Introduction

Before investing untold amounts of time and money into a power-assisted bike project, my first task was to determine how the laws affected the original design goals.

After putting my thoughts together, I passed most of the following information to my lawyer, and while she came back with no major flaws in my logic…a word of warning; what you'll read here is ultimately a layman's interpretation. So, please do yourself a favor, and do your own research. I am not a lawyer, and the following is not to be construed as any sort of legal advice.

Original Design Goals

  • Higher average cruising speed.
  • Power-assisted only beyond 15MPH
  • Distances between charges: 20+ miles.
  • Excluding battery, additional weight on bike no greater than 5lbs.
  • Made from as many off-the-shelf products as possible.
  • Small footprint, with minimal interference with “existing” bike.
  • Minimal to non-existent operator impact when disengaged.

Scope

Oregon is my home-state, so that's my primary focus in this discussion. Given its proximity, Washington state related information is being added as time permits.

Federal Overview

Under Federal Law, eBike are NOT considered motor vehicles unless the state or local entity has passed a law otherwise.

Consumer Safety Product Commission

Some sites may imply that Consumer Safety Product Commission has a further reach than Federal Law allows…though the underlying fact remains.

When an eBike is commercially manufactured, only then does the following apply:

Enacted on December 4, 2002, the 107th US Congress passed, and the president signed into law, an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Act. This amendment simply defined low-speed electric bicycles as consumer products, and put control of monitoring the safety equipment on electric bicycles into the hands of the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The amendment's definitions supersede any state law that is more stringent, but only regarding safety equipment required on electric bicycles, and not regarding whether electric bicycles are street legal. The states still decide what vehicles are allowed to use the roads in their state.

The CPSC amendment stipulates that commercially manufactured low-speed electric bicycles, or tricycles, must have fully operable pedals, an electric motor not exceeding 750W of power and a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour (32 km/h). Under Public Law, Federal USA 107-319, an electric bike remaining within this definition is regarded simply as a bicycle.

Other Federal Rules & Regulations

The below is copied largely from my additions to a Wikipedia article on electric bicycles.

There is a misconception that signage indicating “no motor vehicles” or “motorized vehicles prohibited” includes “legal low power electric assist bicycles”. This is untrue, these terms can only apply if a specific state or local law defines and prohibits electric bicycles.

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), also known as Public Law 105-178, and its 2005 re-authorization known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU), renews the exclusion of legal eBike from the classification as 'motor vehicles'. They specify that electric bicycles are legal on urban bicycle trail systems receiving federal funding, unless states or local entities have passed statue specifically dis-allowing electric assist bicycles (TEA-21, 1202(a)(7)). These acts define an electric bicycle simply as any bicycle or tricycle with a low-powered electric motor weighing under 100 pounds, with a top motor-powered speed of 20 miles per hour.

There is some debate as to if and where the 100lb rule applies. On the surface it appears to be valid on trails. Check your state and local laws for any recent changes.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that “Since [1998, when federal rules regulating equipment on these vehicles became effective], 37 states have passed legislation allowing these vehicles to be driven on roads with posted speed limits of 35 miles per hour or lower.”

As always, unsafe operation may be a specific illegal or civil matter to be handled by local courts.

Oregon

Oregon Law is very ambiguous in regards to exactly what is legal and not. There are three sections which can apply to motor-assisted bicycles (aside from simply being classified as a motorcycle):

Moped

801.345 Moped. “Moped” means a vehicle, including any bicycle equipped with a power source, other than an electric assisted bicycle as defined in ORS 801.258 or a motor assisted scooter as defined in ORS 801.348, that complies with all of the following:

  1. It is designed to be operated on the ground upon wheels.
  2. It has a seat or saddle for use of the rider.
  3. It is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.
  4. It is equipped with an independent power source that:
    1. Is capable of propelling the vehicle, unassisted, at a speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on a level road surface; and
    2. If the power source is a combustion engine, has a piston or rotor displacement of 35.01 to 50 cubic centimeters regardless of the number of chambers in the power source.
  5. It is equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only and does not require clutching or shifting by the operator after the system is engaged. [1983 c.338 §59; 1985 c.16 §19; 1997 c.400 §5; 2001 c.749 §25]

