More states enacting specific e-bike use, labeling and equipment regulations as popularity surges

On October 30, 2017, Michigan became the seventh state to adopt specific electric bicycle (“e-bike”) legislation joining Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and Utah. States like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have e-bike legislation pending.

While PeopleForBikes and Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (“BPSA”) have done a commendable job in seeking to standardized the e-bike regulations across the different states, it is no surprise that each respective state statutory framework is slightly tweaked to meet the needs of their respective constituents - and Michigan is no different.

Some of the material differences and interesting notes from the Michigan legislation (HB 4781-83) are:

  1. The Michigan bill expressly notes the permitted and unpermitted use of e-bikes on “linear trails” that have an “asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail.” You might be asking yourself what is a “linear trail” (as the term is not defined in the bill)? According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a linear trail (also referred to as “out-and-back” or “destination” trails) goes from one point to another and typically follows an old railroad track, river, or other land feature (e.g. Iron Ore Heritage Trail). These trails also usually cover long distances. The complete list of linear trails in Michigan.
  2. Similar to its state counterparts, the Michigan legislation is silent on several pertinent areas of e-bike discussion in potential need of resolution before becoming effective law. Most notably, the bill fails to expressly address use of e-bikes on sidewalks (i.e. non-linear trail use) and there are no fines, penalties, fees, or other consequences for failure to abide by the new e-bike use, labelling, and equipment requirements. As noted in the original article, without such repercussions there appear to be no legal incentives to comply for e-bike manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. Michigan is also the first state that does not require mandatory speedometers equipped on Class 3 e-bikes.
  3. Finally, Michigan is also the first state to expressly require public hearings before local or state authorities make a final determination on authorization, prohibition, or regulation of certain classes of e-bikes being used on certain types of trail surfaces. As a perceived win for those in favor of due process, this could potentially be a popular legal clause added to future e-bike bills and amendments to existing legislation.

For a more detailed, state-by-state analysis of current e-bike legislation visit here.