E-Bikes on Paths

The senate version of the e-bike bill has been modified to better protect pedestrians. Please see this update.

A measure to regulate the use of electric bicycles (“e-bikes”) is pending before the legislature. I support moving this legislation forward to give more people access to cycling, but the legislation may need some refinement. I have been seeking input and I am very grateful for the respondents to my recent poll (reported below) and those who have commented on this post (I have read all the comments through March 30). I hope to finalize positions on the wrinkles of this legislation soon.

What are E-Bikes?

E-Bikes are bicycles that have both pedals and electric motors. Some e-bikes assist the rider when pedaling. Other e-bikes can propel themselves even when the rider is not pedaling.

Why is wider use of E-Bikes desirable?

E-bikes have the following advantages:

  • They allow more people to enjoy cycling and to get some of the health benefits of cycling.
  • They allow more people to commute by bicycle by extending feasible range.
  • They allow people who bike to handle heavier loads, especially on hills — carrying children or groceries, for example.
  • They are quieter than motorized bikes and scooters.
  • They are better for local air quality than motorized bikes and scooters — small combustion motors typically lack good emissions controls.
  • To the extent they reduce automobile use for commuting or errands, they help reduce carbon emissions.

Are there any risks associated with e-bike use?

In general, e-bikes often allow cyclists to go somewhat faster than they could otherwise go. Speed always carries risks. There is some data from injury surveillance systems suggesting that e-bikes are more likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians than pedal bikes.

Who are the national advocates for E-Bike legislation?

Nationally, e-bike advocacy has been led by the trade association for U.S. manufacturers, suppliers and distributors of bicycle products which calls itself the “the People for Bikes Coalition“.

When e-bikes emerged in the 1990s, the first major regulatory goal for e-bike manufacturers was to establish that e-bikes should be treated as bicycles, not motor vehicles, for purposes of federal manufacturing regulation. A 2002 federal law created a class of vehicles, the “low speed electric bicycle” 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.

107th Congress — H.R.727

The 2002 law exempted “low speed electric bicycles” from the motor vehicle safety standards statute and subjected them to the consumer product safety commission’s regulations for bicycles. The CPSC’s bicycle regulations govern manufacturing quality, speaking to structural integrity, braking, steering systems, chain strength, reflectors, tires, etc. They do not speak to how or where bicycles may be used.

The second major regulatory goal for e-bike manufacturers was to assure that e-bikes could be used just as bicycles are used. In general, state law governs the use of vehicles. The trade association has developed a model law and has successfully advocated for its adoption in 36 states. The bill now before the legislature is essentially the trade association’s model law with appropriate Massachusetts terminology.

While many new electric powered mobility devices are emerging — electric skateboards, electric scooters, electric balance boards, Segways, etc. — the trade association has made clear that its sole priority is the advancement of its model electric bike legislation, urging manufacturers of other mobility products to advocate for their own product-appropriate legislation.

The trade association provides a valuable collection of resources to state level advocates. For more resources, see also the National Conference of State Legislatures.

What does the E-Bike legislation do?

Mirroring but adjusting the federal definition, the e-bike legislation — the trade association’s national model legislation as contextualized for Massachusetts — defines “electric bicycle” as follows:

“Electric bicycle” shall mean a bicycle or tricycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts that meets the requirements of one of the following three classes:
(a) “Class 1 electric bicycle” shall mean an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
(b) “Class 2 electric bicycle” shall mean an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
(c) “Class 3 electric bicycle” shall mean an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.

Pending e-bike bill, Section 1.

See this Wired post for discussion of this classification with illustrations and examples.

Absent the passage of the proposed law many electric bikes could be defined as motor vehicles in Massachusetts, subject to licensing, to registration, and to exclusions from off-road paths. (The Registry of Motor Vehicles has by regulation exempted some electric bicycles from licensing and registration, paralleling the federal definition — see 504 CMR 2.05.)

Using the electric bike definitions, the pending e-bike bill in Massachusetts . . .

  • exempts e-bike riders from drivers’ licensing requirements (by carving electric bikes out of the definitions of motor vehicle, motorized bicycle, and motorized scooter);
  • exempts e-bike owners from registration requirements (by carving e-bikes out of the definition of motor vehicle);
  • gives e-bikes access to all roads and bike paths that are open to regular bikes — it does allow that a municipality or agency may opt to prohibit e-bikes (or some classes of e-bikes) on a path;
  • leaves unresolved the question of e-bike access on natural paths without a surface, but does make clear that municipalities and agencies may regulate access;
  • requires that e-bikes carry a permanently affixed label stating their power, class, and top assisted speed;
  • prohibits tampering with or altering e-bikes to increase their power without changing the label;
  • creates special rules for the faster Class 3 e-bikes:
    • no one under 16 can operate Class 3 e-bikes;
    • riders of Class 3 e-bikes shall wear helmets (but specifies that failure to wear a helmet shall not be used as evidence of contributory negligence in a civil action);
    • Class 3 e-bikes shall be equipped with speedometers.
  • allows the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to promulgate additional regulations;

This proposed treatment of electric bikes contrasts with the existing treatment of motorized bicycles (bicycles with gas motor assistance) and motorized scooters (a two or three wheeled vehicle which is propelled by a gas or electric motor but is not a motorized bicycle or a motorcycle). Under existing law, both of these similar vehicle types are limited to speeds below that of Class 3 electric bicycles, yet they require drivers licenses. (Motorized bicycles are limited to 25mph, but in their statutory definition they may be capable of up to 30mph.)

Additionally, under existing law, motorized bicycles are excluded from “off-street recreational paths” while all e-bikes would be permitted on paths under the proposed law (unless an agency or municipality decides otherwise). Many states that have passed e-bike legislation exclude some e-bikes (most commonly Class 3) from some types of paths, according to a survey by the trade association that is linked from its policy page. The Department of Conservation and Recreation proposed but has not adopted a set of regulations that would appear to exclude Class 2 and Class 3 electric bikes from paths.

Poll Results

You can still share your thoughts in your comments section further below. Thank you!

People should be able to ride e-bikes without a driver’s license.

Responses (N=824)Response %
Agree for Class 1 Only17%
Agree for Class 1 and 2 Only25%
Agree for all e-bikes36%
Not Sure5%

People should be able to ride e-bikes on shared use paths along with pedestrians and regular bicycles.

Responses (N=824)Response %
Agree for Class 1 Only23%
Agree for Class 1 and 2 Only27%
Agree for all e-bikes23%
Not Sure5%

Technical Observations about the Poll

In summary, the poll was representative of people on Will Brownsberger’s Office Mailing List — people who have chosen to follow news from Will Brownsberger. Within that list, the respondent group probably skews towards bike owners and e-bike owners. Overall, this survey universe is likely more permissive towards e-bikes than the general public.

  • The poll was open 49 hours — from 5PM on Monday, March 28 to 6PM on Wednesday, March 30.
  • Almost all respondents to the poll came from two similar mailings to Will Brownsberger’s office email list of 4000 people. It appears that most of those responding were original recipients of the emailing as opposed to secondary recipients of a forwarded email.
    • While the survey itself was anonymous, we do have Mailchimp data about the mail response and the source URL for people responding to the survey.
    • Of the 824 respondents, 79.2% came in with a URL including a code identifying the mailing. An additional 17.7% came in without the code in the mailing, but at hours consistent with the timing of the mailing. The balance of 3.0% came in through mailings to local google groups, a facebook ad, or from comment links.
    • It does not appear that the mailing was resent to any large number of other people — Mailchimp click tracking did not suggest any originally sent e-mail yielded more than 12 clicks (most 1 or 2) and a person could, of course, click the mailing’s link more than once to come back to the post.
    • There was no pattern of repetitive entries from a single IP address.
  • There were some survey logic problems during the first hour and twenty minutes in the question about bike ownership and use. Limiting the sample to only those respondents after that glitch was fixed (N=649), 10.5% owned e-bikes and 64.6% owned bikes. 10.5% seems high, although we have not located good data on e-bike ownership rates. Nationally, there are probably under 2 million e-bikes in the hands of consumers in the United States (reasoning from sales over the past few years). Even if Massachusetts had a disproportionate share, that would suggest that there are less than 100,000 e-bikes in the state and that the statewide ownership rate is under 3% — just a guess.
  • E-bike owners had more permissive attitudes than others. None of the 67 e-bike owning respondents (among the 649 after the fix) felt e-bikes should be prohibited from shared-use paths, while 22% of regular bike owners felt that and 41% of non-bike owners felt that.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

153 replies on “E-Bikes on Paths”

  1. There is too much abuse to cars and pedestrians with the current bike situation, it would compound the situation to allow E bikes. I’m in favor of ALL bikes being licensed, there’s no accountability for the accidents they cause unless they’re licensed.

