eBikes Are Not 'Motor Vehicles'

By Bill Moore

Getting a bill passed can be as gentlemanly a sport as a round of golf, or as brutal and bloody as a rugby scrum. I am hoping LB 756, a bill to legalize electric bicycles in Nebraska, is the former, not the latter.

Photo: Nebraska's state capitol building in Lincoln reflects early 20th century Prairie Art Deco theme.

We Americans like to complain. We complain about the weather. We complain about taxes. And we complain about politics, especially in Washington, D.C.

Now there's little we can do about the weather, as opposed to the climate, as in global warming-induced climate change from the profligate burning of carbon-heavy fuels. But taxes and politics we can do something about, may be not easily or quickly - we are, after all a nation of more than 300 million people - but step-by-step, we can instigate change.

Often the best place to start is at the local level, in your own community, county or state. That's what I set out to do last Fall when I sent an email to my local State Senator, Jim Smith. I proposed to him that he introduce a bill in Nebraska's Unicameral, the only single house legislature in the country, that would formally define electric bicycles as 'bicycles' and not motor vehicles, effectively bringing the state into conformity with federal statute as defined by 15 U.S.C. 2085(b). While clearly not as pressing or controversial an issue as property tax reform or Medicare expansion, passage of the the bill, which you can read online, opens up the state's network of protected bike paths, levee trails, state parks and other facilities that currently prohibit 'motorized vehicles.'

Giving e-bike riders access to these dedicated pathways provides them with a safe place to ride, something that is especially important to older riders and women, in particular. While younger riders, men especially, are less intimated by riding with mixed traffic on streets and roads, survey after survey has underscored the importance to providing less experienced riders with segregated places to ride while they build their cycling skills and confidence levels.

That email letter to Senator Smith then led to correspondence with his legislative assistant, Lisa Johns, and eventually a face-to-face meeting during a local community Q&A session where I showed them my 12 year-old TidalForce M750 electric bike. The eventual result was LB 756.

Of course, drafting a bill, isn't the same as passing it. First it needs to be reviewed by the relevant Senate committee, in this case the Transportation and Telecommunications committee headed by Chairperson Annette Dubas. Public hearings are held, at least one, where citizens can express their views on the bill, either for, against, or neutral.

The first hearing will be held in the state capitol in Lincoln on Tuesday, February 25, 2014, at 1:30 PM in room 1113. As the catalyzer for the bill, I plan to attend and testify, which is limited to no more than 3-minutes per person. This being the second bill I have 'instigated' - the first legalized the use of Low-Speed Electric Vehicles or neighborhood EVs on public streets in Nebraska with speed limits 35 mph or less - I drafted the brief 3-minute comment reproduced below. I also plan to hand in a longer version for inclusion in the public record.

Assuming the bill gets out of committee, it then proceeds through several other steps before coming to a vote on the floor of the senate chamber. As to the chances of it passing, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly controversial or costly about it. Ms. Johns informs me that both the cities of Omaha and Lincoln are in favor of the bill. These are the two largest cities in the state. Also, it sounds like the Sierra Club has thrown its support behind it. Those are all good things.

However, the 2014 legislative session is a short one and there are a number of pressing political and economic issues facing the senators. In the press to get these measures heard and resolved, LB 756 may become 'road kill' in the rush finish the session on time. In this case, it will, in all likelihood, be resurrected for the 2015 legislative session. It took two sessions to get the LSEV law passed in the state, but that bill was also a bit more complicated.

So, while I am hopeful that LB 756 or its follow-on bill, will be passed in Nebraska, I am also a realist who is prepared to see this through however long it may take. That's how, by and large, our political system works, or is supposed to, unless serious money or influence are at stake, then it becomes a rough-n-tumble as a rugby scrum. Continuing the sports metaphor, passage of LB 756 can be likened to a round of golf, knocking the ball - or in this case the bill - from one hole to the next in as few a strokes as possible. Getting passage this year would be the equivalent of a 'hole-in-one.'

My next political goal, introducing a bill to allow for the creation of 'Benefit' or 'B' Corporations in the state, may be more like that scrum.

Three-Minute Public Statement on LB 756

Dear Madame Chairperson and Honored Committee Members:

My name is Bill Moore, I am the publisher of EV World.Com. We are the longest running Internet publication devoted to global electric vehicle development. I grew up in Nebraska and raised my family here. I am a thirty-year resident of Papillion and I am here to express my support for LB 756.

For the last sixteen years, I have covered the technologies, policies, and the people who have made possible many of the vehicles you see on the road today - or perhaps even own and drive: the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, the Nissan LEAF, the Tesla Model S: all greener vehicles that require little in the way of legislative policy-making to operate on our roads other than perhaps imposing fees to make up for lost gas tax revenue.

At the other end of the spectrum, we also cover an entirely different scale and class of electric vehicles: these are the two and three-wheeled variety, what we refer to as e-bikes. It is these vehicles that are the focus of LB 756.

Earlier this week, I took the liberty of sending each of you an email with photographs of several e-bikes to familiarize you with the technology. I also have brought along my own personal e-bike, a decade-old TidalForce M750. That bike is on display in Senator Smith's office across the hall.

I will also submit for the record a longer version of my testimony that considers the drivers propelling the growth of e-bikes globally.

But in the brief time that I have here, I want to focus on just one aspect of e-bikes: their health benefits.

Contrary to what you might expect, electric-assist bicycles do offer important health benefits. This is because e-bike systems are engineered to AID the rider, they do not replace the rider. Tests conducted a decade ago at Monash University in Australia demonstrated that not only do e-bikes offer levels of cardio stress comparable to a manual bicycle, but what Professor Rose and his team discovered was that the level of stress better matches the preferred workout zone of the rider than did riding the manual bike. They found that during their 5 km test the rider's heart rate often exceeded what is considered the ideal range. For a fit young college student, this is probably acceptable. For someone my age, it's not advisable.

Similar tests in Europe have validated the Monash University study. Riding an e-bike is good for you, say both the Swiss and Dutch. In fact, the Dutch, who ride bicycles more than anyone else on the planet on a daily basis, found that retirees 65 and older riding e-bikes are now able to ride as many kilometers per week as younger riders; an average of 30 km per week. That's 18 miles a week by bicycle. Previously it was less than half that on their manual bikes.

If we're looking for a way to extend the quality of life for an aging population, while reducing healthcare costs along with pollution and traffic congestion, I believe LB 756 is a good place to start.

Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Written Testimony for the Public Record

Since I am limited to just 3 minutes of public testimony, I plan to also submit the following document for inclusion in the public record.

Nebraska LB 756 Public Record Testimony

Times Article Viewed: 6923
Originally published: 24 Feb 2014


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