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I'm a DC resident and cyclist and also ride a electric skateboard. MPD has pulled me over for riding the skateboard in the street but it goes 20mph so the demand to ride on the sidewalk seems unsafe. I'd like to see the law pertaining to PMDs updated to match the speed limits of bicycles if they are going to be operated in mixed traffic with cyclists. I'd also like to see the rules around "hands" nixed as my board doesn't have handlebars of any kind. Perhaps the remote control counts as a "hand"?

I like the point Russell brings up. This isn't just about cycling. This is really about all forms of transportation that don't involve protecting yourself in a 4,000 lbs tank propelled by 200 horses.

Russell, you bring up some good points and ones I would not have thought of, which is why I wanted to hear from PMD users. Riding a skateboard on the street is illegal in DC, but oddly enough I think a e-skateboard is legal. The law is just a mess and has not kept up with technology.

Richard B, add one more trolling comment and I'll block you from commenting. If you have something constructive to add, that's great, but if all you're doing is trying to incite a response than you need go elsewhere.

Let's say some e-bike riders do try to get the changes you proposed through. Since the e-bike community will have developed so much animosity in the general public from having broken rules for such a long time that the politicians aren't going to want to stick their necks out for these rule changes. Heck most regular bikers are probably going to dislike them too boot since they are going to be much faster on the trails than your average biker and will be creating their own havoc. So then they will have the same built up political winds facing them that the regular biking community has created for themselves when it comes to getting sensible changes made.

Can someone please explain to me the animosity towards pedalec bicycles by some in the cycling world? I genuinely do not understand.

The two primary arguments I have heard include:
1) They're too fast! (Where? In bike lanes? On trails? All cyclists should ride to the conditions and surroundings - whether assisted or not. Often the scariest cyclists are MAMILS on bikes to fancy for their skills. Why are ebike riders being singled out?)
2) Those are not 'real bikes'! (Well, OK, why not? You balance, you pedal, you get threatened every day by drivers...same as a regular bike.)

Context: I ride a carbon road bike periodically for fun long rides. I ride a steel road bike often for fun and to get places on my own. I ride a pedalec longtail cargo bike daily to commute with my kids, grocery shop for a large family, and just generally get around to places with stuff not in a car. Three bikes, used for different reasons at different times.

Here's MCA on why he is a skeptic. He thinks they're basically scooters and no one wants more of those. He thinks they're unsafe. They aren't green (but they are). No one will ride them. People who do ride them won't get as much of a health benefit. He's basically opposed to anything that isn't a human-powered bicycle.

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2014/02/the-e-bike-sceptic.html

@washcycle: MCA's perspective is certainly not full throated support. But it also isn't as aggressively 'anti' as I've heard from others. (though he does focus on speed - something that annoys me greatly as a rule - since these arguments always seem to assume that folks on assisted bicycles are ALWAYS riding at TOP POSSIBLE SPEED. Hint: we're not.)

I guess I'm looking at it from a particular perspective - I live in hilly DC and use a large heavy cargo bike so that I can carry kids and lots of stuff, so I have an e-assist.

But I would also love to understand the folks who get vitriolic in their anti-ebike rhetoric. I want someone to tell me something other than 'They can go too fast' (so can a roadie) or 'They're not getting the health benefits' (so what? transportation is transportation. And trust me when I'm not riding my ebike regularly during the depth of winter I most certainly notice my weight gain!)

I just don't get the hatred.

Many of you probably know that one of the longest and most contentious threads on the Washington Area Bike Forum involves e-bikes and whether they should be allowed on multi-use paths, but for those of you who don't, the link to that thread is below.

Someone has made remarkably similar posts to elizqueenmama's on that forum, and they have been addressed by several people from many angles. No one there that I've seen opposes e-bikes in general. There are many who oppose them, or some classes of them, on crowded multi-use paths (very similar to WashCycle's proposals in 2, 3, and 4 above), for various safety reasons. Yet that poster continues to pretend that they are opposed in all areas and contexts by other cyclists when that argument simply isn't being made. The poster's regular methodology then is to misrepresent others' opinions and argue against those instead of what really has been proposed.

