Showing posts with label ebikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ebikes. Show all posts

July 8, 2023

Congress tries to force CPSC to create mandatory standards for lithium batteries under the "Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act” introduced in March 2023

As we all know CPSC has been trying for force manufactures of e bikes and other related mobility devices to use existing UL standards in the manufacture of these devices. The worst offenders will of course ignore these polite non binding requests. We also know the CPSC is going to have a meeting in July 2023 to "discuss" batteries but we really are not sure what will come of such meeting(s). In the past the CPSC has resisted calls to create mandatory standards when in their opinion a voluntary standard seems to be solving the problem. (see 15 USC 2058)  Many have argued the voluntary UL standards are not working as adherence to them is low and only done by high end manufacturers. So Congress has stepped in under Senate bill 1008 introduced in March 2023. (in the same way they did to force the CPSC to create the massively confusing lead laws and related laws under CPSIA in 2008) Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the status of this bill.

Senate Bill 1008 (March 2023) (related bill HR 1797)

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Setting Consumer Standards for Lithium-Ion Batteries Act”.

SEC. 2. Consumer product safety standard for certain batteries.

(c) Treatment of standard.—A consumer product safety standard promulgated under subsection (a) shall be treated as a consumer product safety rule promulgated under section 9 of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2058).

Law Offices of Steven W. Hansen | www.swhlaw.com | 562 866 6228 © Copyright 1996-2023 Conditions of Use

June 5, 2023

CPSC Lithium-Ion Battery Safety; Notice of Meeting on July 27 2023 and Request for Comments

UPDATE 8/1/23: Today I received a Federal Register notice of the CPSC's "Semiannual Regulatory Agenda" just days after the meeting below. What stands out to me is that this document "...includes an agenda of regulations that the Commission expects to develop or review during the next 12 months." and there is no mention or reference at all in this very long document about ebikes, lithium batteries, bicycles or 16 CFR part 1512 (the bicycle and e bike regulation). Again these come out twice a year and we know that Congress is pushing CPSC to regulate ebikes via this bill but I don't thinks its likely that there will be anything significant happening at CPSC re batteries or ebikes until this bill passes. I might be wrong but I don't think anyone should be holding their breath in the next 12 mo for some regulations coming forth from the CPSC on the issues in the meeting referenced below. The proposed de minimus bill (H.R.4148 - Import Security and Fairness Act 118th Congress (2023-2024)) may also help the battery import situation well before CPSC acts.

Prior Post June 5 2023:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission will be holding a meeting on lithium-ion battery safety, with a specific focus on fires occurring in e-bikes and other micro-mobility products as well as the fire risks that may arise with the growing consumer market for other products containing such batteries. They are inviting interested parties to participate in or attend the meeting. A remote viewing option will be available for registrants. CPSC also invites interested parties to submit written comments related to the issues discussed in the notice.

There was allegedly going to be broader rulemaking announced on human powered bikes and or all of 16 CFR part 1512 as well but that notice has not yet appeared. That story appeared in Bicycle Retailer. It is not clear if this current notice is related to the notice discussed in Bicycle Retailer

If you wish to submit written comments for the record, you may do so before or after the meeting, as described in the ADDRESSES section of the notice. These written comments should be received by no later than August 21, 2023.  Please refer to the notice for the topics that the CPSC would like to see addressed.

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December 28, 2022

Class three (3) e bikes in CA now must be specifically prohibited on an equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.

I am not sure why or who (outside the legislature) initiated this California bill in Feb. 2022. The purpose is to allow class 3 bikes anywhere a class 1 or 2 bike is allowed by default. Unless of course the city or the county (or some other CA state local jurisdiction) disallow class 1, 2 or 3 bikes on some specific path or area under their control. I think the intent here here is that the Legislature assumed that most local entities wont take any action on this unless there is a real problem locally.  Like Del Mar CA as an example. I do not think allowing class 3 on class 1 bike paths (and other places) was the intent of the original model legislation passed around by People for Bikes. This also raises more issues with respect to class 3 classification jurisdiction as has been raised by the US Consumer Product Protection Agency (CPSC) lately. FYI the reference to "motorized bicycle" below in pink means basically a moped like device that does not go over 30 mph. See details here (CCV sec 406)   So the legislature at least smartly preserved that exception. However I don't see much difference between a moped and class 3 devices functionally or speed wise and quite frankly the ebikes on the class 1 bikeways I see now likely do not even meet CA class 3 requirements. I really DON'T think class 3 ebikes are appropriate on Class 1 bikeways (those completely separate and not near roads) but quite frankly nothing has been done to enforce or even post the existing law on most class 1 bike paths in CA to date so I don't see this as having much of an effect.