    1. How many accidents do they cause? What kind of accidents and who is hurt in these accidents?

      1. Several years ago as I pulled out of my street onto a ONE WAY street, a bike riding the wrong direction hit the front side of my car. He was invisible to me due to the parked cars on the left side of the street. My car was damaged – he picked up his bike and just left.
        Also, I was on a back street and a bike was ahead of me riding slowly. I carefully passed him and went on. When I stopped at a stop sign, he pulled up on the driver’s side, kicked in my door, then took off riding against traffic so I couldn’t follow him.
        About 3 years ago, I was stopped on Sparhawk St waiting for the light at Market St in Brighton. A bike (who was too self-entitled to wait for traffic) rode alongside the stopped cars until he came to a parked car. He then turned and rode between stopped cars and swung into the oncoming traffic lane, where a woman had just turned the corner from Market St onto Sparhawk (on her GREEN light). He demolished the side of her car – fender, driver’s door, and side mirror. I stopped and offered to vouch for her to her insurance company – the bicyclist then viciously swore at me and at her, picked up his bike and walked off, leaving her with several thousand dollars of repairs.
        These are just my limited experiences. Numerous times I’ve slammed on my brakes when a bike rode through a stop sign, traffic light, or the wrong way on a one-way street. IMHO, bikes need to be identifiable, they need to be accountable with traffic laws enforced if they’re on the roads, and they need to take financial responsibility when they cause accidents and damage – you can bet that they’re not reluctant to sue drivers if the car driver is at fault.

      2. I’ve been hit twice by bikes at the corner of Galen and Watertown St in Watertown Sq. There’s a lot of traffic there and a long light for pedestrians. Both accidents occurred when the pedestrian light was on and I was crossing. Both times these were bikes coming down the bike path along the Charles River at a great speed. Both times it was the bike that was in error. Basic stupidity- not slowing down, and not even looking for pedestrians. One of them was a very heavy set woman who was afraid her bike would fall over after she hit me and so with flailing arms she latched on to me. Dam fool nearly killed us both, as I used every ounce of strength to keep the two of us from falling over backwards.

      3. My brother was seriously injured after being hit by a class 1 bike as he was walking on the sidewalk.

    2. Yes, bikes should be registered, insured (for liability) and bikers should be licensed. Public funds are expended for the benefit of the bike riding public and those that benefit should contribute to the cost.

      1. Totally agree. All bicycles should be licensed, as in most of the EU by the way. Also helps, somewhat, against theft.

    3. I am hightly opposed to unlicensed vehicles in our public spaces and this includes non-motorized bicycles. They are supposed to be subject to the same rules as automobiles. They ignore stop lights and stop signs as if they aren’t there. They ride on pathways clearly marked NO BICYCLES. If they are blind, they should not be on a wheeled vehicle. They ride the wrong way on one-way streets. I can’t count the number of times I have nearly been hit by a bicycle while crossing with a walk light in a cross walk.
      License all of them. Even if we can’t stop them, we would then have a means of reporting the violator. BTW, this tends to include the bicycle cops whom I never see except in a group, often riding down the middle of the Commonwealth Mall, which is clearly signed NO BIKES.

      1. Back when the Globe practiced journalism, many years ago, reporters set up cameras recording cyclists scofflaw behavior over the course of several weeks. Then the reporter interviewed a number of officials and lawmakers, who breezily dismissed any concerns about bike riding. Then he showed the video. All were shocked. Of course nothing was done because there is no pedestrian lobby or driver lobby. Automotive lobbies represent only business interests.

      2. Glenda, you hit the bullseye in your response; thank you for your keen observations, that matched mine.

    4. I strongly believe that all E-bikes should be licensed. The current speed limit for cars in Cambridge is 20-25mph, so why should an E-bike be unlicensed and possibly moving at such speeds? I also hope there is real enforcement to stop e-bikes from driving along sidewalks, endangering pedestrians. The registration number of the E-bike should also be clearly visible in case of an accident.

  2. I look at this as a question of what impact e-bikes will have on paths. It is entirely reasonable for a person to be able to carry a consistent speed of around 20 mph, so an almost noiseless, emmissionless system that does the same would be virtually indistinguishable. Beyond that, the presence of e-bikes could begin to seriously impact safety and traffic flow for pedestrians and cyclists.

    1. That noiseless emmission-less system will be the causality of unexpected collisions with pedestrians. Angus, you hit the nail on the head.

  3. Will
    It is very important that Class 3 motor bikes, electric or not, not be designated electric bikes. They are vehicles, should be treated as such, NO access to bike paths or bike lanes. they are dangerous and i have seen serious accidents caused be them , have been significantly impacted – scared, and more when they pass at high speed. almost rode over one of my grandkids on a bike path. Just wrong.

  4. Those of us who live in congested areas are increasingly at risk on the sidewalks. We have motorized skateboards, motorized unicycles, bicycles and now E bikes coming at us from all directions. For elderly persons like myself who have bones density problems this is an increasingly dangerous situation. And one problem is that if our lives are destroyed by somebody behaving irresponsibly on the sidewalk with one of these conveniences there is no legal recourse. E bikes absolutely should not be on the sidewalk. The sidewalks are already too dangerous. No motorized conveyance of ANY KIND should be allowed on the sidewalk. Consideration of that public health matter should be part of this bill.

      1. I support Brian’s position too, as someone who does not bike but walks outside and would be greatly injured by any bike/person collision. I believe that bikes of any kind (other than obvious safe situations like maybe a child using training wheels and supervised) should be on the road and follow traffic rules, not on the sidewalk where pedestrians are.

    1. Brian, you are absolutely correct in all that you posted. I would add that ANY bicycle, powered or not, should be only operated by an individual that has passed a state dictated safety course and LICENSED. Back in the old days, rounded green and white rectangular license plates were fastened to the rear fenders of bicycles. In today’s world it would probable be a sticker in lieu of a metal plate. (I still have my plate.)

  5. the poll does not provide all the reasonable possibilities.
    no ebikes of any kind on side walks?
    and for the last question, there is no explicit – i don’t ride bikes of any kind.
    i would keep ebikes of any kind off DCR paths.

    1. I think they should be allowed on paths that explicitly permit regular bicycles, but not on pedestrian paths or sidewalks. On any path that is shared with people walking, pushing strollers, on wheelchairs, etc., there should be strict speed limits and class 3 e-bikes should not be allowed (nor dirt bikes, ATVs or cars or regular motorcycles or motor scooters.)

      Some hiking trails allow mountain bikes or ATVs. Most don’t (or allow ATVs only for search and rescue.) I think class 1 e-bikes should be permitted where mountain bikes are permitted and class 2 (and maybe class 3) should be permitted where ATVs are allowed, but not elsewhere. I don’t know if any Mass DCR paths or trails permit mountain bikes or ATVs.

      Except for very limited local situations, regular bicycles are never allowed on sidewalks. The same rules should apply to e-bikes. (In many cases, “walk your bike” rules are in effect; the same should apply to e-bikes.)

      Since there are thousands or individual situations across the state, I think, except for DCR and other state land, municipalities should be allowed to designate where different classes of e-bikes are allowed or not, speed limits and other restrictions.

      Do Federal regulations supersede state regulations on Federal land (e.g. Cape Cod National Seashore, Minuteman Historical Park, and so forth?) I would like to be sure there isn’t a loop-hole.

  6. I can’t see the sense in speed limits such as 28 MPH for an e-bke
    given that my ordinary strictly human-powered bike often
    goes much faster than that.

