New electric bicycle law gives local communities jurisdiction

Check out electric bikes like this on

Check out electric bikes like this on

I don’t know about you, but I see more and more electric bicycles buzzing around on city streets, mostly a good thing.

The California state legislature last year changed how it defines the various electric bikes with Assembly Bill 1096. The new law deletes the “motorized bicycle” definition and defines an “electric bicycle,” a bike with fully operable pedals and an electric motor below 750 watts.

Now there are three classes, and manufacturers are required to affix labels designating which category they belong in, starting in 2017.

Class 3 electric bicycles “speed pedal-assisted” provide assistance only when the rider is pedaling and limit speed to 28 mph. They are banned from all bike lanes and paths, unless a local community decides otherwise.

Class 1 “low-speed pedal-assisted” and Class 2 “low-speed throttle-assisted” are OK to ride in bike lanes and paths, and have a maximum speed of 20 mph.

However, local communities can regulate Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles on their paths and bike lanes as they see fit. That’s an important point and one I wish the state hadn’t enacted.

Most if not all bike lanes and paths extend through multiple jurisdictions in the Bay Area. So now you are responsible for knowing where electric bikes are allowed and where they are not allowed.

I don’t have a problem with electric bikes on bike lanes and my only reservation on bike paths is that people keep their speed down when passing other cyclists and pedestrians.

Of course, that safety tip applies to bicycles. I can appreciate bike commuters being in a hurry and wanting to ride more than 15 mph on paths, but there’s no reason to speed by slower trail users. I see it all too often.

Right now bicycle and pedestrian committees around the Bay Area are taking up this issue. Mostly the city councils will go along with a bike committee recommendation, but you never know.

As electric bicycle/battery technology improves, I can see the day when the majority of bikes sold are electric assist.

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2 Responses to “New electric bicycle law gives local communities jurisdiction”

  1. jim sullivan Says:

    I welcome seeing the e-bikes in SF or urban settings,but they have leeched onto our trails recently above Pacifica and the overall result as far as I’ve seen is not good.
    These,as I refer to them, Go over others or near yelling(GOOONY-riders) are seemingly the target market of vacuum cleaner sales force promoted “bicycles”
    So many of the GOOONY-riders are either unaware or uncaring that they have responsibilities as you described above,to respect other trails visitors and ride either slowly and/or in careful anticipation of encountering other trails visitors.
    Actual dirt trails bicycle pedalers are already regularly coming out on the snotty end of the stick here in the SF area.
    This trend w GOOONY-bike riders on dirt trails will only further distance trails pedaling bicycle riders from gaining ground I fear.

  2. tfunk408 Says:

    Interesting times we’re in, in light of emerging technologies. Prior to test-riding an electric pedal-assist bicycle, I had some misconceptions of what they were and believed them to be closer to motorcycles/scooters than to bicycles. After spending some time on one I think they are much closer to bicycles than to motorcycles/scooters.

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