A legislative bill passed that is very much a downer for e-bikers

Local mountain bike alliance EMBA were part of the team behind the bill which sees e-bikes banned unless land managers specify otherwise.

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In a story from Washington State’s Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (EMBA) highlights news of an e-bike legislation bill passed by the House and the Senate. This bill restricts use on “natural surface trails”.

EMBA state: “The end result is that e-bikes are not allowed on natural surface trails, unless signed or stated open by the managing jurisdiction.”

As well as effectively banning e-bikes from singletrack the bill also defines what Washington State are to categorise what an e-bike actually is. And unlike in the UK, where e-bikes are limited to 25 kph (15.5 mph), Washington State e-bikes are split into three classes.

Class 1 can go up to 32 kph (20 mph) with e-assist only while pedalling. Class 2 have the same speed restriction but are throttle electric bikes not e-assist e-bikes. Class 1 and 2 electric bikes are allowed on roads and bike lanes and on “paved trails”. They are not allowed on “natural surface trails” (unless specified by land manager).

Class 3 can go up to 45 kph (28 mph) with e-assist only while pedalling. However, Class 3 bikes don’t appear to be allowed anywhere other than private land.

The bill also requires “prominent labelling” of all e-bikes. Including classification number, top assisted speed and wattage.

EMBA’s reasons for helping with the bill

The EMBA were actually part of a collective described as “non-motorized recreation groups” that helped with the wording of the legislation. EMBA wanted to encourage “clear distinction between e-bike use on paved trails vs. natural surface trails”.

Having a mountain bike association seem partly responsible for banning e-bikes may seem confusing to UK and European riders but the scene is very different in the USA.

Essentially, EMBA wanted to be part of the brokering of the bill to prevent a total ban on all types bicycles on “natural surface trails” further down the line.

EMBA: “We are satisfied with the outcome of this initial legislation, as it addresses a critical need for urban bike commuters, and gives land managers specific authority to implement e-bike policies.

“How e-bike use is regulated is crucial to Evergreen for several reasons […] Potential loss of trail access if land managers choose to close trails to all “bikes” because e-bikes are now defined as bicycles

“It remains crucial to monitor the actual use and implementation of this legislation. While its passage ends the ‘free-for-all’ e-bike use on roads and paved paths through regulation, there is still work to be done on how this relates to mountain biking, and we have concerns on how this bill defines ‘natural surface trails’.”