    1. I would rate it as occasionally / sometimes strictly human-powered bikes go 20+ mph

    2. My comment (below yours) is really directed at keeping the bikes off bike paths like the Minuteman and the Charles River path. My guess is that you would not be going 28 mph on these paths. Agree with you re street riding.

    3. The difference for me is that, if you’re regularly riding in excess of 28 mph you’re most likely an experienced cyclist (as opposed to an inexperienced/drunk/yahoo, etc).

      1. Nobody should be riding at high speed on a path such as the Minuteman Rail Trail unless nobody else is around. People who do in my experience are most often a small subset of avid recreational (“experienced”) cyclists who ride for exercise at road speed, but who haven’t learned how to be safe on roads. I have yet to encounter an e-bike rider who poses this hazard, not to say that it will never happen.

    4. Riding in a motor vehicle going 25 mph can result in a fatality when hitting a stationary, well anchored obstruction. A pedestrian can easily be fatally injured by a bicycle travelling 20 MPH. License to operate is urgently required.

  7. what happened to “other” on the last question, (since some answer is required and I don’t use a bicycle)

  8. As a bike rider on the Minuteman and Charles River path, I am pretty sure that the vast majority of riders (80%) are going between 10 and 14 mph. In addition, there are many walkers, children, skaters, etc on the path. It is not safe to have e-bike riders going 20 mph with so many much slower riders, walkers, children etc.

    1. Marc has nailed the accurate current speed movement of cyclists using these paths. E-bikes going 20mph will endanger other cyclists as much as pedestrians.

  9. There’s related issue that doesn’t seem to be addressed here. I would like to see some regulations limiting where shared ebikes can be parked between users. Some companies have designated stations, which seems to work well. I have no problem with that. However, other companies leave them scattered around randomly on street corners, public sidewalks, etc. The bikes look abandoned, clutter the right-of-way and sometimes impede pedestrian traffic. I’m concerned about safety and with private companies leveraging public space for their own gain.

  10. Ideally I’d get all cars and trucks, and other fast-moving conveyances, off the surface roads and put them underground in a new parallel system, leaving the surface free for walkers. Naturally that will never happen until the War Department (Its original name…but using the deceptive alias “Defense” for many decades) is brought under control and its budget largely re-directed to civilian use. Anyhow, until that time we’re stuck with the surface transportation infrastructure. So I urge giving the ebikes a try and see how the experiment works out. Runners and regular cyclists already put seniors at risk. We’ll have to wait and see if ebikes add to that problem, or if…miraculously…they end up fitting in smoothly and safely with slow-moving pedestrians.

    1. One dream I had was a network of “bike arteries,” roads closed to cars and trucks, but open for bicycles, that connected with each other to make several safe “bike routes” throughout the city. It would be great to bike from Watertown to Burlington without having the road with motor vehicles or pedestrians. The roads would be wide enough and pedestrian-free enough for Class-3 e-bikes to safely travel.

  11. Do you only want to hear from bile riders and not pedestrians using the shared paths? There is no option to say you don’t ride a bike.

  12. As a matter of principle one should consider the bias inherent in any legislation promulgated by a trade association.

  13. I cycle frequently and plan to try an ebike on a tour this summer (class 1). A class 1 ebike behaves like a regular bicycle and in fact goes no faster than many cyclists do any way (not me; I’m slow). Class 1 ebikes make longer distances and climbing hills more accessible, which is a hige help to a lot of people.

    I believe all bikes should be licensed and require a helmet, but I do NOT believe class 1 ebikes should be regulated differently than regular bikes. Classes 2 and 3 which move without pedaling and/or much faster are a horse of a different color and should be treated accordingly.

    1. I agree, possibly excepting license requirement for non-eBikes.
      For me, propulsion without pedaling is equivalent mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles — less attentive control (pedaling is attentive control), which for humans means less paying attention generally. This is my concern — we can see what “less paying attention” is and causes across all other motored-vehicles…

  14. I have owned an e-bike for a few years.
    E-bikes with a throttle should be licensed. E-bikes that you have to peddle ( motor assist) should not.

  15. I am in favor of allowing e-bikes on paths and for researching communities that have successfully done so. A good standard practice for e-bikers is to pedal on flat terrain and use assistance when moving up hills or as one gets tired on long distances. As long as e-bikes are respectful of pedestrians and other bikers, with plenty of warning when passing, I don’t see an issue. The same would be true for speed bikers going fast on pedal bikes.
    Limitations placed on e-bikes can also be an issue of equity. My plan as I age is to get an e-bike to be able to continue to bike to work for my health, and I have used e-bikes overseas to help me bike up hilly terrain on bike paths to experience exercise in a natural environment that I would’ve otherwise been excluded from experiencing (and let me say, what a wonderful experience it was!). I would not want to restrict e-bikes to roads only because roads are often not very safe and thus would limit some of the exercise and eco-friendly transportation options especially for those that are older, physically limited in some way (in terms of pedaling long distances or up hills), or cannot afford a car and have chosen an e-bike as transportation. Please do not limit our safe, healthy, eco-friendly options, especially for those that are more vulnerable to obtaining exercise (older populations, those with physical limitations, low SES populations). I am a psychologist who studies risks to obesity and other health issues and have found that exercise options are already limited, especially for vulnerable groups.

  16. I am really conflicted on this topic. Generally, I favor e-bikes and other similar vehicles (e-scooters, OneWheels, etc). I do not currently own one but can easily imagine myself doing so. If I did, I would want to be able to use it on bike paths to commute into Cambridge. Of course, I know that I would be a safe and responsible rider/driver (I say that with the intentional irony of “everyone thinks this of themselves even though we all know it isn’t true of everyone who thinks it”).

    However, the thought of 75 pound e-bikes going 20 or 28 mph on the bike path is terrifying even to me as an adult, not to mention when I think about my young kids on the path. A collision with such a vehicle could easily be fatal, and we all know that not all riders of such vehicles will be safe and responsible. Indeed they will likely develop a sense of “owning the path” and get annoyed at the other bikers, skaters, walkers, strollers, etc. who are “in their way” and “slowing them down.” Especially if they are commuting, they will often be in a hurry. This will turn the bike paths into de-facto roads.

    Another commentor wrote that their “human-powered bike often goes much faster than [28 mph].” Well, perhaps they are an elite athlete with tremendous skill, but 28 mph is *really* fast for most people on a human-powered vehicle. Very few would be comfortable pedaling at that speed on normal bike because it feels so fast, and that means that very few do actually go that fast on bike paths (and when they do, it is on a ~20 lb bike). However, with an e-bike that is really an e-motorcycle, with a frame, tires, and brakes designed for that speed, it will feel much safer and thus be much more common.

    I am not a policy maker, and I haven’t thought carefully about the question, but if I were making the policy, it would probably be: E-bikes or other e-vehicles on bike paths are limited to X lbs (perhaps 25-30) and Y mph (perhaps 15), because that is in the range of human-powered vehicles which is what those paths are really for. If you want to use a heavier or faster vehicle, you can ride it on the regular roads (which many bicyclists already do regularly, including me).

  17. If no license is required, perhaps a mandatory safety program should be required for those who do not have a license?

  18. I have been nearly mowed down by bike riders on Commonwealth Avenue, where I live, both on the mall and on the sidewalk. Also, I have had near misses with people on bikes in the Public Garden and the Common. I do not think pedestrians and bikes should be allowed on the same surfaces. The bike riders seem not to care about people on foot. Electric bikes seem even more dangerous than non-electric bikes.

  19. I have been cycling for 25+ years for fun and commuting. Bought an e-bike (Class 3 pedal assist) a few years ago with aging knee issues and avoiding a shower at work – great investment. I do think there are a few too many cyclists that 1) don’t know how to ride in traffic, 2) would be in over there head on a Class 2 or 3 or blatantly fail to follow rules of the road. I do think Class 3 at a min should be 16 y/o and host a valid drivers lic (btw, I have both car and motorcycle lic) and helmet. I do not think any bike should be registered & be lic. NO bikes (or scoters) in sidewalks, that is for pedestrians.