[ Approved by CA Governor September 16, 2022. Filed with Secretary of State September 16, 2022. ]
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST

[swh note: I have left in the red and blue original editing in the bill markups]

AB 1909, as amended, Friedman. Vehicles: bicycle omnibus bill.
Existing law generally regulates the operation of bicycles upon a highway. A violation of these provisions, generally, is punishable as an infraction.
(1) Existing law prohibits the operation of a motorized bicycle or a class 3 electric bicycle on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, as specified. Existing law authorizes a local authority to additionally prohibit the operation of class 1 and class 2 electric bicycles on these facilities.
This bill would remove the prohibition of class 3 electric bicycles on these facilities and would remove the authority of a local jurisdiction to prohibit class 1 and class 2 electric bicycles on these facilities. The bill would instead authorize a local authority to prohibit the operation of a class 3 any electric bicycle at a motor-assisted speed greater than 20 miles per hour. or any class of electric bicycle on an equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.

SECTION 1.

 Section 21207.5 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:

21207.5.
 (a) Notwithstanding Sections 21207 and 23127 of this code, or any other law, a motorized bicycle shall not be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane established pursuant to Section 21207, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, unless it is within or adjacent to a roadway or unless the local authority or the governing body of a public agency having jurisdiction over the path or trail permits, by ordinance, that operation.
(b) The local authority or governing body of a public agency having jurisdiction over an equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, may prohibit, by ordinance, the operation of an electric bicycle or any class of electric bicycle on that trail.
(c) The Department of Parks and Recreation may prohibit the operation of an electric bicycle or any class of electric bicycle on any bicycle path or trail within the department’s jurisdiction.




Law Offices of Steven W. Hansen | www.swhlaw.com | 562 866 6228 © Copyright 1996-2020 Conditions of Use

August 12, 2020

California Bill alert; AB-1286 Shared mobility devices: agreements (2019-2020) (AB 371 2022)

UPDATE 6/21/22. This bill was renumbered to AB 371 and CAL Bike does not like the insurance requirements. Quite a few provisions have been added since 2020 version below. Here is the calbike campaign and the link to the current version of the bill. Act now in contacting your CA legislator as votes can happen very quickly without warning.

UPDATE 9/2/20. So the legislative year is over in CA as of 8/31/20...whew...The final bill language is set forth below as of 9/2/20. They still did not clean up the issue below in my 8/27/20 update. If the bill is signed by Gov. Newsom it looks like it would take effect January 1, 2021.

UPDATE 8/27/20:

It appears that the mobility industry and or others in the industry were able to remove all the provisions in the bill relating to releases. However in my opinion the definition of a  “Shared mobility device” and a  “Shared mobility device provider” is still too vague which then leads to a problem with this remaining provision "(b) Before distribution of a shared mobility device, a shared mobility service provider shall enter into an agreement with, or obtain a permit from, the city or county with jurisdiction over the area of use. "Distribution" is way too vague and again this could apply to very small rental operations that cannot afford such high insurance limits.

ORIGINAL 8/12/20 POST:

Once again someone in the California legislature got whiff of a bad idea and decided to run with it. Just like the AB 5 bill last year regarding independent contractors and the resulting unwinding of Uber in CA., now we have a "shared mobility bill" that attempts to "fix" a few issues in that sector but does it in a very heavy handed way. 

The first problem is the definition of a "shared mobility device". (ellipses eliminates unneeded verbiage) "Shared mobility device” means an electrically motorized board.... motorized scooter ... electric bicycle... [human powered] bicycle..., or other similar personal transportation device, .... that is made available to the public..". It gets worse.

“Shared mobility service provider”... means a person or entity that offers, makes available, or provides a shared mobility device in exchange for financial compensation..."

So if one person wanted to rent a bike to someone, this law applies to that person renting a bike. Rather overbroad and too all inclusive. Poorly drafted in my opinion. There should be some revenue size threshold added to this definition.

