How eBikes are Changing the Cycling World

Video Transcription:

Hey, good morning. It’s Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy helping fellow cyclists.

I want to talk to you this morning about eBikes and how they are changing the cycling world. So, if you’re curious about eBikes and you’ve wondered what role they are playing in the cycling world, I’m going to talk about some of those things today.

The first thing is, what is an eBike and once they become motorized are they considered a bicycle. Secondly, I want to talk about who is riding them and why. And, then we will talk about a little “war story” about a claim we had and the adjuster’s confusion about what an eBike actually is.

There has been a struggle in the industry between those people who make pedal assisted eBikes and those who make throttle assisted eBikes. What is developing from this is a more pedal assisted eBike with a throttle control system that can be used when someone who is riding it wants a little more power.

There has been a lot of confusion about eBikes. Fifty states have fifty different criteria about what an eBike is or what a bicycle is when they are electrified. Florida has a very simple statute right now, where pedal assisted bicycles that go up to 20 mph are considered an electric bike. But there has been a proposal to create a more uniform statute from an outfit called People for Bikes that is very similar to a law that California passed in 2017.

One of the overall characteristics of most eBikes is the size of the motor. In most eBikes you have a motor that is limited to 750 watts. And, this is because of some federal legislation about the maximum power of an eBike. But people are actually making bootleg motors that are much bigger than that and they are starting to come out in the market.

Right now in Florida we are considering an eBike when it has a 750 watt motor but there is a proposal that are breaking eBikes down into three categories. The first category would be a pedal assisted eBike that only goes up to 20 mph. The second category would be an eBike that is throttle only but has a maximum speed of 20 mph. The third category is a pedal assisted bicycle with a throttle and has a maximum speed of 28 mph. The importance of all of this is each of these proposed categories would still be considered bicycles. Remember in Florida a bicycle doesn’t require registration meaning you don’t have to have a tag for it, you aren’t required to have insurance for it and you don’t need a driver’s license for it either.

Under this proposed amendment, if your eBike doesn’t fit in one of these three categories, it won’t be considered a bicycle anymore. It will be considered some other type of vehicle. So, these are very important considerations for those people who want to ride them and for those who want to manufacture them and sell them. There needs to be some uniformity of what is considered a bicycle in Florida.

This California statute is essentially the same model as this proposal. I’m on the board of the FBA, the Florida Bicycle Association, and we are actually considering proposing a legislative change to our statute in the coming legislature and we are looking at the People for Bikes model. One thing about eBikes under this proposed statute is they wouldn’t be allowed to be used on sidewalks but they could be used on most trails under 20 mph. The category three bike would be restricted to riding on roads only.

One of the things we are finding is that these bikes are showing up in our club rides. So, let’s talk about who’s riding them and where. eBikes are not like regular road bikes in the sense that they are much heavier. They typically weigh between 45 and 70 lbs. mostly because of the battery and the motor. So, you’re not going to be wanting to ride this as a sport bike. They usually have a distance or range of about 50 miles in most cases. Most of them cost between $2500 and $4500 but you can get one as cheap as $1500.

eBikes have a lot of useful purposes. We have found that those who are using them often were at one time an active rider and they have gotten older or they’ve had an injury that’s limiting their ability to ride at the speed and distance that they were riding before. They want to make sure when they leave on a club ride, they can keep up and they can complete the ride. These eBikes are becoming a very popular choice for this type of cyclist.

There was an interesting story in the Fort Myers News Press about Larry Hickey who is the president of the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club. Larry had some health issue and he was in the 18-20 mph group and he just felt like he could no longer keep up with his friends. He transitioned to an eBike and he said it’s the greatest thing he’s ever purchased and it changed his life. It allowed him to extend his ride and stay with his friends. He is the classic example of the type of cyclists who are gravitating to the eBike.

eBikes are also useful for those who want to commute. When you go into some of the bigger cities you will see families using eBikes. They are simply using it for pure transportation around town. There are a real advantages in using them for commuting because you can park them almost anywhere and you won’t have the expense that you do with a vehicle.

So, let me tell you one “war story” of a case recently. The client was on an eBike and they were in a crash with a car and the eBike was totaled. The important issue was that there was a dispute on whether my client was riding the eBike on the sidewalk or whether they were riding on the shoulder of the road. The adjuster had a misunderstanding that an eBike wasn’t considered a bicycle but instead a motorcycle which meant they shouldn’t have been riding where they were riding. So, this misunderstanding changed the liability by putting it on the cyclist. We were able to convince the adjuster by showing him the statute and how he was actually on a bicycle under the law and therefore the liability was with the driver. We were successfully able to get the case settled.

If you have any questions about eBikes feel free to email me and I’d be happy to answer them for you.

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Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.