  20. This is a good bill with significant benefits. I’m OK with the unresolved question of access on natural paths without a surface – the local or state authorities can recognize and control abuse or harm. The bill is silent on the use of throttles for Class 3 (which CA prohibits). Be aware that there are some crazy e-bikes over 750 watts that are going to be tough to enforce. See e.g. https://www.addmotor.com/products/wildtan-m-5600 and https://lunacycle.com/babe/#trustspot-widget-wrapper

  21. I’ve spent a fair bit of time commuting along the Charles to and from work – so primarily during rush hours. It’s my personal Al opinion that nobody should be exceeding 20 mph on such paths, human-powered or otherwise. “Trad” cyclists going faster than this are typically pretty experienced riders and can handle themselves on roadways and choose appropriate routes.
    Frankly- anything over 15 mph near the Esplanade or Harvard is asking for an accident during rush hour. The variety of experience, age and prevalence of pedestrians makes for exponentially increasing unpredictability- which is the greatest danger to cyclists on and off the road.
    I have tired to make peace with the electric scooters and skateboards. Everyone has a right to the paths. However some common sense constraints are appropriate.

    1. This. My top bike cruising speed is 15 mph, and any cyclists going faster than that on shared-used paths can hit an unwary pedestrian pretty easily. In crowded paths bikes won’t reach 10 mph very often so using a 28-mph e-bike on those paths is overkill. I did try an e-bike in San Francisco once and found it great for climbing hills, but it was definitely better with few people and little traffic around. I think it’s better to limit shared-use paths to Class 1 e-bikes for this reason.

      The thing is that the cyclist can control the speed of the e-bike by how fast they pedal, so it’s not like they sit and let the motor do all the work. But e-bikes do make it easier for cyclists to reach maximum speeds. So I recommend start with allowing Level 2 e-bikes on the paths, and if there are too many “incidents” with them, the state can roll back the speed limit to allowing Level 1 e-bikes only.

      1. My issue with this is that a cyclist who uses class 2 ebike because they have to climb hills elsewhere on their commute (on roads) would be prohibited from using the safe bike paths along the Charles for portions of their commute. Just as analog bikes don’t go as fast as they could on the shared paths, ebikes (and frankly runners, kick scooters etc) shouldn’t either. I think a speed limit would be a better solve on shared use paths than prohibiting ebikes.

  22. Throttle-driven bikes that can go above 20 mph should be allowed on on-street bike lands but required (as should all types of bikes) to keep their speed below 15 mph on shared-use, off-road paths when pedestrians are in the vicinty. Bikes of any kind should not be allowed on sidewalks — unless moving at less than 5 mph (and still being required to give right-of-way to pedestrians) or being pedaled by a child under age 15. While pedestrians should have right-of-way on shared use paths, walking in the middle of the path with loud earbuds making it impossible to hear oncoming bells or shouts, or walking 3 or 4 abreast across the entire path without checking for oncoming bikes, should both make the pedestrian(s) responsible for any mishaps that occur.

  23. I’d be excited to see this common-sense legislation that supports more eco-friendly travel passed. Considering that e-bikes don’t *have* to go 28+ MPH, it doesn’t make sense to completely ban them from shared use paths. There are many situations where biking on a shared use path is the SAFEST possible route to your destination (I use the Charles River path to bike to work and avoid dangerous crossings). I can see this having the unforeseen consequence of forcing e-bikers to take more dangerous routes to get around. I know some people have concerns about pedestrian-cyclist crashes – I bet those would be reduced if we just expanded pedestrian and bike infrastructure rather than forcing cyclists into unsafe situations.
    Licensing in general is a great way to make people bike less, not more! Also, I hope that someday bikeshare programs like BlueBikes can provide an e-bike option and I imagine licensing requirements would be a logistical nightmare.

    1. I agree with both K and Steve Miller and others expressing support for the broadest interpretation of this legislation, as the proposed law would still allow municipalities and agencies to prohibit or speed-regulate the Class 3 bikes. In Cambridge the citywide speed limit on primarily residential streets is 20 mph for cars and trucks, so it’s reasonable to limit e-bikes of all classes to 20 mph or less. Some people may say, “But how will we enforce this?” and I would ask if they always stay within the 20 mph limit when driving through Cambridge neighborhoods? Noting that cars and trucks can easily exceed 28 mph and the risk they pose is far greater. We all have a responsibility to self-regulate speed and protect each other’s lives when operating any type of mobility device. Licensing requirements and prohibiting Class 3 e-bikes from using the relatively few available off-street facilities could serve to diminish the goal of increasing mode shift from cars to e-bikes for longer trips or for carrying heavier loads. The more we provide viable options for people of all ages and abilities to use e-bikes for at least some of their daily trips, the more public support will grow for investing to improve bike networks both on the street and on former rail trails etc. In general, cyclists only choose to ride on a sidewalk when there is no safe way to ride on the street. Cyclists are already prohibited from using sidewalks in business districts and must travel at pedestrian speed and yield to people walking on sidewalks elsewhere. More protected bike lanes are the solution to that problem, not limits on e-bikes. Also noting that people should not be skeptical of this proposed legislation because it was has the support of the e-bike trade association unless they also acknowledge that the AAA is funded by the auto industry and lobbies heavily for laws that favor motorists. Finally, where are the financial incentives to purchase e-bikes? Could some of the unallocated COVID-19 funding be used for that?

  24. The National Park Service rules for Acadia National Park allow class 1 ebikes on park carriage roads and bike paths, but prohibit class 2 and class 3. I think that offers a good precedent for the same policy on bike paths that in practice function as busy shared-use paths, like the Minuteman Bikeway. 20mph is plenty fast, maybe too fast on a busy shared use path, riders should at least have to pedal to get to 20, which class 1 ebikes require to get electric assist. Classes 2 and 3 are just alternately-powered mopeds, which aren’t allowed on bike or shared use paths

  25. Thanks for doing this. Most informative. I’d like to embed this discussion in the larger one of all transportation corridors (state roads, local roads, segregated bike paths, marked bike lanes, sidewalks, paths….): How much public space gets allocated to each, rules governing the use safe and sensible use or each by different transport forms (including ebikes), and enforcement. Just focusing on rules for ebikes implicitly endorses the current almost monopolization of public space by roads, and the default assumption that roads should be primarily for high power cars, vans and trucks…. with bikes and pedestrians squeezed in on the edges where convenient for the cars…

  26. E bikes are excellent for commuting and I used mine every day in the before times. They have lights front/back for safety. There is no reason to regulate class 1 any different from regular bikes. As many point out , they don’t go any faster than acoustic bikes. E bikes can increase biking and decrease driving – a great outcome.

  27. In my experience eBikes are often traveling in excess of 20 mph. If they could be kept under 20mph I would be less adverse to sharing bike paths with them.

  28. Ebikes are a fantastic alternative to driving/owning a car in Boston. I would rather my kids ride ebikes than learn to drive at 16 (I have a 15 and 13 yr old). I’m a bit annoyed that escooters (typical speed less than 20mph) are not part of this legislation. Escooters are often more convenient than ebikes for those with storage space constraints and they take up less space on shared use paths vs ebikes or bikes.

  29. I support the legislation, but am most concerned with the flagrant disregard some bike riders (particularly blue bike riders) have for all the signs prohibiting riding on the Comm Ave Mall and in the Public Garden. They are dangerous to all pedestrians on these paths. Bike riders are granted bike paths in these areas and should be forced to use them for everyone’s safety.

    1. If the bike lanes were off the street, I’d bet this behavior would lessen. In my experience the majority of blue bike riders who do this are less experienced and wary about riding on the street, even in a bike lane. And I’ve never seen one going very fast there.
      Cyclists (and pedestrians) are a bit like water – they will take the path of least resistance because of the physical exertion so cutting thru public garden & common vs riding all the way around in traffic – frankly I don’t really blame them. I think we should establish bike safe cut-throughs in those parks. But I know that’s off topic.