Now for the good part, if you rent one of these devices (regardless of the size of your business or the amount of revenue to you earn) you have to purchase a policy from a California admitted insurer (might be tough from what I know of this insurance market) and the limits have to be 1 million per claim and 5 million dollars in the aggregate. In some respects that is more than Walmart suppliers have to procure to sell to Walmart.

But there is more. The "agreement between the provider and a user shall not contain a provision by which the user waives, releases, or in any way limits their legal rights or remedies under the agreement.". So even though California statutory law and case law allows for such waivers and releases in the recreational sports context, this legislator knows better and is going to go against established law. Such releases are not allowed in a product liability case to begin with. All this does is expose the companies renting (not product manufacturers or distributors) to MORE liability and make it harder for them to extricate themselves from litigation. Also the insurance market has "priced in" those waivers and without them insurance costs will likely rise in this sector. Legislators should think very long and hard before tinkering with existing liability laws and precedent. The law of unintended consequences makes things hard to fix once a new law is unleashed.

It goes on to provide that "A city or county that authorized a provider to operate within its jurisdiction before January 1, 2020, and continues to provide that authorization shall adopt rules for the operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules regarding the use and maintenance of shared mobility devices..."

Quite frankly I trust the mobility companies to come up with better rules for operation than any government entity. Trust me I have seen this play out before. Government entities are not very adept at this especially considering the hundreds of different devices out there.

It is worth noting that this bill is co-sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC) (which is a large association of attorneys that represents plaintiff's) and the League of California Cities (which is a group that generally advocates for cities) It is supported by the Environmental Defense Fund and a number of consumer protection groups. It is opposed by a number of shared mobility service providers, TechNet, and the Civil Justice Association of California.

The senate Judiciary Committee Analysis is as follows (in part)

Required prohibition on waiver of rights and remedies

Pursuant to the bill, the agreement and permit must also prohibit provisions in shared mobility provider agreements between providers and users by which the user waives, releases, or in any way limits their legal rights or remedies under the agreement. Writing in opposition, were a coalition of groups, including a number of providers such as Bird and Lime.

What is interesting is that the committee responded to their opposition with:

"It is true that such waivers are generally permitted and widely used, but are subject to certain limitations and requirements laid out in statute and case law. Civil Code Section 1668 provides:All contracts which have for their object, directly or indirectly, to exempt anyone from responsibility for his own fraud, or willful injury to the person or property of another, or violation of law, whether willful or negligent, are against the policy of the law.Relevant judicial precedent further requires that waivers must be clear, unambiguous, and explicit in expressing the intent of the subscribing parties, as well as comprehensible in each of its essential details. (Benedek v. PLC Santa Monica(2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 1351, 1356; Westlye v. Look Sports, Inc.(1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 1715, 1731."

So even after acknowledging years of case law out there to protect consumer from onerous releases or waivers the Legislature still felt it was appropriate and ban outright the use of waivers and in a very broad fashion (not just for electric devices) or limiting the ban to large providers.

The plaintiff attorneys association responded (some what inaccurately) that:

"The opposition argues that such agreements are common. However, (1) [releases] being common does not make them right and (2) they are different from other rental agreements/operators. The companies manufacture (Editor: that is not true in all circumstances) and place e-scooters into the stream of commerce and are more akin to a product manufacturer and/or retailer and less like an innocent rental agency with no control over the product. Also, the manufacturers have the exclusive control to fix/maintain the scooters. (Editor: this is is also not always accurate) When a driver rents a vehicle, he or she is not required to waive the liability of car defects; neither should a scooter rider."

The Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) responded that "The scooter manufacturer has no way of exerting control over the scooter rider and does not deserve full legal responsibility for accidents that may occur as a result of a rider’s behavior." The Legislative analyst responded that "assumption of risk" can still be asserted but I would point out if the defendant is in fact a product manufacturer or in the stream of distribution "assumption of risk" is not available as a defense in a pure product liability case.

If you want to see the full bill analysis click here. It is worth a read.

The entire bill as it exists today is set forth below. This bill was last amended in June of 2019 and it is just now coming up for a hearing with the CA Senate Judiciary Committee on August 18, 2020. Don't ask why. It passed out of committee on 8/19/20 and is now set for a 'third reading". This is part of the problem with the CA legislature. Surprise hearings on dormant bills months down the road. Maybe that's planned. August 31 is the last day to pass the bill.