Whatever the decisions made are, I believe we do need rules to catch up with technology, if only for liability reasons. I don't care very much which way the law goes since even banning them from trails won't stop people from using them there, but liability is still an issue.

http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showthread.php?851-e-Bikes-Let-s-talk

I'm fine with ebikes. In fact, there should be more of them. That said, there are real issues with them that cannot be so easily dismissed. Speed is a big factor. Yes, a non-assisted bicycle can go as fast. But not many, and the riders who can do that (1) have usually years of riding many, many miles and so are aware of what kind of behavior is unacceptable and (2) don't ride on casual use trails at those speeds. Most of the ebike riders I see are fine. But there are far, far too many who--as one did on the CCT last night--blow by me (a pretty fast rider) going at least 10 mph faster and with zero audible warning. That kind of behavior will get e-bike riders banned, and rightly so.

@DE

I think what is being point out by the previous commenter is not that pedalec bikes use is a problem. The problem is that if they are not allowed to be used under circumstances then don't use them in such situations until the rules are changed. If the rules should be changed then get the City Council to change them. Doing otherwise will just lead to greater backlash. Doing in the other direction just makes it all that much harder since you wind up with editorialists, politicians, and many of their constituents all working to oppose the rule changes.

P.S. And who cares if you don't get as much of a workout on a pedalec, do you get a workout in a car?

Bob,

I see what you're saying, but....

currently it's illegal to ride a brompton or other folding bike with small wheels anywhere other than the sidewalk. And you can ride one on the sidewalk in the CBD.

Do you think cycling and bike advocacy would be better off if this was how they actually behaved until they could get the law changed?

"That kind of behavior will get e-bike riders banned, and rightly so."

I dunno, Crickey. I'm sympathetic since I've had that fast sudden uphill pass happen to me on the Custis. (I'm not too slow so rarely get passed there, and never that fast, so it's a bit surprising and not safe because of its unexpectedness.) But that argument is similar to the one that some motorists make against cyclists--that since a minority run traffic lights, they all should be punished.

@washcycle

Yes. I believe that cycling and bike advocacy would be better off if there was a greater willingness to not shirk the law until it was changed.

It is so much easier to get a politician to do something if it can happen "under the table" and if you wait until you have large number of angry constituents on the other side against you then progress is going to grind to a halt.

"Yes. I believe that cycling and bike advocacy would be better off if there was a greater willingness to not shirk the law until it was changed."

You're answering in the general, but I'm asking you about the specific.

Should adult cyclists on small-wheel folding bikes ride exclusively on the sidewalk, including in the CBD, because that's what the law says? Would that be better for bike advocacy?

RichardB, regarding general-public animosity toward e-bikes, I doubt that most of the general public can differentiate (or cares to) between e-bikes and regular bikes, so that animosity will, in general, just go toward cyclists in general. If you're walking down a sidewalk and an e-bike almost runs into you, you're likely just thinking "jerk cyclist." Which is unfortunate, but reality.

Specifically then, they shouldn't buy the things until the rules are worked out allowing them to ride on the road and in bike lanes in the CBD. Plain and simple. Outside of the CBD, ride on the sidewalk, nothing wrong with that as long as you are respectful to pedestrians and give them the right-of-way.

There are plenty of other options available to them to use to get around (I assume most folding bike users are people coming in on VRE, MARC, etc): CaBi, all the stationless bikes (some of which has e-assist), a beater bike locked at their metro station of choice, metro train, the bus, walking.

...and this is why people break the law. When laws are nonsensical, no one respects them.

Speeding used to never be a problem on a bike. Now it is thanks to e-bikes and the general popularity of biking and exercise in general (putting more people onto trails).

But if you want to curb speeding you ought to curb speeding. The person using some mechanical help to pull their kids is far less of a risk than someone looking to take over Strava segments.

If we want truly nothing "mechanical" on sidewalks, bike lanes, or trails then we're gonna run into problems because bikes themselves are mechanical machines and while I'm fine with their prohibition on say, the Appalachian trail, I'd like to keep my options open for getting around town.