Motor assisted Scooter

801.348 Motor assisted scooter. “Motor assisted scooter” means a vehicle that:

  1. Is designed to be operated on the ground with not more than three wheels;
  2. Has handlebars and a foot support or seat for the operator’s use;
  3. Can be propelled by motor or human propulsion; and
  4. Is equipped with a power source that is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of greater than 24 miles per hour on level ground and:
    1. If the power source is a combustion engine, has a piston or rotor displacement of 35 cubic centimeters or less regardless of the number of chambers in the power source; or
    2. If the power source is electric, has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts. [2001 c.749 §2]

Electric Assisted Bicycle

801.258 Electric assisted bicycle. “Electric assisted bicycle” means a vehicle that:

  1. Is designed to be operated on the ground on wheels;
  2. Has a seat or saddle for use of the rider;
  3. Is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground;
  4. Has both fully operative pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor; and
  5. Is equipped with an electric motor that:
    1. Has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts; and
    2. Is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground. [1997 c.400 §2; 1999 c.59 §233]

814.405 Status of electric assisted bicycle

  1. An electric assisted bicycle shall be considered a bicycle, rather than a motor vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute. [1997 c.400 §4

Bike Lanes

811.435 Operation of motor vehicle on bicycle trail; exemptions; penalty.

  1. A person commits the offense of operation of a motor vehicle on a bicycle trail if the person operates a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane or a bicycle path.
  2. Exemptions to this section are provided under ORS 811.440.
  3. This section is not applicable to mopeds. ORS 811.440 and 814.210 control the operation and use of mopeds on bicycle lanes and paths.
  4. The offense described in this section, operation of a motor vehicle on a bicycle trail, is a Class B traffic infraction. [1983 c.338 §643]

811.440 When motor vehicles may operate on bicycle lane. This section provides exemptions from the prohibitions under ORS 811.435 and 814.210 against operating motor vehicles on bicycle lanes and paths. The following vehicles are not subject to ORS 811.435 and 814.210 under the circumstances described:

  1. A person may operate a moped on a bicycle lane that is immediately adjacent to the roadway only while the moped is being exclusively powered by human power.
  2. A person may operate a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane when: (a) Making a turn; (b) Entering or leaving an alley, private road or driveway; or © Required in the course of official duty.
  3. An implement of husbandry may momentarily cross into a bicycle lane to permit other vehicles to overtake and pass the implement of husbandry.
  4. A person may operate a motorized wheelchair on a bicycle lane or path. (5) A person may operate a motor assisted scooter on a bicycle lane or path. (6) A person may operate an electric personal assistive mobility device on a bicycle lane or path. [1983 c.338 §645; 1991 c.417 §1; 2001 c.749 §24; 2003 c.341 §8]

814.210 Operation of moped on sidewalk or bicycle trail; penalty.

  1. A person commits the offense of operation of a moped on a sidewalk or bicycle trail if the person operates a moped upon a sidewalk, a bicycle path or a bicycle lane.
  2. Exemptions to this section are provided under ORS 811.440.
  3. The offense described in this section, operation of a moped on a sidewalk or bicycle trail, is a Class D traffic infraction. [1983 c.338 §644]

811.440 When motor vehicles may operate on bicycle lane This section provides exemptions from the prohibitions under ORS 811.435 (Operation of motor vehicle on bicycle trail) and 814.210 (Operation of moped on sidewalk or bicycle trail) against operating motor vehicles on bicycle lanes and paths. The following vehicles are not subject to ORS 811.435 (Operation of motor vehicle on bicycle trail) and 814.210 (Operation of moped on sidewalk or bicycle trail) under the circumstances described:

