ACTION ALERT! eBike Bill Update


Please ask your state congressional rep to co-sponsor the eBike Bill,  LRB-0715/1 Regulation of Electronic Bicycles by Friday March 8, 2019, 4PM!


You may not yet own an eBike but the Wisconsin Bike Fed is pushing your state legislature to define laws around their classification and use.

The Wisconsin Bike Fed wants to be sure eBikes positively impact our bicycling culture in Wisconsin, not become a divisive argument within it. We endorse LRB-0715/1 Regulation of Electronic Bicycles because it supports cyclists on eBikes using bike trails.

Click to open PDF and read bill.

Background memo to LRB-0715/1 from the Sponsors of the bill, Representatives Mike Rohrkaste and Evan Goyke, and Senators Roger Roth and Fred Risser.

“Electric bicycles (“e-bikes”) are becoming increasingly popular in Wisconsin.  E-bikes look almost identical to traditional bicycles, but they are equipped with small electric motors that provide extra power.  E-bikes are particularly helpful for aging cyclists or cyclists with limited physical capacity, but they can be enjoyed by everyone.

Under current Wisconsin law, e-bikes are considered “motor bicycles”, which also include bicycles fitted with combustion engines, and also as “motor vehicles” in certain contexts.  While Wisconsin’s bicycle laws generally apply to motor bicycles as well as traditional bicycles, motor bicycles (including e-bikes) are subject to other laws that do not apply to traditional bicycles.  For example, operators of motor bicycles must have operator’s licenses, and motor bicycles may not be used on bike paths unless they are powered solely by their pedals.

LRB 0715 creates a separate category for e-bikes and eliminates many of the restrictions that currently apply to their use – in general, treating them more like traditional bicycles, although local governments and the Departments of Natural Resources and Transportation would have the authority to limit the engine-assisted use of e-bikes on bikeways under their jurisdiction by ordinance or administrative rule.

 In addition, LRB 0715 recognizes a three-class system established by the e-bike industry so that they can be regulated more precisely.  The classes are based on when the motor kicks in and the maximum speed at which the motor operates. For example, Class 1 and 2 e-bikes have a maximum engine-assisted speed of 20 MPH, while Class 3 e-bikes have a maximum engine-assisted speed of 28 MPH.  LRB 0715 establishes a minimum age of 16 to operate a Class 3 e-bike, and Class 3 e-bikes must have speedometers. E-bike manufacturers and distributors would also have to label their products with the classification number, maximum engine-assisted speed, and the motor wattage.

Several states have enacted similar laws in recent years, including Illinois and Michigan.  E-bikes can be a fun mode of alternative transportation, as well as a great way to keep Wisconsin residents active and healthy.  Clear, consistent e-bike laws can also benefit the bicycle industry.”

The Wisconsin Bike Fed is working to keep you informed about Bicycle Legislation that affects you. If you have questions or comments about this bill, please comment below.

4 thoughts on “ACTION ALERT! eBike Bill Update

  1. Are e-bikes defined as e-assist? Or will bicycles that can operate without using the pedals also be able to be used on trails?

    Can the Class 3 e-bikes be used in protected bike lanes? Can they be used on paths shared with pedestrians?

    28 mph is too fast to use on a facility shared with pedestrians, and it is probably too fast to use in a protected bike lane.

    California allows the fastest e-bikes to only be used on bike facilities that are shared with motor vehicles, such as bike boulevards.

    • Hi Robbie, I added the bill to the blog post. The language defines eBikes as having pedal assist. I agree, 28mph is too fast on a busy trail or protected bike lane. But is it too fast if I am riding to work on a dead straight trail at 6am and nobody else is on it?

      Speed limits should be controlled by statutory speed limits or signs. I can ride 28mph on my road bike if I am in a group of other riders, and 22mph on my own. Of course I don’t when I am sharing a trail or protected bike lane. I can drive 100mph in my car, but I drive the posted speed limit. A Mustang can go 160mph, but my neighbor who owns one still drives 25mph or slower on our street.

    • Hi,

      Your concern is like saying a car can go over 120mph so it is not safe to use on roads. Just because a bike can go 28mph does not mean it will. I have 2 e-bikes, one max of 20 and one max of 28. I have over 5000 miles on them since 2017 and over 95% of the time I am going 15-17 mph. That is the speed of normal bikes and I am always pedaling them. Now, I have no excuses not to bike to work, grocery store, errands, etc. High winds, hot humid weather, hills are no longer excuses to not use my bike. I use the commuter path to get to work and it is completely safe, I am more courteous than many pedal only bikers.

  2. I owned an old ’69 Mustang in college, and while I liked that car a lot, the thrill of going fast in that car, can’t compare with the greater thrill I’ve experienced when really going all out on a bike, especially when others around me are doing the same. Fast is fun! But as Ben Parker says to his nephew Peter: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” One of the most significant downsides of motor vehicles is they tend to be socially isolating, which contributes to things like selfishness, impatience, and in its worst manifestation road rage. Persons riding bikes, on the other hand, tend not to be socially isolated from other cyclists and pedestrians around them, and thus (in an ideal world) communication tends to be fostered, and a greater sense of community and safety can be created. By that, individual health (both physical and mental), and community health are enhanced. However, a cyclist traveling at a greater speed (in relation to pedestrians and other cyclists), can undermine this, and make the faster cyclist socially isolated from the other users of bike trails. Such can lead to animus between users (and decrease cyclists’ public image). To achieve the more ideal world, cyclists who have the ability to ride faster (either because they have great legs–like Dave Schlabowske or Elaine “Bunkie” Miller–or an e-bike), are going to have to be cognizant that their higher relevant speed poses a danger to pedestrians, and to some slower cyclists (especially kids). It not only poses a danger, it can engender fear in the minds of pedestrians and
    slower cyclists. Faster cyclists have to exercise restraint, or the public’s opinion of cyclists will drop even further. Cyclists are going to have to be communitarian; that is, they have to be willing to sublimate to some extent their own self interest (however strong their “need for speed” may be), and be willing to “put themselves in the shoes of others” out there on the bike trails. As Scout Finch says ““Atticus was right. . . . you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” Separate and apart from the above, cyclists need to be advocating for better bike and pedestrian infrastructure, as better design can lead to better safety and a better sense of safety. High-use bike/pedestrian trails (like my beloved Eastside Oak Leaf Trail in Milwaukee), should be redesigned so that there are good separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians. That won’t completely solve the problem, but it would help. — Sandie

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