The committee can be reached at:
State Capitol
Room 2187
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4113
Fax: (916) 403-7394
Email: sjud.fax@sen.ca.gov

The bill author can be reached here.

FINAL LANGUAGE OF BILL AWAITING SIGNATURE BY GOV. NEWSOM LIKELY WITHIN 30 DAYS:

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Title 10.1 (commencing with Section 2505) is added to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:

TITLE 10.1. Shared Mobility Devices

2505.
 (a) For purposes of this title:
(1) “Shared mobility device” means an electrically motorized board as defined in Section 313.5 of the Vehicle Code, motorized scooter as defined in Section 407.5 of the Vehicle Code, electric bicycle as defined in Section 312.5 of the Vehicle Code, bicycle as defined in Section 231 of the Vehicle Code, or other similar personal transportation device, except as provided in subdivision (b) of Section 415 of the Vehicle Code, that is made available to the public by a shared mobility service provider for shared use and transportation in exchange for financial compensation via a digital application or other electronic or digital platform.
(2) “Shared mobility service provider” or “provider” means a person or entity that offers, makes available, or provides a shared mobility device in exchange for financial compensation or membership via a digital application or other electronic or digital platform.
(b) Before distribution of a shared mobility device, a shared mobility service provider shall enter into an agreement with, or obtain a permit from, the city or county with jurisdiction over the area of use. The agreement or permit shall, at a minimum, require that the shared mobility service provider maintain commercial general liability insurance coverage with a carrier doing business in California, with limits not less than one million dollars ($1,000,000) for each occurrence for bodily injury or property damage, including contractual liability, personal injury, and product liability and completed operations, and not less than five million dollars ($5,000,000) aggregate for all occurrences during the policy period. The insurance shall not exclude coverage for injuries or damages caused by the shared mobility service provider to the shared mobility device user.
(c) (1) A city or county that authorizes a provider to operate within its jurisdiction on or after January 1, 2021, shall adopt rules for the operation, parking, and maintenance of shared mobility devices before a provider may offer any shared mobility device for rent or use in the city or county by any of the following:
(A) Ordinance.
(B) Agreement.
(C) Permit terms.
(2) A city or county that authorized a provider to operate within its jurisdiction before January 1, 2021, and continues to provide that authorization shall adopt rules for the operation, parking, and maintenance of shared mobility devices by January 1, 2022, by any of the following:
(A) Ordinance.
(B) Agreement.
(C) Permit terms.
(3) A provider shall comply with all applicable rules, agreements, and permit terms established pursuant to this subdivision.
(d) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a city or county from adopting any ordinance or regulation that is not inconsistent with this title.

SEC. 2.

 The provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.

 

OLDER VERSION OF THE BILL BELOW:

Introduced by Assembly Member Muratsuchi

February 21, 2019


An act to add Title 10.1 (commencing with Section 2505) to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, relating to mobility devices.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1286, as amended, Muratsuchi. Shared mobility devices: agreements.
Existing law regulates contracts for particular transactions, including those in which one person agrees to give to another person the temporary possession and use of personal property, other than money for reward, and the latter agrees to return the property to the former at a future time.
This bill would require a shared mobility service provider, as defined, to enter into an agreement with, or obtain a permit from, the city or county with jurisdiction over the area of use. The bill would require that the provider maintain a specified amount of commercial general liability insurance and would prohibit the provider from including specified provisions in a user agreement before distributing a shared mobility device within that jurisdiction. The bill would define shared mobility device to mean an electrically motorized board, motorized scooter, electric bicycle, bicycle, or other similar personal transportation device, except as provided.
This bill would require a city or county that authorizes a shared mobility device provider to operate within its jurisdiction on or after January 1, 2020, to adopt operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules and maintenance rules, as provided, regarding the use of the shared mobility devices in its jurisdiction before the provider may offer shared mobility devices for rent or use. The bill would require a city or county that authorized a provider to operate within its jurisdiction before January 1, 2020, and continues to provide that authorization to adopt those operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules and maintenance rules, as provided, by January 1, 2021.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Title 10.1 (commencing with Section 2505) is added to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:

