The United States is in the midst of a micromobility revolution. As both congestion in urban environments and a commitment to individual environmental responsibility continue to grow, electronic scooters, electronic bikes, mopeds and other forms of individual transportation are growing in popularity.
These micromobility solutions offer an alternative to traditional, car-based travel, which is not only more harmful to our shared environment but also typically inconvenient due to parking requirements, traffic and more.
Thus, e-bikes have become increasingly popular among Americans over the past 10 years. Take, for example, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s implementation of the nation’s first e-bike sharing system all the way back in 2011, as well as a general rise in dockless bike-sharing systems popping up in the country’s biggest urban regions.
So, the opportunity to begin a business offering easy e-bike travel to consumers is there and ready to be explored – but you need to be aware of current laws and regulations on both a federal and local level to properly take advantage.
US Regulations for E-bikes at the Federal, State and Local Levels
Electric bike laws by state and federal e-bike laws can differ, so it’s critical to understand both the holistic federal environment and the state-level e-bike laws and regulations your shared e-bike operation will be required to function under.
Those laws and regulations also fall into several categories as they relate to the use of shared mobility solutions like e-bikes. For example, which states require licenses? What about helmets, or where e-bikes can be ridden? These are all key considerations. Let’s dive in.
Federal Laws and Regulations
Federal policy on shared e-bikes is driven by a 2002 law, which amended the federal definition of an e-bike and formalized it as “a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.” The maximum speed on a paved surface (under specific conditions) should also be less than 20 miles per hour. Both “pedal-assist” and “throttle-assist” bikes are allowed under federal law.
One key wrinkle in federal law is that the 20-mph rule applies to bikes being solely powered by their motors, not by a combination of motor power and human pedaling (which is typical for e-bikes). E-bikes are distinguished from motorcycles and mopeds, but must meet bicycle standards regarding product standards and safety.
Other than that clear definition, the regulation of e-bikes has largely been left up to the states, themselves – which is where key differences begin to enter the picture.
State Laws and Regulations
There are three key considerations states must deal with in crafting e-bike laws. First, they have to consider how much of an initial lift would be required to amend older laws classifying e-bikes in the same tier as motorcycles and mopeds. If they are to be separated, what licensing and safety requirements will be required of e-bikes, and how will they differ from those that govern motorcycles and mopeds?
States also need to consider if a tiered approach to regulating e-bikes of different speed and power capabilities is necessary, as well as if more recent e-bike laws need more clarification and refinement to achieve their intended purpose.
Currently, Washington, D.C. and 44 states have defined an e-bike for themselves in some manner. Outside of those states, e-bikes may still be grouped with other vehicles.
Speed and Safety Regulations
Currently, some states ascribe to a three-tiered system of e-bike classification, where tier one refers to bikes where a motor provides assistance only when riders are pedaling and ceases that assistance at 20mph. Tier two includes e-bikes where motors can operate independently, but are not capable of providing assistance once the bike reaches 20mph. Finally, tier three includes e-bikes that provides assistance while riders are pedaling, but ceases that assistance at 28mph.
Helmet requirements are still largely divisive, with D.C. and 25 states formalizing some sort of helmet requirement for e-bike riders and 25 states currently lacking helmet requirements for any class of e-bike. Of those 25, eight have gone as far as to enact laws that have specifically excluded helmet requirements.
This landscape could certainly change and is likely to as e-bikes continue to gain popularity.
Currently, just six states – Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota – have enacted policies that require e-bike riders to be licensed before hitting the road. This number could be primed to swell in the coming years as more micromobility and shared mobility operations involving e-bikes crop up.
Where Can E-bikes Be Ridden?
This is the area of e-bike laws and regulations that offers the most differentiation – and the most local influence. States have enacted a variety of policies that have either let e-bikes roam everywhere traditional bicycles can, limited them to sidewalks and bicycle paths, or allowed them to only operate on roads.
Local governments are also empowered to impose additional restrictions, making it critical to do your research.
Turn to the Segway Ninebot Urban A200 To Meet Your Region’s Requirements
Starting a shared e-bike operation is an exciting venture, but doing your research into the specific laws and regulations that affect your area is critical to operating safely, efficiently and profitably.
One choice is clear, however – the Segway Ninebot Urban A200, Segway’s first shared e-bike, is ready to help you adapt alongside those regulations. Powerful features and high levels of customization ensure that you can get the perfect e-bike solution for your operation and region.
To learn more, contact Segway Commercial today or visit b2b.segway.com.