Bicycle definition could include e-bikes

The definition of a bicycle would be expanded under a bill heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Feb. 25.

LB756, introduced by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith, would change the state’s definition of a bicycle to include electric-assist bicycles. In addition to having two or three wheels and pedals for propulsion by human power, an electric bicycle features an electric motor producing up to 750 watts, up to one brake horsepower and a maximum speed of 20 mph.

Smith said current law does not accurately recognize electric-assist bicycles. Without the bill, he said, e-bikes could be considered a motor vehicle and be subject to licensing and helmet laws. Because e-bikes are certain to become more prevalent in Nebraska, Smith said, it is time to clearly identify these new vehicles.

“With an aging population that tends to be more active and health conscious, and with more and more people looking for alternative methods of transportation,” Smith said, “I anticipate these bikes to increase in popularity.”

Bill Moore, publisher of EV World.com, testified in support of the bill. E-bikes are a growing market, he said, with 159,000 of them produced in the United States in 2013. Unlike scooters and motorcycles, he said, e-bikes offer health benefits because they are designed like a bike and provide electric assistance only during more strenuous portions of a ride.

“If we’re looking for a way to extend the quality of life of an aging population, while reducing health care costs along with pollution and traffic congestion,” Moore said, “I believe LB756 is a good place to start.”

David Cary, long-range planning manager for the Lancaster County Planning Department, also testified in support of the bill. He said LB756 is important because it would clearly define a vehicle already in use in Nebraska.

“E-bikes can be expected to become an increasingly important part of the transportation system in Lincoln and throughout Nebraska,” Cary said.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on LB756.

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