CABO Opposes AB 2173 redefining some Electric Bikes.

The California Association of Bicycling Organizations, the association of California’s bicycle clubs, respectfully continues to oppose AB 2173. The April 22 amendment to increase the gross brake horsepower of a gas-powered motorized bicycle (or moped) defined in Vehicle Code §406(a) from 2 to 4 is only incidental to the bill’s primary purpose. The expected amendment to delete Section 2, which would currently permit low-speed electric bicycles on all bicycle paths and equestrian, hiking, or recreational trails, unless prohibited by local ordinance, would, however, remove one of our major concerns.
Electric bikes tend to attract an older demographic who are looking for recreation or local transportation, and a modicum of exercise, without excessive physical effort. They can help to expand the constituency for bicycle travel, and we would like to encourage their use. But even the definition that would remain in AB 2173 after the amendments raises a number of questions.
Under existing law, the type of motorized bicycle defined in §406(b) must have a power output of 1,000 watts or less, and must not be able to propel the bicycle faster than 20 mph on “ground level,” either by itself or with human-powered assistance. §24016 specifies that operators must be 16 years of age or older, must wear a helmet, and are exempt from insurance, driver license, and license plate requirements. That section also includes additional equipment requirements.
AB 2173 renames this device a “low-speed electric bicycle.” The power output is reduced from 1,000 watts to 750 watts (1 HP). The motor must now be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour “on a paved level surface, when powered solely by a motor when ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds.” As in current law, the motor must be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power is used to propel the device faster than 20 miles per hour. The weight would be limited to 80 pounds.
We would like to understand why this is the best definition. Federal law (23 U.S.C. §217(j)(2)) defines “electric bicycle” as “any bicycle or tricycle with a low-powered electric motor weighing under 100 pounds, with a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour”—although that’s only for purposes of prohibiting them from federal-aid trails and pedestrian walkways, except where state or local regulations permit. Are different definitions in use in other jurisdictions? Consistency would be desirable.
Can a top speed of 20 mph “when powered solely by a motor when ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds” be verified empirically, either by the manufacturer or by a police officer? It seems unnecessarily complicated. What about aftermarket devices—how do they fit in?
Finally, the new definition replaces the old one., Where does this leave electric motorized bicycles that meet the old definition, but not the new low-speed one? (I understand that such devices do exist.) Do they now become the first type of moped, and how does this change the age, helmet, insurance, driver license, license plate, and equipment requirements currently applicable to them under §24016 (which the bill would transfer to the newly defined low-speed electric bicycle)? Or would they legally be some other type of device?
We would be glad to continue working on these questions, but enacting even the definitional changes prematurely could make operational regulations harder to agree on later on.

This entry was posted in Miscellaneous on by .

About Jim Baross

I bicycled across the USA from East to West in 1976 leading groups of bicyclists for the “Bikecentennial ’76 “event and again in 2007 riding this time from West to East with my two sons. I was first certified as an Effective Cycling Instructor in 1986 by the League of American Bicyclist and have been an active League Cycling Instructor for the League since then. In 2002 I gained acceptance as a Cycling Instructor Trainer and since then have conducted 11 training seminars for certification of League Cycling Instructors held in San Diego, San Jose, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Sacramento, Morgan Hill, Fairfax, and Palo Alto. I completed the San Diego Police Bicycle Skills Menu Course in 2003 and I have been an expert witness for bicycling crash incidents. I presently serve on several bicycling advisory committees and advocacy organizations. Chair - Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Working Group for the San Diego regional association of governments since 1995 Vice Chair - California Bicycle Advisory Committee for the State Dept of Transportation, a member since 1992 President - California Association of Bicycling Organizations Board member - California Bicycle Coalition California State Ambassador – League of American Bicyclists Co-Chair California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Challenge Area 13, Improving Bicycling Safety Conferences, seminars and similar events at which I have attended and presented bicycling safety information and training include the following: Speaker/Presenter, Calif. Office of Traffic Safety, Summit “What to do about all these bicycles in Traffic”, 2009 ProWalk-ProBike Conference, Seattle WA., 2008 Attendee/Speaker, League of American Bicyclists, Bike Education Conference, Wisconsin and New York City, 2002 & 2007 Velo Mondial, Amsterdam. 2000 Speaker/Presenter, Calif. Office of Traffic Safety’s Summit “A Vision for Roads to Traffic Safety”, 2000 Speaker Autovation conference, San Diego 2005 Chair, California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, #13 - Improve Bicycling Safety Presenter, California Strategic Highway Safety Plan Summit, 2008 Anaheim Attendee, League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Summit, Washington, DC, 2006 & 2008 Presenter, Walk/Bike California Conferences, Oakland 2003, Ventura 2005, Davis 2007 Speaker, Making the Connection International Trails and Greenways Conference Presenter, Safety N Kids, Conference, “Children Learn Best by Good Examples From Those They Trust”, 2006 Speaker, ITE Conference 2006 Dana Point, Calif., “Engineering for Bicycling, From a Bicyclists Point of View” Exhibitor/Speaker, Lifesavers, National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities, 2004 References familiar with my bicycling background and experience include: Kathy Keehan, Exec Director San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Ph: 858-487-6063, Email: Stephan Vance, Chair Calif. Bicycle Coalition and SANDAG Senior Planner, Ph: 619-595-5324, Email: Ken McGuire, Chief Bicycle Facilities Unit, California Dept of Transportation, Ph: 916-653-2750, Email: Preston Tyree, Director of Education, League of American Bicyclists, 1612 K St., NW, #800, Washington, DC 20006, Ph: 202-822-1333 x 227, Email:

19 thoughts on “CABO Opposes AB 2173 redefining some Electric Bikes.

  1. Frank Peters

    Thanks for this demonstration of tribalism among bike riding groups. [Sarcasm]

    It’s natural to fight change, human beings resist anything that disrupts the status quo. Here you do a fine job of muddying the waters without contributing much to the discussion. eBikes are coming; in Asia and Europe market share approaches 50%, so consumers are voting with their pocketbooks. As a bunch of wanna-be Caltrans traffic engineers you delight in terminology discrepancies between federal and state definitions, but the point is lost: eBikes are spec’d to travel no faster than a regular bike. Yes, they can sustain those speeds for longer, that’s why they appeal to commuters and those physically challenged. eBikes will get more people to walk away from their cars; these consumers will realize significant economic gain as they discover the 7-10 cents cost to “fill-up”. Thanks for impeding this progress. Tonight over dinner tell your children how you did your part to thwart bicycle ridership and keep people trapped in their cars.

  2. Bob Silverstein

    Its no wonder half your districts are void of representation.

    Frank Peters is a respected cycling advocate and his points are all valid.

    Your positions on this and other bills are simply obstructions and serve no useful purpose.

  3. Doug Daut

    I am not sure what CABO is saying here? Are they against allowing the use of bicycle paths for elderly people, or those trying to get some exercise, or commute on an electric bicycle? I see good standard bicycles easily going faster than 20 mph, so it is a matter of simply enforcing a speed limit. And/or is CABO just playing word gymnastics to try to thwart key aspects of the bill? The article does seem to try to say one thing but promote another?

  4. Frank Peters

    It’s 5pm Friday April 24, 2014. AB 2173, the Low-Speed Electric Bicycle Act, is dead.

    Ironically, the last and only amendment which increases gas-powered mopeds from 2 to 4bhp survives.

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