Electric bikes are needed without a regulatory framework

There’s a gray area in state law that e-bikers say is creating confusion about who and where people are allowed to use a mode of transportation that’s becoming increasingly popular among commuters and ride-hailing services. commercial delivery in congested cities like Boston.

Currently, state law lumps all e-bikes into the same category as their faster counterparts, mopeds, in which people must have a driver’s license to legally ride one. This means regular e-bikes cannot be used by young people or on trails such as Boston’s Esplanade Bike Path or the 10-mile Minuteman Commuter Bike Path that connects Bedford to the Alewife MBTA station.

To address this issue, the Boston Cyclists Union is advocating for a bill (H 3457/S 2309) that would create different classes of e-bikes. At a rally outside the State House on Wednesday afternoon, Boston Cyclists Union executive director Becca Wolfson compared the potential classification of e-bikes to cars.

“Kind of a thing that I like to point out is that any car on the road can go 100 miles, 120 miles an hour, right? Are we banning them because that would be dangerous?” she says. “No, we post speed limits, we design infrastructure that manages people’s individual speeds. We have social standards.”

The same should apply to e-bikes, Wolfson said.

“If we actually regulate them, we give municipalities the option of setting speed limits or advisory speed limits, or even saying, in fact, e-bikes are not allowed on this type of path,” a- she declared. “Municipalities just want that local control, rather than not being able to talk about those bikes, vehicles, because they’re not defined by law.”

The legislation, sponsored in the House by Representatives Steven Owens and Dylan Fernandes, and in the Senate by Senator Sal DiDomenico, creates three distinct classes of e-bikes.

The bill defines the first class of e-bikes as those with a motor that assists the rider only when pedaling and stops once they reach 20 miles per hour. The second class covers bicycles with a motor that powers the pedals for the rider until the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour. The final class is for motor-equipped bicycles that provide assistance only when the rider is pedaling and stop when the bicycle reaches 28 miles per hour.

Owens said 46 other states and the federal government have similar classifications that help regulate e-bike use. The Watertown Democrat said a legal framework would allow bike-sharing companies like Bluebikes to start offering e-bikes at their Massachusetts rental locations.

“In order to unlock the full potential of e-bikes in Massachusetts, at a minimum we need to have this legal framework consistent with the e-bikes people actually use,” he said. “This legislation would allow municipalities to begin to feel comfortable launching e-bike sharing programs.”

Roslindale resident Alan Wright rode to the State House rally on his homemade e-bike. The 68-year-old is a longtime cyclist who said e-bikes are the best solution to Massachusetts’ transportation problem.

“Besides public transport, electric bikes, you can do everything,” he said, showing his old bike that he transformed into an electric machine.

Wright said he does everything with the e-bike, whether it’s commuting to Home Depot to pick up plywood or just cruising around town. The legislation is important, he said, because it would allow e-bikes to be used in more areas.

“If we can get the legislation passed, it will allow cities to move forward with providing more cycling infrastructure,” he told the News Service.

Boston Street Leader Jascha Franklin-Hodge said the city is seeing a huge increase in on-demand delivery services. It’s an area, he said, that the Wu administration “has particular challenges that we’re struggling with” and where e-bikes can play an important role.

The rise in delivery services has been a lifeline for restaurants, Franklin-Hodge said, but from a transportation perspective, “this growth in on-demand delivery has been something of a disaster.”

“It’s basically, from a transportation perspective, ridiculous that we’re using 4,000 pound fossil fuel vehicles to move a chicken sandwich or a bowl of Thai food a mile or two through our very congested city. And so we think e-bikes also have a role to play in delivery and commercial services in the city,” he said. the state to allow us to put these programs in place and to really try to push for policies that lead to this change.”

For Sarah Dylan Breuer of West Roxbury, e-bikes give her freedom of movement.

Breuer said she suffered from a disability that caused one of her limbs or fingers to dislocate at any time. This means Breuer is dependent on walkers, crutches and wheelchairs to get around – all things that are manually operated.

“And often I couldn’t make it to the doctor’s appointments at all, to physical therapy where I would get the treatment that might allow me to walk again,” she said. “But now I have an e-bike. So I have the freedom to move from address to address. It’s really, really important. It’s such a fundamental freedom.”

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