@DE

... and then the entrenched interests that don't want the rules changed to benefit you have rhetorical fodder to keep the rules the current nonsensical state. They cycle continues (pun intended).

My issue is that ebike run into the law of instrument. If you make a device that makes it easy to go at illegal/unsafe speeds quietly, then that is what people will do.

"they shouldn't buy the things until the rules are worked out allowing them to ride on the road and in bike lanes in the CBD."

Why not? They can currently use them on the sidewalks in the CBD. Why should they not buy them and ride them exclusively on the sidewalk? That's 100% legal.

Sometimes playing by the rules will only get you ignored. Quite frankly, that's how we got into this mess. Now, because of the popularity of MPDs and the like, and the fact that the rules are pretty freaking stupid, people aren't playing by them. Only now that there is an issue are things actually changing (maybe? hopefully? at least being reviewed?). This is a good thing and is only happening because people are NOT playing by the rule of law (because in this case, it's stupid, have I mentioned that?)

I feel like I may have seen that ebike thread on bikearlington a few years ago, but genuinely spend almost no time on that forum. Thank you for sharing.

(Sidenote: I'm not sure if @DE is trying to imply that I am the one making those posts or not. But just to be clear, I'm not.)

I guess I've just run into more than a few virulently anti-ebike folks, and am asking why.

re: argument around current legal status vs real usage: I'm clearly one of the folks that 'breaks the rules'. I ride in bike lanes. I ride on local trails. And I'm always getting passed by folks on 'regular' bikes. Seriously, I got passed by someone on a 'regular bike' today. That was in the city, in a bike lane, and I was on my way to pick up my kids so didn't actually have any cargo. I guess my point is that the 'ebikes are too fast and therefore are dangerous' argument is analogous to 'cyclists run stops signs and are therefore dangerous' - it brings focus to a few people being dumb instead of the majority of folks out there. I truly believe that, again like drivers who only 'see' the badly behaved cyclists out there, many regular cyclists only see the badly behaved ecyclists out there.

And in the end we're our own worst enemy here - because I can guarantee that drivers don't differentiate between ebikes and other bikes - they just see bikes. (What kind of interactions with drivers do you think I would have if I rode up 15th St in a primary traffic lane, next to the protected bike lane, on my cargo bike with a kindergartener on the back, at 12 mph? It is laughable to think I wouldn't be run off the road.

So I would argue that rather than restricting access to trails and bike lanes, we should welcome all comers, and argue for more protected bike lanes, more and wider trails, etc.


The hatred is the same hatred that car drivers have when bikes are better able to get through traffic. There is something about human beings (mostly men ?1?) that makes them competitive when it comes to most things, and transportation is no exception. So car drivers hate bike riders who are able to make it though narrow spots and, as a matter of physics, have what is perceived as an unfair advantage.

I dare say that the fella who was "startled" that an ebike would be able to pass him on the uphill on Custis legitimately believed that this person was "cheating" him because until that moment he had been the biggest and best Strava guy heading up that hill. Nobody beat him ever, so he was "startled" to see someone do that. So unfair. Wait until Ebike riders start using Strava and imagine the backlash there! Come to think of it .....

I have an ebike too to tote kids and groceries and sure I am cheating, if I was on a race! But not all bike riding is a race, so I got over it, just as I get over it when the 20 year old on a carbon bike crushes me or the ebike rides past me up the hill.

It is this smugness factor from cyclists that cause the hatred, and if anyone else is not as athletic or trained or whatever as I am is not worthy. I think in the future, I will make sure to light a cigarette while on my Xtracycle Ebike, just to rub in how unworthy I am.

@washcycle

I personally think its bad mojo to ride any bike on the sidewalk in the CBD and would not recommend it, even if it is legal in this case. But there isn't anything unethical with it since it is legal so people can go to town.

If you can't ride a brompton on the street in the CBD and you shouldn't ride on the sidewalk in the CBD, this is basically saying that you don't think Brompton's belong in downtown.