TITLE 10.1. Shared Mobility Devices

2505.
 (a) For purposes of this title:
(1) “Shared mobility device” means an electrically motorized board as defined in Section 313.5 of the Vehicle Code, motorized scooter as defined in Section 407.5 of the Vehicle Code, electric bicycle as defined in Section 312.5 of the Vehicle Code, bicycle as defined in Section 231 of the Vehicle Code, or other similar personal transportation device, except as provided in subdivision (b) of Section 415 of the Vehicle Code, that is made available to the public by a shared mobility service provider for shared use and transportation in exchange for financial compensation via a digital application or other electronic or digital platform.
(2) “Shared mobility service provider” or “provider” means a person or entity that offers, makes available, or provides a shared mobility device in exchange for financial compensation or membership via a digital application or other electronic or digital platform.
(b) Before distribution of a shared mobility device, a shared mobility service provider shall enter into an agreement with, or obtain a permit from, the city or county with jurisdiction over the area of use. The agreement or permit shall, at a minimum, require that the provider comply with both of the following requirements:
(1) Requires Require that the shared mobility service provider to maintain commercial general liability insurance coverage with a carrier doing business in California, with limits not less than one million dollars ($1,000,000) for each occurrence for bodily injury or property damage, including contractual liability, personal injury, and product liability and completed operations, and not less than five million dollars ($5,000,000) aggregate for all occurrences during the policy period. The insurance shall not exclude coverage for injuries or damages caused by the shared mobility service provider to the shared mobility device user.
(2) The shared mobility provider agreement between the provider and a user shall not contain a provision by which the user waives, releases, or in any way limits their legal rights or remedies under the agreement.
(c) (1) A city or county that authorizes a provider to operate within its jurisdiction on or after January 1, 2020, shall adopt rules for the operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules regarding the use and maintenance of shared mobility devices before a provider may offer any shared mobility device for rent or use in the city or county. county by any of the following:
(A) Ordinance.
(B) Agreement.
(C) Permit terms.
(2) A city or county that authorized a provider to operate within its jurisdiction before January 1, 2020, and continues to provide that authorization shall adopt rules for the operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules regarding the use and maintenance of shared mobility devices by January 1, 2021. 2021, by any of the following:
(A) Ordinance.
(B) Agreement.
(C) Permit terms.
(3) A provider shall comply with all operation, parking, maintenance, and safety rules applicable rules, agreements, and permit terms established pursuant to this subdivision.
(d) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a city or county from adopting any ordinance or regulation that is not inconsistent with this title.

SEC. 2.

 The provisions of this act are severable. If any provision of this act or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
 

Law Offices of Steven W. Hansen | www.swhlaw.com | 562 866 6228 © Copyright 1996-2020 Conditions of Use

May 3, 2020

Opinion: Issue Of Ebikes On Federal Lands Far From Over [reprinted with permission from cyclevolta.com 4-20]

[reprinted with permission from www.cyclevolta.com April 2020; direct link to original article here]

Current rulemaking to raise more questions around access, attorney says.





Editor’s note: Steven W. Hansen is an attorney who represents product manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in product liability and other lawsuits and provides consultation on all matters related to the manufacture and distribution of ebikes and other consumer products. For further questions, visit swhlaw.com or send an email to legal.inquiry@swhlaw.com.


As some of you may recall, back in 2003 the Consumer Product Safety Commission decided to regulate ebikes in much the same as they did “non-powered” bicycles by adding a provision to federal law defining a bicycle as “a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” Now fast-forward to early 2015. At that point the then-titled Bicycle Products Suppliers Association—now merged with PeopleForBikes—decided to expand on the CPSC law and create three “classes” of ebikes, implicitly understanding that one day at least one or more classes would also be used off road.


The initial push with the three ebike classes was into large states like California, which adopted the framework in the fall of 2015. The idea was to start with a few key states and then see if all state legislatures would adopt the three-class structure. At that point the three classes could be relied upon by manufacturers nationwide.


But off-road use was a little less clear. The California state law (AB 1096), for example, specifically excluded Class 3 ebikes from being used on off-road “trails” (on state land) but did allow Class 1 and 2 to be used off road unless the “local authority or governing body of a public agency” decided to prohibit them “by ordinance.” This is still a very murky area of the state law. But even if we assume that the California state law applies to all “off-road trails” at state parks (public land) and county and city parks, it still does not apply to federal land of any type or land owned by nongovernmental entities (private property).