  1. A person may operate a moped on a bicycle lane that is immediately adjacent to the roadway only while the moped is being exclusively powered by human power.
  2. A person may operate a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane when:
    1. Making a turn;
    2. Entering or leaving an alley, private road or driveway; or
    3. Required in the course of official duty.
  3. An implement of husbandry may momentarily cross into a bicycle lane to permit other vehicles to overtake and pass the implement of husbandry.
  4. A person may operate a motorized wheelchair on a bicycle lane or path.
  5. A person may operate a motor assisted scooter on a bicycle lane or path.
  6. A person may operate an electric personal assistive mobility device on a bicycle lane or path. [1983 c.338 §645; 1991 c.417 §1; 2001 c.749 §24; 2003 c.341 §8]

Other Laws & Definitions

811.495 Unlawful coasting on downgrade; exception; penalty.

  1. A person commits the offense of unlawful coasting on a downgrade if the person is the driver of a vehicle on a downgrade and the person coasts with the gears or transmission of the motor vehicle in neutral or with the clutch disengaged.
  2. This section does not apply to the driver of a motorized bicycle.
  3. The offense described in this section, unlawful coasting on a downgrade, is a Class D traffic violation. [1983 c.338 §656; 1985 c.16 §321; 1995 c.383 §76]

801.150 Bicycle means a vehicle that:

  1. Is designed to be operated on the ground on wheels;
  2. Has a seat or saddle for use of the rider;
  3. Is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground;
  4. Is propelled exclusively by human power; and
  5. Has every wheel more than 14 inches in diameter or two tandem wheels either of which is more than 14 inches in diameter. [1983 c.338 §22]

801.155 Bicycle lane means that part of the highway, adjacent to the roadway, designated by official signs or markings for use by persons riding bicycles except as otherwise specifically provided by law. [1983 c.338 §23]

801.160 Bicycle path means a public way, not part of a highway, that is designated by official signs or markings for use by persons riding bicycles except as otherwise specifically provided by law. [1983 c.338 §24]

Violations

From Violations for Electric Assisted Bikes, Mopeds, Motor Assisted Scooters and Electric Personal Assisted Mobility Devices.

Mopeds / Motorcycles & Pocket Bikes

814.200 Unlawful operation of motorcycle or moped penalty B-Violation
814.210 Operation of moped on sidewalk or bicycle trail penalty D-Violation
814.220 Motorcyclist clinging to another vehicle penalty B-Violation
814.230 Moped operator or rider clinging to other vehicle penalty D-Violation
814.240 Motorcycle or moped unlawful passing penalty B-Violation
814.250 Moped or motorcycle operating more than two abreast penalty B-Violation
814.260 Failure of moped operator to wear motorcycle helmet penalty D-Violation
814.269 Failure of motorcycle operator to wear motorcycle helmet penalty D-Violation
814.275 Failure of motorcycle passenger to wear motorcycle helmet penalty D-Violation
814.280 Endangering motorcycle passenger penalty D-Violation
814.290 Exemptions from motorcycle helmet requirements
814.310 Illegal alteration of moped penalty C-Violation
814.320 Failure to display lighted headlights exceptions penalty B-Violation
814.325 Carrying passenger on motorcycle penalty B-Violation
814.330 Carrying passenger on moped penalty D-Violation
814.340 Riding as passenger on moped penalty D-Violation
815.020 Operation of unsafe vehicle penalty B-Violation
815.100 Operation of vehicle that violates equipment rules penalty C-Violation

Bicycles

814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles
814.405 Status of electric assisted bicycle
814.410 Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk penalty D-Violation
814.420 Failure to use bicycle lane or path exceptions penalty D-Violation
814.430 Improper use of lanes exceptions penalty D-Violation
814.440 Failure to signal turn exceptions penalty D-Violation
814.450 Unlawful load on bicycle penalty D-Violation
814.460 Unlawful passengers on bicycle penalty D-Violation
814.470 Failure to use bicycle seat penalty D-Violation
814.480 Non-motorized vehicle clinging to another vehicle penalty D-Violation
814.484 Meaning of “bicycle” and “operating or riding on a highway”
814.485 Failure to wear protective headgear penalty MAX FINE $25.00
814.486 Endangering bicycle operator or passenger penalty MAX FINE $25.00
814.487 Exemptions from protective headgear requirements
814.488 Citations exemption from requirement to pay fine
814.489 Use of evidence of lack of protective headgear on bicyclist