Now I'm fairly certain that this was not the intent of the law, and so this is where we differ on ethics. Ethically, I think it's OK to ignore silly, counter-productive or immoral laws (throughout the whole history of the Civil Rights movement in the US there has been a battle between those leaders who argued that if blacks could follow the law, get educated, pay taxes and be good citizens they would eventually be given the rights they deserved, and those who argued that they should willfully break the immoral laws and force America to give them their rights. I think I know which side was proven right).

The position of both MPD and DDOT on some of these laws is that yes, they need to be changed, but until then, cyclists can "rely on non-enforcement." That's at-least unofficial policy as stated to me by DC officials in open public meetings. So, keep on riding your sidewalk bikes in the street or you class-1 e-bikes across the 14th Street bridge. That's illegal but ethical.

To ask people to avoid using new means of getting around "until the rules are changed" is absolutely nonsense and so much so that I think everyone sees it as such immediately. Let us not be slaves to our rules.

It's not something I get worked up about particularly, and most of the folks I've met who ride e-bikes are lovely, law-abiding people. But as regional traffic gets inevitably worse, two things are going to happen: First, the bike infrastructure is going to get more congested, making good behavior even more important; Second, an ever-increasing number of "normals" are going to ditch their cars for high-performance e-bikes in order to minimize their commute times.

These are *not* going to be people who have cultural connections to bike culture, but people for drawn by the idea of riding a cheap motorcycle on non-gridlocked infrastructure.

Again, not anywhere near a hill I'm willing to die on, but it seems pretty obvious to me where this is heading.

BTW, if I were Emperor of the Universe, e-bikes limited to pedal-assist up to 12 mph would be legal on bike infrastructure and sidewalks--but anything over that would need to be in street.

My hope is that as more people transition, it will create a political environment with more support for building bus/bike lanes. I think e-bikes would do very well in such lanes. It may be we'll have to evaluate if e-bikes belong on trails in the future, but right now I'm not worried about them. I think we've locked ourselves in to 20mph (it's been 20 years now) or at least 15.5, though if the market gets larger, and the need arises, maybe we can force a market for 12mph capped bikes.

12MPH does not make sense IMO as the universe of people who can ride a human powered bike at 12MPH + is very, very, large. It looks like, as Wash says, we stuck with 20MPH as the dividing lane between class 1 and class 3 ebikes. Most of Europe uses 15 (15.5?), which might better. I am actually fine with Class 3's in in-street bike lanes, where the conflict is with slow bike riders, and which tend to be underutilized anyway. I am more concerned about conflict on MUT's, where there are slow and clueless pedestrians. But I think Class 1's are going to be legal on the trails. Mostly for the good, though with some problems.

"I dare say that the fella who was "startled" that an ebike would be able to pass him on the uphill on Custis legitimately believed that this person was "cheating" him because until that moment he had been the biggest and best Strava guy heading up that hill. Nobody beat him ever, so he was "startled" to see someone do that. So unfair."

Late to reply b/c out of town, but you "daresay" incorrectly. I don't mind being passed. I don't even mind not getting a warning in most cases because people are people. But if you are passing someone uphill at 25 mph, you really should give a warning b/c most people will not be expecting that kind of speed up a hill. I always look over my shoulder before turning, but many people don't, and not giving a warning in that situation is simply unsafe.

So your assumptions are simply shite.

12MPH does not make sense IMO as the universe of people who can ride a human powered bike at 12MPH + is very, very, large.

Sure, I tried to make that point by saying "pedal-assist up to 12 mph". That means you can go as fast as your legs can carry you--just not with motor assist. And that your cargo bike could put out as many watts as you like. Like I said, though, this is like #283 on the list of things I care about.

Oboe

My point was that in a world where most people can ride at 13MPH, it does not make sense to ban class 1 ebikes BECAUSE they enable people to go 13MPH with pedal assist. The argument against ebikes is they will mean more fast riders on the trails, and that is a problem. the definition of where they become a problem has to be faster than the average human powered bike, at a minimum. 12MPH is laughably too slow to be the max speed with assist. I think we will be okay with 20MPH, though I can see the case for 15.5mph

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