Now fast-forward again to August 2019. More than 20 states had adopted some form of the BPSA model legislation. The US Secretary of the Interior signed an order directing the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation to develop proposed rules to revise their own regulations to be consistent with the three classes of ebikes defined in the order. The “appropriate public guidance regarding the use of ebikes on public lands” was to be issued within 30 days.


In September 2019 the NPS did issue a four-page “policy memorandum” on the regulation of ebikes, outlining the three classes, prohibiting anything outside of those three classes, and also disallowing the use of ebikes where the motor was being used exclusively (like Class 2 bikes allow) or of course anything beyond the CPSC regulations. The memo encouraged park superintendents to not make park regulations more restrictive than the state’s laws where the national park was located—pointing out that many states had already adopted the three-class approach. Some 380 parks (out of a total of 419) within the national park system have already implemented their ebike policy as of today.

Now the four agencies above have posted their proposed official regulations (in the Code of Federal Regulations) to take the place of the “memorandums” put in place informally in late 2019. To read more detail on each as well as links for directly commenting on each regulation use the following links: NPS, BLM, FWS, BOR.


Much of this access being outlined is academic right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the comment period for these proposed CFR rules is open now and expires in early June. What is not known is if this comment period will be extended or if, after the first comment period, the proposed rules are revised again and rereleased for comment. Also, it is not known at this time how many comments there will be, from who or what groups, and how long it will take for the government to review them and make changes, if any, to those proposed. If history is a guide, I would not expect significant changes to what has been “proposed” unless groups opposed to ebikes take control of the narrative or the 750-watt limit itself is challenged.


Much the same way we have local access issues and unanswered questions arising from the California state law, we will have local federal access issues under federal law. Park superintendents overseeing specific parks and national forest areas will have to deal with specific issues with Class 1, 2, and 3 bikes as they arise.


Focusing again just on the NPS proposal, the three classes of bikes are explicitly adopted and ebikes would be allowed on administrative roads and trails where bicycles are allowed without the need to undertake further action. But the proposed rules would also give park superintendents the authority to limit or restrict ebike use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection, and other management activities and objectives and then manage ebikes, or particular classes of ebikes, differently than traditional bicycles in particular locations. Every restriction or closure that limits the use of ebikes would have to be supported by a written record explaining the basis for such action.


The proposed rule seeks to restrict Class 2 ebikes to park roads or places motor vehicles can travel. It seeks comment on the workability of this restriction or suggests park superintendents deal with this in a location-by-location fashion.


Again the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation—the last of which primarily oversees federal dams and reservoirs west of the Mississippi River—have proposed similar regulations with some variations.


Much the same way we have local access issues and unanswered questions arising from the California state law, we will have local federal access issues under federal law. Park superintendents overseeing specific parks and national forest areas will have to deal with specific issues with Class 1, 2, and 3 bikes as they arise. So this is long from over. We also still have a small population of ebikes and users who don’t comply with the three classes. Additionally, there is lots of non-public land and a huge gap that will need to be filled to create correct signage for all these thousands of trails and spaces and effectively policing them so that renegade users/ebikes do not ruin access for the law-abiding users.


The information in this column is subject to change and may not be applicable in your state or country. It is intended as a thought-provoking discussion of general legal principles and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.


Law Offices of Steven W. Hansen | www.swhlaw.com | 562 866 6228 © Copyright 1996-2020 Conditions of Use

January 24, 2014

Legal analysis: Confusion over electric bike regulations


Published July 29, 2013 in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News
Republished with permission

by Steven W Hansen

After reading two articles in BRAIN’s June 15, 2013 issue (“Speedy e-bikes trouble industry” and “NYC e-bike crackdown exposes legal morass”) as well as a follow up letter to the editor in the July 1, 2013 edition, I was compelled to respond to some apparent misunderstanding by some as to what the “laws and regulations” are with respect to electric bikes and how they do and don’t work together.

