Electric bikes, or e-bikes for short, have caused a lot of discussions – and a significant amount of controversy – among riders, manufacturers, law enforcement, and legislators. Being a comparatively new form of transportation, e-bikes come in a variety of models and configurations that make classifying them difficult.
Federal law defines an e-bike as a two or three-wheeled vehicle with operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750 watts, and a maximum speed of less than 20 mph on a paved and level surface. It allows e-bikes to be powered by the motor alone or a combination of pedals and motor.
The District of Columbia and 33 states have revisited their traffic laws to define and address e-bikes. Thirteen states have gone so far as to create rules and regulations for each class of e-bike. Some states, like New York and New Jersey, have no laws governing e-bikes and treat them like mopeds and other motorized transportation.
What are the Laws for E-Bikes in Maine?
In Maine, e-bikes have not been well-defined. They fall into a gray area due to being pedal-powered and not motorized in the strictest sense of the word. That might soon change, however, because Augusta lawmakers are seeking to dispel the ambiguity surrounding their definition and clarify the law in regard to e-bikes.
Change May Be Coming
The Legislature’s Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would treat e-bicycles as traditional bikes as long as their speeds don’t exceed 20 mph. Faster models that can go up to 28 mph would be subjected to stricter rules, including a prohibition on using bike paths.
State Rep. Deane Rykerson, D-Kittery, who proposed the new legislation, said that legislators need to ensure that innovations like e-bikes are safe for both the rider and the public. If the legislation passes, Maine will adopt the three-tiered e-bike classification system currently used in 13 states:
- Class 1 e-bike: A bicycle with a motor that works only when the rider is pedaling. It stops providing assistance when the bike reaches a speed of 20 mph.
- Class 2 e-bike: A bicycle with a motor that can be used exclusively to propel it, but the motor stops working when the bike reaches a speed of 20 mph.
- Class 3 e-bike: A bicycle with a motor that works only when the rider is pedaling. It is equipped with a speedometer and stops providing assistance when the bike reaches a speed of 28 mph.
Any device that does not meet these definitions is not a low-speed e-bike that can be regulated as a traditional bicycle.
Local retailers claim that most of the new e-bikes are not much different from regular bicycles. They say that most of the devices are used by commuters and riders who need an extra power boost to navigate big hills. They also agree that the status of e-bikes should be clarified statewide so that individual municipalities don’t adopt conflicting rules.
A 2018 analysis of the U.S. bicycle industry found that between May 2017 and May 2018, e-bike sales increased by 83% to account for 10% of overall bike purchases in the nation. It appears that people are seeing them as a healthier and more sustainable alternative to cars, particularly for shorter trips.
U.S. Department of Transportation survey data indicates that half of all trips are three miles or less, a distance that’s more than feasible for e-bike riders. It makes sense that Maine lawmakers recognize the growing popularity of e-bikes and adopt laws to promote safe usage.
What If You Are Injured While Riding an E-bike?
If you are injured as a result of another person’s negligence while riding an e-bike or if you are struck by a negligent e-bike rider, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. Our personal injury attorneys know how to interpret the nuances of bicycle safety law and will seek maximum compensation for your injuries.