Motorized Wheelchairs

814.500 Rights and duties of person riding motorized wheelchair on bicycle lane or path

Motor Assisted Scooters

814.510 Application of vehicle laws to motor assisted scooters
814.512 Unlawful operation of motor assisted scooter penalty D-Violation
814.514 Failure of operator of motor assisted scooter to use bicycle lane or path exception penalty D-Violation
814.516 Prohibition on operation of motor assisted scooters in state parks
814.518 Improper operation of motor assisted scooter on highway exceptions penalty D-Violation
814.520 Improper operation of motor assisted scooter in lane exceptions penalty D-Violation
814.522 Failure to signal exception penalty D-Violation
814.524 Unsafe operation of motor assisted scooter on sidewalk penalty D-Violation
814.526 Unsafe operation of motor assisted scooter on bicycle path or bike lane penalty D-Violation
814.528 Operation of motor assisted scooter in crosswalk exception penalty D-Violation
814.530 Carrying passenger on motor assisted scooter penalty D-Violation
814.532 Operating motor assisted scooter with unlawful load penalty D-Violation
814.534 Failure of motor assisted scooter operator to wear protective headgear exception penalty MAX FINE $25
814.536 Endangering motor assisted scooter operator penalty MAX FINE $25

Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices

814.550 Application of vehicle laws to electric personal assisted mobility device
814.552 Unsafe operation of electric personal assisted mobility device penalty D-Violation
814.554 Local government and state agency regulation of operation of electric personal assisted mobility device

Non-Motorized Vehicles Other Than Bicycles

814.600 Failure of skateboarder, scooter rider or in-line skater to wear protective headgear penalty MAX FINE $25

Freeway Prohibitions

OAR 734-020-0045 Prohibition of Non-Motorized Vehicles on Freeways

  1. Non-motorized vehicles are prohibited upon the following segments of freeways within the State of Oregon:
  2. Portland area:
    1. The Columbia River Highway No. 2 (Banfield/I-84) from its intersection with I-5, M.P. 0.00, to 122nd Avenue, M.P. 10.25, east bound, and to Sandy Boulevard, M.P. 15.14, west bound;
    2. The Sunset Highway No. 47 easterly of the Jefferson Street Interchange, M.P. 73.35;
    3. Interstate 5 (Hwy. No. 1) from the Beaverton - Tigard Highway Interchange, M.P. 292.20, to the Delta Park Interchange, M.P. 306.70;
    4. Interstate 205 (Hwy. No. 64) northerly of the Overcrossing of the Oswego Highway No. 3, M.P. 8.82; (E) Interstate 405 (Hwy. No. 61) in its entirety; and
    5. Lower Columbia Highway No. 2W from its intersection with I-405, M.P. 0.00, to 23rd Street, M.P. 1.99.
  3. Medford area:
    1. Interstate 5 (Pacific Highway No. 1) from the Barnet Road Interchange, M.P. 27.58, to the Crater Lake Highway Interchange, M.P. 30.29 (in Medford).

The closure of the above sections to non-motorized vehicles shall become effective following the erection of adequate signing.

Personal Conclusion

As for being illegal, gas or electric, once you've defined the vehicle, Oregon's vehicle/motorcycle/moped law is very clear regarding what does and does not need to be licensed.

For the context of my vehicle's design, I'm not a moped, nor a motorcycle - I'm either a “motor-assisted scooter” or an “electric assisted bicycle”, depending on the power source active at the time:

  1. The electric-assisted facet of my bike, by design, will not be capable of more than approximately 20MPH, unassisted; and
    1. The battery/power system, by design limitation, cannot deliver more than 960W of continuous power to the electric motor.
  2. The gas-assisted facet of my bike, by design, will not be capable of more than approximately 23MPH, unassisted; and
    1. The long-distance (internal combustion) motor is a 24.5cc 4-stroke.