First of all there is quite a bit of confusion regarding terminology. I am going to use the phrase “electric bikes” to cover all “bicycles” (not stand on scooters without a seat) which have an “electric motor” to (help) propel them. The industry has evolved into “low speed” electric bikes and “high speed” electric bikes and various configurations which require no pedaling (or may not even have pedals) to the various “pedal assist” varieties, in which the motor wont help you unless you help it. But I digress.

Before 2003 there was really very little in the way of laws or regulations dealing with electric bikes. California passed a few laws in 1998 dealing with what at the time was a new phenomenon and those laws still exist today (more on that later). But the main event that started the ball rolling was when the bicycle industry was able to get Congress to pass a law amending the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) definition of a “bicycle” to include “low speed electric bicycles” which is defined as a “two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.

This did help clarify the CPSC’s jurisdiction. Before 2003 there was a legitimate question if CPSC had “regulatory” authority over all electric bikes (as “consumer products”, its generally mandated scope of authority) or if it overlapped the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) and its sub agency the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA defined (and regulated) “motor vehicles” (and still does today) as a “vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on the public streets, roads, and highways…”

From the 2003 change in the regulations it was clear that the CPSC only wanted to carve out a small(er) part of the “electric bike” market to similarly regulate as “bicycles” (no new regulations were adopted to deal with the manufacture of electric bikes, just the definition).

Unfortunately this still left NHTSA holding the bag sort of speak on what to do with all the “other” electric “devices” not regulated under CPSC’s new 2003 “carve out”. Before 2005 NHTSA had taken a somewhat ad hoc approach to requests for clarifications from electric or “motorized” bicycle manufacturers (and others) as to whether specific devices were “motor vehicles” or not. But after the CPSC acted in 2003 NHTSA then began a “notice of draft interpretation and request for comments” (aka “rulemaking” without intervention by Congress) in 2005 to help clarify when certain two and three wheeled motorized devices would be deemed “vehicles” and regulated by NHTSA and when they would not be. The problem of course is that one agency can only determine the scope of its own regulatory authority, not that of another agency. NHTSA placed great emphasis on the 20 mph limit that CPSC focused on. They also differentiated a ‘‘Motor-driven cycle’’ previously defined as “motorcycle” “with a motor that produces 5-brake horsepower or less.’’ NHTSA adopted the 20 mph limit as a more decisive factor as opposed to previous rulings as it concluded “that the maximum speed of a vehicle with on-road capabilities is largely determinative of whether the vehicle was manufactured to operate on a public road, in normal moving traffic, and therefore a ‘‘motor vehicle.’’

Unfortunately the method to determine that speed was much more involved than the CPSC’s method and could yield slightly different results. Also the “draft interpretation” remained vague for two and three-wheeled vehicles with a speed capability of 20 mph or greater. Those vehicles would be excluded from the definition of ‘‘motor vehicle’’ if they were manufactured primarily for off-road use. To determine that question NHTSA would again revert to the case by case approach of looking at the physical features of the vehicle to see if was intended for on or off road use. Again NHTSA does not regulate any off road vehicles like off road motorcycles for instance. Those all fall under CPSC jurisdiction (by default, if it’s a “consumer product”), yet there are no CPSC regulations specifically for such electrically powered devices (if they don’t meet the CPSC definition of a “low speed electric bicycle”). Finally, the NHTSA 2005 “draft interpretation” is still in “draft” stage and is no more binding that any opinion letter from NHTSA. It is not a regulation like CPSC’s electric bike definition and from discussing the matter with the NHTSA legal department there is nothing indicating that will change any time soon.

The electric bike manufacturers and distributors are for the most part satisfied with the way the laws are currently written (or at least interpreted) at the federal level. However some would like to see better and more clear regulation of the over 20 mph category as they apparently are trying to do in the EU with “fast or speed pedelecs.”

The trickier issue of course was raised once again in the article “NYC e-bike crackdown exposes legal morass” which brings to light what many fail to realize about the federal regulations. First none of the electric bikes that fall within the regulations (under 20 mph) have any specific regulations directed at electric bikes other than simply defining what is and to some extent what is not an electric bike (neither NHTSA or CPSC have regulations covering the motors or throttle devices, for example).

