advance state electric bicycle legislation in Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee and Utah in late 2015 and 2016.
Updated regulations open thousands of bicycle paths to electric bicycles and allow people to understand where they can ride by removing confusing and restricting rules. These bills will encourage more consumers to purchase and use electric bicycles and make it easier for independent bicycle dealers to sell electric bicycles to new and existing bicycle riders.
This work is the result of a partnership between the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, PeopleForBikes, and local advocacy groups to monitor and improve electric bicycle regulations and to support the efforts of local and state level advocacy organizations.