  30. There is a big diff b/w a 25mph cyclist and a 25mph ecyclist – the former generally self-select for more experienced commuters/road cyclists who can sustain and generally know how to control at that speed and the latter a wider range from experienced to very inexperienced cyclist. Because ebike has the potential to impart mopad capability onto inexperienced operator that can directly endanger pedestrian, manual cyclists and even spill accidents onto vehicular path, above certain speed capability they should be regulated as mopad.

  31. I’m concerned about pedestrian safety on paths. Class 2&3 bikes allow riders to easily reach speeds that otherwise require significant physical effort. I have some concern this results in more fast moving bikes on shared paths.

    Enforcing speed limits on paths will be either expensive or impractical. Better to make class 3 bikes inconvenient by having registration and license requirements.

  32. 20 mph is pretty fast for a bicycle. It gets hard to control at that speed, at least with a conventional bike, going downhill – that’s the only time I get up to that speed.
    I marked “unsure” for the two speed questions because I haven’t thought about it before. But my initial thought is that we certainly don’t want bikes going 28 mph on a path with pedestrians and bikes, and we probably don’t want them going 20 mph, either.
    I worked at a Toys R Us store in college, and thought I’d buy one of those adult trikes when I got older. 🙂 Now that I *am* older, I think that it’s an e-bike is in my future, but hopefully not for another 10 years. It would allow me to continue to ride for exercise and to get places, even when I don’t have the strength or stamina to keep myself going.
    But I’ve never ridden one, so I don’t know what it feels like to be on a bicycle that’s powering itself. Will it make the rider feel more invincible? We don’t need that!
    And why does a bicycle need to go 28 mph anyway?

    What would bicycle licensing look like? And what would it accomplish? Adult cyclists already know the rules of the road, even if they’re not always following them.

    1. Hi Hal, I’ve tried 3 e-bikes over the years. For me the throttle assist and the pedal-rate-sensing e-bikes feel a little weird, but I tried a pedal-drive (the motor is between the pedals, it has torque sensors etc, unfortunately those are the most expensive) on vacation and it was wonderful. Pretty much just like a regular bike, only 40 years younger (and maybe a little extra).

      28mph is a lot. For all but the best, that is a sprinting speed (I could manage it for about a mile, 40 years ago). Crashes at 28mph are bad, braking hard at 28mph can lead to violent headers. I’m comfortable treating those bikes specially.

      But there’s also no particular reason to believe that moms and dads carrying kids or older people riding up hills will suddenly lose all their common sense just because they don’t have to sweat quite so hard to ride a bike.

  33. I’ve responded to your survey, Will. I don’t currently own a bicycle, but cycled for many years (this is a wonderful part of the country for cycling–at least part of the year!) and did many 100+ mile rides. In general I’m in favor of treating ebikes as bikes, but I’m worried when riders can get up to 20 mph and faster with no personal effort. A collision at 20 mph can do a lot of damage!

  34. If we can speed limit e-bikes, it seems irresponsible to **NOT** speed-limit cars (I mean, electronically, via a speed governor in the car) to the posted speed limit.

    Drivers kill on average a person a day in the Commonwealth, and have done so for decades. The primary cause of 1/3 of these crashes is unsafe speed (This is MassDOT data easy to find on the web). Electronic speed governors in cars would save over 120 people a year in MA.

    What we presently do for street safety is demonstrably failing.

  35. Will the bill consider commercial (food delivery, shopping delivery, etc) vs non-commercial use on shared use paths? As electric bike use increases, the opportunity increases for delivery service work. This would be a very positive outcome from a transportation perspective. But it seems like it would be a potential concern for commuters and those enjoying shared use paths.

  36. I think a registration and insurance system should be mandated. These are powered vehicles and can cause substantial damage not just to property but to people. They weigh more than regular bicycles thus more mass and require greater breaking power. In addition a registration system would help track down thefts and a portion of the registration fee could be used for the cost of maintenance of all the rail trails which currently have no direct funding mechanism like we do for roads (excise , and gas tax)

    These are for adults we are not talking about the young kids being deprived of using a bicycle

  37. Thanks for posting this survey. I’m a longtime ebike owner (12 years), and I run a tour of Boston on ebikes. I’d just point out that many older ebikes do not come with a sticker stating which class of ebike they are. Of my 10 ebikes I believe only one came with a sticker (all are “class 1”). Some provision for older legacy bikes might be needed if this provision is to be implemented.

  38. I mothballed my 78 Chevy Nova since I got an e-bike 10 years ago. I use it as the “grocery getter” and the bus to get to work. I am concerned about over regulation, at which if it is too restrictive I would bring the Nova back into service and skip the bikes and bus which would be a duplication of service at extra cost

  39. Rather than speed and horsepower, in more concerned with the mass and weight of the ebike. The heavier the bike, the more damage it does in an accident whether to property, other bikes, or people.

    Any of these should be allowed on shared use paths like any minuteman, Charles river etc. I’m not comfortable with other of road trails like Middlesex fells or Blue Hills.

  40. Since the registry requires registration of mopeds over 25 MPH, then Class 3 E-Bikes should follow suit. They need to follow the same rules. And I don’t think they should be allowed on the bike path, but that’s going to be difficult to enforce.
    Class 1 and 2, I think will be less dangerous on a bike path.
    Sidewalks should not be open to bikes, ideally, but I couldn’t navigate Waverly Sq. without using the sidewalk. Unsure about that.

  41. I am in favor of people riding bikes while obeying the law, but I have been nearly mowed down by bikes on the sidewalk and crossing the street on a walk sign. They do not think they need to follow the law and do not look out for pedestrians. For that reason, I am against bike or electric bikes being allowed on sidewalks. The same thing happens on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. On the Huntington Ave “sidewalk” (near Mass Ave) bikers often ride on the sidewalk marked “walk” instead of in the sidewalk lane marked for bikes. If it were up to me all bike riders would be licensed so they could be fined. When they are in bike lanes on the street, they try to race in front of right hand turning cars with turn signals on and have caused accidents.

  42. Tangential… but I would love to see a very carefully designed analysis of the anticipated environmental, economic, social impacts of either 1) giving multi-thousand dollar state-funded discounts/rebates to (typically rather wealthy) purchasers of electric cars or, alternatively 2) offering up to $400 in subsidy for purchase of a bicycle, electric scooter, e-bike or the like every five years to individuals, 18 years of age or older, who do not have a drivers license.

  43. When I was younger up until I was about 46, I rode my bike most everywhere around Boston and Cambridge: to work, to school, to do light shopping, to go visit friends. As I got older, I stopped bicycling as much. But I still think it is a great way to get around town. As an elder now at 72, I am slower, less stable, and less inclined to bicycling on Boston streets. I think bike lanes are great, but I think as with cars, bikers should also make it a point of being careful about how and where they are going, and look out for pedestrians the way they would hope car drivers would out for them.

    Once, last summer on a beautiful sunny day, lots of people were out and about and I was innocently crossing a bike lane from my car to get to the side walk. I was unaware that I was hindering a macho bicyclist (whom I didn’t see) who was bombing down the bike path. He cursed and insulted me for interfering with his travels as he whizzed by. I almost got hit! There were other people around and, I think to be safe, he should have been going much more slowly than he was. I voted the most conservative options for ebikers in the survey because I think ebikers should be held to a higher vs lower standard of conduct and safety on their bikes. Pedestrians, most of all, should have the right of way on walkways and wooded paths and such. My fear is that as more ebikers use the roads they may tend to ride recklessly, too fast for the conditions, and will not held accountable for their poor behavior. No recourse to enforce commonsense safety standards for inconsiderate behavior would make the streets, sidewalks, and pathways much more hazardous, and result in many more accidents than otherwise.