Over the years states have basically borrowed NHTSA’s definition of a motor vehicle along with all the regulations governing their manufacture and have incorporated those into their state laws. States have similarly regulated bicycles utilizing the 1973 CPSC bicycle standard as a basis. But with electric bicycles the process seemed to happen in reverse. Electric bicycles popped up and states, caught by surprise, felt they needed to deal with them on their roads and sidewalks, as CPSC and NHTSA failed to timely regulate their manufacture. Some of these laws unfortunately also had to define what the state felt an electric bike was and was not and in some cases this can conflict with federal law.

The other problem is that these federal regulations only affect the manufacture and first sale of these devices, not where, when, how, who and under what other conditions (age limits, licenses, insurance, registration etc.) they can be operated. The federal law has no “preemptive effect” over such state laws. These issues have always traditionally been regulated by state laws and in some cases even county and city laws. This is also true for cars, trucks and traditional non-powered bikes. CPSC mandates how bicycles must be tested and sold and what standards bicycle helmets must meet in their testing and construction but it does not mandate that riders must use the helmets while riding bicycles. That is left up to states or cities to regulate. The same was true for bicycle headlights and tail lights. CPSC does not require them on bikes but most state laws do if riding on road at night. This issue was hotly contested in a serious injury case some years back.

I approached the electric bike industry in 1995-2000 with a two pronged approach; Try to develop some voluntary standards for electric bikes that could be adopted by NHTSA or CPSC (much like they adopted the ASTM bicycle helmet standard) and then try to use model “use” legislation at the state level incorporating the ASTM standards and classifications. The proposal drew interest but was not acted upon by enough influential companies at the time. This legislative approach was somewhat followed by Google with it driverless car legislation passed in California and Nevada recently. Segway also tried a similar approach to pave the way for sales of its totally new type of device.

But the electric bike industry is following the traditional, difficult and time consuming approach. Let consumers buy the products and once a critical mass of the devises is in use there will be legislative “fixes” to accommodate the safe use of mainstream devices. The problem of course is that this is a car centric country, where drivers don’t like bikes of any kind on “their” roads, and many state legislators don’t really like Washington DC’s approach to anything. This was clear in the comments from states to NHTSA’s proposed regulation in 2005. Hopefully this method will work as it may be too late for the “pave the way with legislation first” method. The EU also tried to get a regulatory framework in place before the market was flooded with various devices and in some respects it worked as the EU market is much larger than the US market right now for electric bikes. There are other reasons as well.

Another issue to keep in mind are what some refer to as “fast” electric bicycles, which can travel over 20 mph solely on motor power. The fact that these “fast” electric bikes can travel over 20 mph solely on motor power takes them outside the scope of the CPSC definition of a “low speed electric bicycle”. Some sellers of these “fast” electric bikes claim that these bikes are designed for “off road” use. However, this may be a way to get around the CPSC and NHTSA regulations (and possibly some state laws), since some of these bikes appear to be designed for road use, as opposed to “off road” use (using the NHTSA interpretations). These “fast” e-bikes are causing debates in some states, notably in New York as noted in the article “NYC e-bike crackdown exposes legal morass”.

As pointed out above, the CPSC’s definition of an electric bike centers around a 20 mph limit, with the caveat that this 20 mph must not be exceeded if the electric bike is solely powered by its motor. Accordingly, this definition permits an electric bike which is powered by its rider (with the possible assistance of a motor, making the electric bike what some call a “pedelec”) to travel faster than 20 mph. The distinction is key to a correct interpretation of the CPSC’s definition.

Lastly, on a related topic altogether, some people appear to be confused about where the regulations fit in to the overall scheme of things in terms of liability. If a rider is injured by or on an electric bike, compliance with a regulation or standard (mandatory or otherwise) is not going to be of much help other than possibly being persuasive. (read more on that here). However failure to comply with a regulation (that is applicable) really can create an uphill battle in court. But again the facts of each specific case will be vastly different and drawing conclusions from specific cases will be difficult.

In the meantime it will be interesting to see what develops out of New York and if there is a state or city wide solution. As most in the industry know trying to lobby government officials to your point of view is a tricky business and fraught with pitfalls.

Steven W. Hansen an attorney who defends product manufacturers, distributors and retailers in product liability lawsuits and provides consultation on all matters related to the manufacture and distribution of consumer products. For further questions visit www.swhlaw.com or send an e mail to: legal.inquiry@swhlaw.com

The information in this column is subject to change and may not be applicable in your state. It is intended as a thought provoking discussion of general legal principles and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.



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