QUIKbyke Logo

Jetson E-bike
Jetson E-bike

Time to Implement the 30 Kilogram Rule

Current U.S. law regarding e-bikes contains a potentially dangerous shortcoming that it's time Congress address before the problem gets out of hand.

Permit me ask you a simple question? What would you call the above vehicle?

To my eye it looks sort of like a motor scooter, only maybe not as heavy. Clearly it's electric since I see no gasoline engine or exhaust pipe. Those of us old enough to remember the advent of the Honda Cub half a century ago, might be tempted to call it a moped.

What I wouldn't call it is a 'bicycle.'

Yet, according to US code, the Jetson E-Bike and similar vehicles are considered 'bicycles' and fall under the oversight of the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and not the Department of Transportation.

As a 'bicycle', the owner isn't required to license it or hold any type of driving permit in order to operate it.

This same legal ambiguity has led to their explosive proliferation in China where they are also - for the time being - considered 'bicycles.' Somewhat disparagingly called 'e-donkeys' in China, they have become the ban of pedestrians, normal cyclists and motorists alike. By their literal tens of millions, they provide daily transport for urban commuters and rural riders alike.

The problem isn't their speed. Most don't travel any faster than a normal bicycle, The Jetson has a regulated top speed of 20 mph. It certainly isn't that they are noisy or polluting. They are quiet and being electric, they have not local emissions.

The problem is their weight.

Consider. A low-cost consumer-grade bicycle weighs around 20-30 pounds (9-13 kg). A true electric-assist bicycle can weigh between 35-55 pounds (15-25kg), depending on type of battery: heavy lead or light lithium.

The Jetson weighs 125 pounds (56 kg): twice-to-three times the weight of 'bicycle.'

It's considered a 'bicycle' because it has pedals, a motor of less than 750 watts, and a top speed of 20 mph. In its wisdom, Congress left weight out of the equation, and it's the weight, or more scientifically, the mass of the machine that is the problem.

In a collision between a Jetson and a pedestrian, for example, the combination of the speed and mass could prove fatal, possibly to both, but certainly to the pedestrian. The same would apply to crashes with bicycle riders and electric-assisted bikes.

Of course, from the perspective of the Jetson rider, he or she would much rather be riding in bike lanes and on bike paths than mingling with heavier and faster motor vehicles, but therein lies the problem. Where does this class of vehicle belong?

Sidewalks? Bike lanes? Urban streets? Suburban roads?

From both a legal and a practical perspective, bicycles are largely entitled to be ridden pretty much anywhere they want, with the possible exception of sidewalks based on local code. There's long been a debate within the cycling community that bicycles should enjoy the same access to roads as an motorized vehicle and ridden accordingly. Theoretically, the same would apply to Jetson-class e-bikes. Of course, most occasional bicycle riders would prefer the relative safety of dedicated lanes and paths to sharing the road with car crazies. Presumably, so would your teenage daughter or her Boomer grandparents.

But just as the federal government set rules regarding the types of vehicles it allows on our Interstate highways, it needs to do the same with these types of vehicles and the determining factor should be their weight.

I propose that in addition to pedals and motor size, that the CPSC regulation needs to be amended to include weight as a key criteria for what defines a 'bicycle.' For reference, I suggest it be 30 kg or approximately 66 pounds. Below that number, it's considered a bicycle. Above that, it's a motor vehicle and falls under the oversight of the Department of Transportation.

Now the federal government can only regulate what happens on roads it helps fund, so it will be up to the states and local administrations to figure out where these vehicles fit in the transportation mix, but having some guidance at the national level should help provide much needed clarity to manufacturers, retailers and owners of this class of vehicle.

If Congress doesn't act, we may someday find ourselves in the same bind that the Chinese government now finds itself: having to pass laws that either bans e-bikes entirely or tries to better define what is a bicycle and what is a moped.

Posted By: Bill Moore [27-Aug-2013]


Quikbyte Archive

  • PASTA Project: Cycling Has Greatest Health Benefits of Urban Transport
  • Yet Another University Study Finds Riding An E-Bike Is Good For Your Heart & Soul Too
  • Should You Wear A Helmet When You Ride a Bike?
  • Quikbyke Expands Rental 'Shop-in-a-Box' Qiosk Models
  • Of Doughnuts and Smart, Livable 21st Century Cities
  • A.I. vs Jobs: India & Quikbyke Face Similar Conundrums
  • My Peer-to-Peer EBike Sharing Experiment
  • It's Bike Month and Quikbyke's Solar Qiosk Is Now Florida-Bound
  • Facts And Myths About The Legality Of E-Bikes
  • Bike Share Boom, Bike Share Bust: A Quikbyke Solution
  • Bikes Good for Local Business
  • Five Reasons to Commute By E-Bike
  • Quikbyke: One Year Later
  • Bike Share Vs Quikbyke? It's No Contest
  • Bikes Vs. Cars
  • When Is a Bike Ride Not A Bike Ride? When It's a Quikbyke
  • Cruising London Fully Charged On An E-Bike
  • Creating Electric Bike Adventures In Time
  • E-Bikes to EU Rescue
  • eBikes and Wellness - The Evidence Mounts
  • Future Bodes Well For E-Bikes in America
  • How You Too Can Get 1000 MPG!
  • Those 'Deadly' Electric Bicycles
  • If You're Going To Ride A Bike, Here's Safest and Most Dangerous States
  • Building My E-Biking Confidence
  • Strava Around the Lake
  • CleanSpace and Our Dirty Air
  • Discover Omaha Beacons - Turning Your Phone Into a Tour Guide
  • Same Great Workout : More Evidence
  • How We Got the Bicycle
  • Could E-Bikes Help Parkinson's Patients?
  • Quikbyke's Q•pod Becomes Real Steel
  • What's Quikbyke's MVP? We're About to Find Out
  • The Bromptons of London
  • I Rode the Sun Today
  • The E-Bikes of the Balearics
  • Of Love and Bicycles
  • The SBA and My K15 'Conversation Starter'
  • Pricing the Quikbyke Kickstarter
  • Ford Seeking to Re-Invent Itself with Smart Mobility
  • When One Man and 1/2 HP Is Faster Than an Acura TLX
  • Aging Cities and Three-Wheeled Bikes
  • The Coming of Quikbyke
  • How Bicycles Can Help Reclaim Our Streets for Everyone
  • Dan Sturges and the Future of Micromobility
  • Here's Why I am Into E-Bikes
  • Powerful A.S.S. Can Help Ensure Success
  • Same Great Workout, Just Faster and More Fun
  • Bike Helmets, Accidents, and Hygiene
  • Will Cycling London's Underground Be a Haunting Experience?