  44. I know you said the trade association is pushing only the e-bike bill but I kinda think it’s not great to do an e-bike specific bill. I don’t think that e-bikes should ultimately be treated differently than e-scooters and e-boards, and I don’t really like the idea of giving a regulatory leg up to one kind of e-mobility over another just because they hired fancier lobbyists. I think it’s better to do a unified definition that can apply to all, and I think the suggestion of other commenters that weight makes a big difference to the severity of any accidents, so I’d propose something more like the following:

    “Light E-Mobility Vehicle (LEV)” shall mean a bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, scooter, or other comparable non-enclosed personal vehicle weighing less than [C3wt] pounds and equipped with an electric motor of less than 750 watts that meets the requirements of one of the following three classes:
    (a) “Class 1 LEV” shall mean an LEV weighing less than [C1wt] pounds, which is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, kicking, or otherwise manually propelling the vehicle and that ceases to provide assistance when the LEV reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
    (b) “Class 2 LEV” shall mean an LEV weighing less than [C2wt] pounds, equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the LEV, and that ceases to provide assistance when the LEV reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
    (c) “Class 3 LEV” shall mean an LEV weighing less than [C3wt] pounds, equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the LEV, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour.

  45. I’m a regular bike rider, with concerns about the abrupt arrival of so many high-powered e-bikes ridden by reckless users. The manufacturers should be held to some standards that might include:

    – The lights seem to be way brighter on these than others, creating a glare hazard. They should be made no brighter than a car’s low-beams, unless provided with a dimmer switch (that has a safety mechanism to prevent continuous bright usage).

    – Class 3 e-bikes and others that weigh above a certain amount (60 or 70lb?) should have automatic collision-avoidance technologies. A heavy vehicle operated at unsafe speed in a narrow combination pedestrian/bike-way is bound to cause more injuries.

    – E-bikes built with child carriers should have even more safety features built in, and perhaps have a reduced maximum speed as compared to others in same class.

    I’m concerned overall that the industry is writing regulations in the interest of pushing huge numbers of e-bikes into our cities, with zero thought to safety innovations that should be added now before everyone rushes out to buy their products.

  46. Like mopeds, E-bikes are motor vehicles given that they have a power source other than a human. As with other motor vehicles, they should be subject to fees and excise taxes that help pay for roads, especially as bike lanes supplant regular traffic lanes. Perhaps a carve out for low power “hill climb assist” features is reasonable, but already, I’m seeing E-bike delivery drivers such as Getir flying down major roads, including Soldiers Field rd, driving on sidewalks etc.
    As electric vehicle adoption including e-bikes increases, demand for gasoline and is projected to decline, and thus the gas tax revenue to pay for roads and bridges will decline in parallel. Legislators will be wise to recognize this eventuality when considering wiring in advantages for electric vehicles. As the owner of an electric car, I am happy to exploit this advantage, even while recognizing it is unsustainable.
    As an early adopter of a grid-tie solar system, I note that I’m on my second central solar inverter, and nobody wants the non-repairable suitcase size piece of e-waste that nearly burned my house down. A similar waste disposal conundrum will emerge for e-bikes. There are no free lunches, and getting rid of dead lithium, nickel-cadmium and lead batteries, electric motors and integrated circuits is hardly “green”. If you want green, stick to pedal power.

  47. Keep all bikes off sidewalks. Even where there are bike lanes many still ride on the sidewalk. I have yet to cross the Mass Ave bridge without encountering a bike on the sidewalk despite there being bike lanes. I’ve had more near misses with bikes than cars.

    1. I hope we continue to repurpose street space from cars (particularly parking!), and improve maintenance so that biking (and other small transport options like scooters) feels safe enough everywhere that there’s no reason to ride on sidewalks. Flex posts aren’t much of a barrier vs 40mph cars that weigh several tons – I can understand not feeling comfortable with riding on street, particularly with kids.

      I’m excited for this bill to take a broad approach that we can continue to refine, and strongly oppose licensing requirements from an equity and access perspective – ebikes are a much more affordable low-carbon mobility option, and licensing puts up a lot of hurdles without any strong record of reducing injuries or accidents.

      Finally, as a prospective buyer, I’m looking forward to simpler no-carbon commutes and weekend trips on our growing trail network with my kids. This is a fun, city-compatible, and inexpensive way to cut carbon for lots of people, and I hope we get the bill across the finish line ASAP!

  48. Senator,
    I normally agree with your views on legislation, but this one makes absolutely no sense to me for four reasons.

    First, as you noted, the bill has been written by a trade association and merely tweaked for MA. Any bill written by a trade association ONLY looks after the interests of the businesses in that association. Can you point to one such bill anywhere on any topic that has actually been good for real people?

    Second, you wrote, “They allow more people to enjoy cycling and to get some of the health benefits of cycling.” A powered vehicle that is allowed to go (almost) as fast as the speed limit for cars on city streets gives “health benefits?” Surely you jest!

    Third, hasn’t the speed limit in large parts of Cambridge (and Watertown (?) and other cities (?)) been reduced to 25 mph? So, we are considering saying you don’t need a license to drive a vehicle that is capable of going faster than the default speed limit in cities? How is that even an option?

    Finally, it is amazing that no such legislation takes into account the rights of pedestrians. I have already been menaced by e-bikes; they are no better than cars. Will you consider adding two amendments? (1) Regardless of licensing requirements, a person driving an e-bike who hits a pedestrian will be mandatorily charged with assault with a deadly weapon. AND (2) If the driver of an e-bike who hits a pedestrian is a minor, the parents or guardians will be mandatorily charged with enabling assault with a deadly weapon.

    There is simpler solution, of course. License them all, and ban them from sidewalks, shared pathways and the like. And require the police to ensure that they follow ALL traffic rules that car drivers have to. (Ever seen an e-bike driver who is texting while driving at 20+ mph? I have.)

    1. Word Amit!

      The only legislation I want to see is no motorized vehicles of any kind in bike lanes, sidewalks, and bike paths, with express inclusion of all elecro-motive conveyance. (Unless you have a handicapped waiver and limit that to mobility devices and class I.)

      Also, there should be no filtering for powered cycles of any sort: motorcycle, shooter, moped, electric bike.

      The fact that it’s illegal will make people do it carefully and as for fleeing liability, I’d rather see that than an increase of morbidity and mortality that will come from legalizing filtering.

      License, no license it doesn’t matter. Once you open this door to numbers of people motoring in bike lanes and paths and the like they’re not going to be, “speaking the same language,” so to speak with regards to shared awareness.

      Its an outrage that an industry could be so presumptuous.

      And, speaking of bikes. Why are there so many bikes on the road without a proper reflector set!!!!!

      I mean, I might be open to licensing bicycles and I’m dern well set on on licensing “e-bikes,” for galaxy’s sake.

  49. For type I & type II e-bikes, I favor treating them “just like bicycles”, which is how things are done in California (a large and influential market). Busting up the national market into little bits is not good, we are not a special flower, and non-standard rules will impede adoption of something that will reduce car traffic, competition for parking, pollution, noise, and pedestrian risk (measuring deaths and serious injuries, a trip by car is at least ten times as harmful to pedestrians). I have friends with e-bikes and they love them and they ride them a lot. I tried a pedal-assist bike riding up a serious hill on vacation, and enjoyed it a lot, but my daily commuter has no assist (yet).

    Regarding speed; 20mph is faster than most commuters ride, but not that exceptional for an athletic cyclist (when I was 13-14 I raced, and could maintain a 20mph speed for 75 minutes with no draft on a 25-mile time trial; lots of people can do this). I knew several (older) people who could maintain 25mph for an hour, but they were much more serious about training than I was.

    Type III is a different animal; almost nobody can maintain 28mph for a long time, 28 mph crashes are substantially worse than 20mph crashes, so I am perfectly happy with more restrictions on those bikes — and since we are not a special flower, I’d follow California’s rules.

    Some people are bothered that Type II is pretty much like an electric scooter, so why not call them an electric scooter? The reasoning is that some people (for various reasons, including some disabilities) need some amount of help getting started, and a throttle is good for that (for example, several times I have seen a young person riding around Cambridge who is literally one-legged, with a rack on their bike for their crutches. Getting started is tricky). Scooters also require a driver’s license, which again is not available to everyone. At the same time, for most riders there is no difference in their behavior on a type I or type II e-bike; at maximum assist on the e-bikes I’ve tried it doesn’t take much pedaling to attain 20mph.

    I’d also encourage people to go slow with preemptive safety measures, for example coming up with special rules for e-bikes with child seats. Parents carrying their children on bikes, e-assisted or not, tend careful. I see them every day. There’s no epidemic of parent+child bicycle crashes, so additional safety rules would not make a useful reduction to actual harm. One thing that would make them less safe is not allowing their use on separate facilities like cycle tracks and multi-use paths; those places are much safer than roads.