The main issue, is that motor-assisted scooters and electric bicycles do NOT share the same legal status. Since my vehicle can easily be either, the laws could use some revisions/updating, in order to accommodate an emerging trend.

The only remaining point, is establishing an exact definition of “power source”. I believe it was Ray Thomas who wrote (citing case-law) that a power source is a “gas or electric motor only”, human muscles do not count. So, while case-law renders the “unassisted” wording under the moped definition redundant, it does help my point; my system is designed to facilitate approximate cruising speeds of around 20MPH, through the addition of human power only…not through additional battery/electrical/engine power.

Revising Oregon Law

Since Oregon laws are a bit confusing, I'm launching into efforts to amend the laws. I have a very personal motivation behind this concept, and believe that not only would I profoundly benefit, the emerging “carfree” and “sustainable lifestyle” trends would also be aided by these clarifications.

My ultimate goal: ensure both gas and electric power-assist options are clearly defined, and equally-treated.

Here's how I'd like to see ORS 801.258 adjusted:

  1. From “Electric assisted bicycle” to “Motor assisted bicycle”.
  2. Increasing the permitted speed from 20MPH to what a motor assisted scooter permits; 24MPH.
  3. Adding the definition of an internal-combustion engine, in addition to the existing electric motor.

Why?

  1. Mopeds are designed to travel at up to 30MPH, and use engines larger than 35cc. A motor-assisted bike does not need that much power, nor are most bikes designed for 30MPH.
  2. A bike is not a scooter, the spirit of ORS 801.348 is not respected:
    1. ORS 801.348 was written to address a slew of electric and gas-powered scooters that were flooding the market at the time.
    2. While it's a close match, the phrase “fully operative pedals” was clearly omitted.
  3. A motor-assisted scooter is not permitted on highways, but a bike, and electric assisted bike are…I travel out of town, and need that highway ability.

The results would read: 801.258 “Motor assisted bicycle.” “Motor assisted bicycle” means a vehicle that:

  1. Is designed to be operated on the ground on wheels;
  2. Has a seat or saddle for use of the rider;
  3. Is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground;
  4. Has both fully operative pedals for human propulsion.
  5. Is equipped with a power source that is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of greater than 24 miles per hour on level ground and:
    1. If the power source is a combustion engine, has a piston or rotor displacement of 35 cubic centimeters or less regardless of the number of chambers in the power source; or
    2. If the power source is electric, has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts.

Portland, OR

There is no known city code or statue which defines, prohibits or otherwise restricts electric bicycles.

Washington

From RCW 46.04.169 (29NOV2008):

The term “Electric-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor. The electric-assisted bicycle's electric motor must have a power output of no more than one thousand watts, be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than twenty miles per hour on level ground, and be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device beyond twenty miles per hour.

No person may drive either a two-wheeled or a three-wheeled motorcycle, or a motor-driven cycle unless such person has a valid driver's license specially endorsed by the director to enable the holder to drive such vehicles. No driver's license is required for operation of an electric-assisted bicycle if the operator is at least sixteen years of age. Persons under sixteen years of age may not operate an electric-assisted bicycle. Persons operating electric-assisted bicycles shall comply with all laws and regulations related to the use of bicycle helmets. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may have access to highways of the state to the same extent as bicycles. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may be operated on a multipurpose trail or bicycle lane, but local jurisdictions may restrict or otherwise limit the access of electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters, and state agencies may regulate the use of motorized foot scooters on facilities and properties under their jurisdiction and control.

Links

powerassistlegality.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/16 12:35 (external edit)
Back to top
CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
chimeric.de = chi`s home Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki do yourself a favour and use a real browser - get firefox!! Recent changes RSS feed Valid XHTML 1.0