Bill Defines e-Bikes as Bicycles
Just as self-balancing scooters, led by the Segway two decades ago, introduced a new category of vehicles on roads and/or walkways, the relatively new fleet of low-power electric bicycles, or e-bikes, occupies a gray area between motorized and pedestrian travel. As far as the State of Alaska is concerned, e-bikes are officially bicycles, legally speaking.
Not Your Daddy’s Moped
The Alaska legislature passed House Bill 8 to define e-bikes for regulatory purposes. The bill cleared the House in April by a vote of 39 to 1, and the Senate concurred this month by a vote of 18 to 1. The bill now goes to Governor Mike Dunleavy for his signature.
Versions of HB8 have been in the legislature since 2019. Representative Ashley Carrick of Fairbanks, previously an aide to former Representative Adam Wool, was the lead sponsor.
“I am very excited that after five sessions this bill has finally passed the Legislature and I hope that Governor Dunleavy signs this bill into law,” Carrick says. “I would like to thank my former boss and predecessor Representative Adam Wool for his previous work on this bill. I look forward to finally enjoying an e-bike myself.”
Specifically, HB8 clarifies that “motor vehicle” in the state statute for highways does not include an electric-assisted bicycle, which is further defined as “a bicycle that is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground; has fully operative pedals for human propulsion; has a seat or saddle for use of the rider; is equipped with an electric motor that has a power output of not more than 750 watts; and is a class 1, class 2, or class 3 electric-assisted bicycle.” The bill adds new paragraphs defining those classes based on whether the motor can operate independently of pedaling and whether it cuts off at a top speed of 20 miles per hour or 28 miles per hour.
HB8 adds that limitations on regulation of e-bikes do not apply to municipal ordinances, allowing local governments to control which paths and trails e-bikes may be used on.
Passage of HB8 makes Alaska the 40th state to adopt the industry-standard definition.
Shrinking batteries and improved motor performance have opened up the market for e-bikes. Some retailers, like Alaska eBike in Anchorage, specialize in selling or renting a variety of brands, ranging from $2,500 models to more than $5,000. Alaska eBike’s website says, “The ability to transfer seamlessly from a great workout machine to an absolute rocketship is what makes eBiking so much fun!”
Most e-bikes have batteries that can assist rides as far as 20 miles (after which they become regular, albeit somewhat heavier, pedal-powered bikes); some have regenerative braking to recharge the battery, but few are equipped to recharge directly from pedaling.