    I have a few suggestions for reducing pedestrian-bicycle conflict, but they’re not relevant to e-bike regulations. First, multi-use paths should be wider. Second, I’ve started to think that perhaps a 15mph speed limit on MUPs is reasonable; I’ve had people close-pass me while I was wide-passing pedestrians, and one way to reduce the number of such idiots on paths is to add a speed limit to let them know that they can train elsewhere. Third, I think that the state rules for how to pass a pedestrian are not best safety practice; rather than ring or call out by default, I either pass so wide that there’s no need, or I slow to about a walking pace and then say something (because if I ring a bell right behind someone who hasn’t noticed me, they jump out of their skin). I ride in shared spaces at least 5 days each week, I have a lot of experience with this and it seems to work better than always using a bell. This assumes, of course, that people can ride at a walking pace; I can, and think this is a good skill to have, because I use it all the time to reduce conflict with pedestrians.

    If people are concerned about bicycle headlight glare, one solution is to steal from the Germans, who have regulations addressing this, rather than inventing our own from scratch. Again, we are not special flowers. (And yes I agree, too many bicycle headlights are too darn bright.)

    Regarding my experience here — I bike to work in Kendall Square 5 days a week, year round, and my default route takes me across Cambridge Common and then across Harvard Plaza over Cambridge Street. 3000 miles per year, and pedestrians of all sorts, every year, moving in all sorts of directions. Before this job, at least twice a week out past Burlington Mall, since 2006, totaling about 40,000 miles for both. I read everything I can find about bicycle and traffic safety, long story short, if everyone who could ride a bike to work and errands did, we’d all be better off, and e-bikes solve some big problems for a lot of people and they’re close enough to bikes that I don’t want to get picky in ways that hinder their adoption.

  50. PS I am sympathetic to treating all the other little e-things — e-scooters, e-skateboards, hoverboards, monowheels — as type 2 e-bikes, i.e., as bicycles. I see people using them already to commute, they tend to use the same places I do on my bicycle, and I have never had a problem with them, they are fine. They should also be legal.

  51. If you pass legislation to require licenses for E-Bike riders, I would be happy to step up for the position of “Cop” for enforcing said legislations. Seems like a wholly absurd and overpaid public-office position with great benefits and minimal work.

  52. If an ebike is operating at similar speed to a normal bike, I don’t care if it’s class A, B or C.

    If it’s on a road (even in a protected bike lane), I don’t care too much. Maybe a license for C but not A and B? If it’s on a bike path, I’d support licensing for class C e-bikes.

    (Somerville resident here, though — out of your constituency, but I bike through your neck of the woods often enough!)

  53. My child when he was younger was almost struck by a biker near MIT where the bike traffic overlapped the sidewalk when that was first completed. Pedestrians shouldn’t have to contend with two classes of vehicular roads: bike and auto + bike. Every two days a jumbo jet worth of people die in car accidents in the U. S. alone maybe get some cars and trucks off the roads and make them safer for bikes?

    If you’re signaling a right turn with your right hand you may as well be pointing out an object of interest. Are uniform turn signals too much to ask?

    Why do people on bikes who weave through pedestrians (usually in a crosswalk) not realize some/many people live with pain and having a bike bearing down makes it worse? I was guilty of it when younger, they don’t put that in bike etiquette pamphlets.

    Have police given up on policing biking in sidewalks in city squares, or is that no longer not allowed?

    A guy with an ebike literally the size of a motorcycle was on my Orange Line car last summer. I don’t think it’s an if, but a when that the non-purple lines get jammed and we’re only going to have more dirty wheeled escooters displacing passengers and people sneaking bikes on.

    By the way, the inbound platforms are already 100-150% too crowded to be safe how can we extend the Green Line and manage growth without a big dig for the T?

    You should absolutely pass pedestrians at a walking pace on an allowed sidewalk and at a pace that allows safe evasion on a path. Don’t ring your bell at the nothing makes people forget left from right faster than having it barked at you from out of nowhere last second. Do a couple approaching rings and a clear, “ on your left,”

    Is there still a moratorium on enforcing our hands-free law? What came first, the bike lane or the cell phone and in-dash distractions? I don’t dispute the data that says bike lanes save lives, I wonder if experience biking in traffic saves lives and distracting free driving saves lives.

  54. I used to bike all around town all the time. I understand the need to get people biking and burn less gas and need for bike lanes for the volumes of unskilled cyclists. I worry that bike lanes and ebikes without adequate embrace and buy in around etiquette messaging will lead to problems especially with motorized cyclists where they’re one thing or the other. And 20 mph is really 30, and 28 mph is 38 right?

    1. Ps. And how little less would one have to consume to off set an internal combustion commute to be equivalent to a bipedal commute? I don’t always walk the walk, I’m not anti-consumer, but if we’re talking about green shouldn’t our goal be a reduction in yearly cargo ship crossings year over year?

  55. Will—so many people need the mobility that bikes, adaptive bikes and e-bikes provide. We need more protected lanes/paths for the young, the old, the disabled and others who just want to get where they are going safely. Of course some rules of the road are useful, but we are one of the last states to legalize e-bikes. Time to join the rest of the country!

  56. I believe all electric or motorized vehicles should be prohibited from pedestrian surfaces. In 2019, my deaf daughter was nearly trampled by a fast moving scooter on the sidewalk. The rider merely yelled at her to move & kept going. Of , course she didn’t hear him. Same could go for someone with earphones. They’re too fast & the riders generally stridently think they have the right of way. Keep them all in the street.

  57. “gives e-bikes access to all roads and bike paths that are open to regular bikes…” This is what bothers me. I live right next to the Charles River Bike Path, and walk my little dog there often. There is the occasional e-bike zipping by, and believe me, it makes it dangerous for pedestrians.

    And this brings up another subject – we simply need more dedicated paths for bicycles.

    1. …by dedicated for bicycles, I mean paths NOT shared with pedestrians, including sidewalks! Taking a walk shouldn’t be dangerous.

  58. I don’t think that operators of class3 ebikes should be required by law to wear a helmet. That is paternalistic, and could also open the door to invasive and uneven enforcement by police. I would also urge that regulation of ebikes and other motorized bikes start of minimally, and then adapt as specific empirical problems arise. Finally, I don’t quite see why motorized bikes are being treated differently than ebikes under the existing and proposed regulations.

  59. Anyone riding the Minuteman Trail (MMT) since its opening is aware that its attraction has many people of all mobilities flocking to it: walk, bike, wheelchair, trike, stroller, carriage, roller-skates, roller board, and more that I know not the name of.

    Further, beyond the end of the MMT, is a 7-8 mile dirt track into Concord center. There, already, the types of motorized travel has expanded.

    E-bikes on bike trails capable of 15 MPH could be tried. What will the “passing margin” be? For cars and trucks on the road it is 3 feet. Should the speed limit be reduced to the flow of people on separate bike/people trails such as the MMT?

    How would it be enforced? Police on bikes? No one is obligated to put a license number on the motorized bike. No one has to carry identification.

    On roads, should e-bikes be required to “take the lane” when the striped bike lane is accompanied by bikes and pedestrians, especially in rural areas?

  60. Just because a bicycle “can” go 20 or 28mph doesn’t mean it will be travellng at top speed. I think that speed limits on paths would be better than banning certain classes. I commute by bike and am often carrying a child or children. I would not be able to get up the hill to my house without an assisted bike. At least with a class 1 bike, it takes a lot of effort from the rider to get to 20 mph, so it’s not that easy to speed along. I have contemplated a class 3 bike because there are gaps in our infrastructure where I have to travel on roads where I need to ride in car traffic and additional speed feels safer. But I would never think that it was safe to ride that fast on a shared path.
    And for all of the commentators above with stories of reckless cyclists, I guarantee that I have 10x as many stories of reckless drivers, and requiring them to have licenses and registrations didn’t make them any safer to share the roads with.

    1. I agree! Just because it can eventually get up to the maximum speed doesn’t mean it will get there. You can also easily lower the assist or pedal with no power assist like a regular bike. Having the option of higher speed with a class three feels better while in traffic but it is very easy to go much slower on multi-use paths. It really can serve multiple purposes and is great for hauling groceries, etc.

  61. The proposed statute definitions use the word “capable” vis a vis reaching certainspeeds. It should follow the federal definitions and include the language ” irrespective of the weight of the rider(s) or cargo”. The other question is whether it should limit “passengers” to kids under a certain weight (with helmets), or ban them entirely.

  62. I think that rapidly-moving vehicles should not be allowed on shared paths, especially if they can travel in excess of 35 MPH

    There are also a lot of comments here about people frustrated with bicycles. Perhaps their time would be better spent advocating for separated bike lanes.

  63. I do agree with much of the sentiment around issues with bikes not following the rules of the road along with electric motorized vehicles on pedestrian walkways. That said, we do not have safe places for our kids/others to ride their bikes today other than sidewalks(in much of our areas). The infrastructure is not safe to ride a non ebike(most bike lanes are just a painted narrow area or shared bus lane(which can be even more dangerous from what I’ve seen on Mt Auburn with cars racing down bus lane as to not get caught). I see protected bike lanes now on Mass Ave(not without it’s issues around parking though). What is a person to do if they want to ride their bike but have dangerous streets? I live in Watertown and back streets(or sidewalks) are fine to ride on as we do not have the car/walking congestion as in Somerville/Cambridge/Boston. The main streets though I will not ride my bike on unless there is a protected bike lane(Arsenal St)..which now will meet up with a Bike Path to Alewife! We need more forward thinking safe bike paths for commuters to get in/out of their towns (around town) if we are to restrict bikes to roads(working with local businesses, as parking is very important to keep vibrate business communities successful, not an easy balance). E-bikes, E-scooters are motorized and just can not fit in congested sidewalks safely.

  64. Unfortunately, the issue is really that ALL bikes should be licensed, and their license number as visible as it needs to be on any other vehicle subject to rules of the road. There are too many instances of bicyclists driving dangerously (e.g. ignoring red lights) that we have to revert to regulation to keep them in check. These are the same people who are now anonymous and will mow down pedestrians whenever they share space with them.

  65. Motorized vehicles of any kind should not be allowed on most sidewalks which are too narrow to accomadate walkers and other devices . These scooters and skateboards can make walking difficult. They should use bike lanes
    The issue on shared bike paths is the speed not the motor. Some non motorized cyclist ride very fast and dangerously and some non athletic people may want to use e bikes to commute and ride slowly. The paths should have speed limits rather than focusing on what class of motor -which will be very hard to enforce. E bikes can also be pedaled and many users only use the motor on uphill. Motorized bikes could be licenced and insured- IF this can be done at minimal cost. It is in the public interest to encourage more bike commuting despite anecdotal evidence of problems I think trying to do that for other bikes would be overkill
    I would look to the experience of countries in Europe where bicycle use is more widespread before considering any regulation. Are bicycles in the Netherlands licenced?
    Lets base decisions on data. Not anecdotes.

  66. Hi Will. Thanks for laying this out. A lot of the e-bikes I’ve seen advertised are both pedal assist (“class 1”) with ability to also use a throttle (“class 2”). If only class 1 are allowed on a shared use path, would those bikes that are promoted as both class1+class2 be allowed on paths if the user is just pedaling / using the assist (class 1), and not using the throttle (class 2)?

    I think that would be perfectly fine, but could be very confusing if bike has a sticker labeled ‘class 2.’

  67. I have owned an e-bike for > 10 yrs. I use it to commute 11 miles to Boston from Watertown, and for recreation. The ride along the Charles is beautiful! It is good for my health, for the environment, and reduces traffic congestion. It is unfortunate that some bike riders do not follow the rules and/or are rude. The same is true of auto drivers, and people in general. Licensing and registering all bikes is a ridiculous solution in search of a problem.

  68. I like the idea of e bikes in general.
    I worry about the speeds (especially Class 3) that they attain.
    But I admit to not knowing what speed is safest.
    Here in Cambridge on Mass Ave., the bike lane is wedged between a row of parked cars and the sidewalk. This poses a danger to bicyclists when a person is parking their car and when a passenger exits the car. The speeding bicyclist (e bike or, not) poses a danger to drivers and passengers leaving the car to reach the curb.

    Someone else pointed out that bicyclists have a lobby group. I think pedestrians and car drivers need to have representation as well. The bike lanes have created all sorts of hazards and increased illegal parking exponentially. The illegal parking further endangers bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers.
    I believe helmets should be required for all e Bikes. And I think that lack of a helmet should be used as evidence of contributory negligence in a civil action.
    I also think they need to be registered. This will mainstream them.
    The fact that a biker knows he is registered might consciously or unconsciously make him bike more safely.
    I often see a complete disregard of traffic rules by regular bikes. I worry that e bikers will just amplify this problem.
    I often see motorized scooters using bike lanes.
    I don’t think that e bikes of any kind should be allowed on unpaved trails. Speed and enjoying natured do not mix in my book.
    This might be a matter of biker education? I wonder if it shouldn’t be required for e- bikers? Rather than creating a whole bureaucracy around e-bikes, maybe require retailers to hand out a pamphlet of rules? On line tests and education?
    On a related note, I think it is crazy that the bike rental (blue bikes, etc.) do not somehow include helmets. Aren’t a large number of the users of these bikes from out of town and thus unfamiliar with the roads? I realize sanitation might be an issue with helmets but maybe there is some solution?
    What happened with the electric scooter craze? I witnessed their introduction in Brookline. It was a nightmare with uses careening in the middle of roads and against traffic.

  69. The content for bikers in this comment section from some people is disgusting. People are just trying to get around the city, and they’re emitting zero carbon. Sorry you were inconvenienced slightly while riding around in your 2-ton machine that burns fossil fuels.

    1. Hi Dennis: I appreciate your point of view. However, the cost of re purposing our road and highway infrastructure is borne by all taxpayers, including you. If indeed our infrastructure is modified to the extent of one lane travel on each side of the main streets, exiting cities and towns would be somewhat of a problem during a national emergency, especially if the Green plans are executed some years from now ~ try refueling on the way to wherever.
      Because that is the eventual goal, isn’t it? The motor vehicle fleet reduced to electrification? Please scroll down to my major response below.

  70. I have more questions than answers on this topic. One key question in my mind is this: what role can technology play in regulating speed and will that make these distinctions between e-bike types obsolete within a few years? Could GPS enabled speed limiters which control speed based on location increase safety without sacrificing choice and flexibility in the future? This is being tested in some places in the Netherlands. For the sake of our environment and greater mobility most would agree that it is important to encourage the use of electric vehicles of all types including all three proposed classes of e-bikes. In order to leave their cars at home people will need a broad array of transportation options and the flexibility to use them, including mass transit.

    This important safety discuss revolves primarily around how FAST a vehicle is moving in different settings and the stories about collisions and near misses are harrowing. Ideally one should be able to ride an e-bike on dedicated bike lanes at higher speeds but then drop their speed down considerably on shared paths where pedestrians have the right of way. Not everyone will self regulate their speed however. What if they were forced to? If future e-bikes were equipped with GPS enabled speed limiters one could designate congested routes such as the Minuteman Bike Path or the Esplanade paths as slow zones where e-bike can not exceed 15 mph. This equipment is an added cost that may not be practical at the moment but its time may come. Could future legislation mandate this sort of equipment and how would we anticipate this in current legislation? I’d love to hear from experts on this.

  71. I ride my bike in all weather conditions (except ice) and also drive several times a week. I appreciate the drivers who are watchful and criticize some of the unpredictable behavior of bicyclists that seem to endanger them and others, but in my experience, bicyclists do not behave any more dangerously than car drivers.
    I want to raise the issue of whether ebikes that routinely travel 20 miles an hour should be allowed in bike lanes on roads. Many of our communities – Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, Belmont) are adopting 25 mile an hour speed limits on our roads. (see vision zero https://visionzeronetwork.org/). This will make all roads safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, but raises the question of whether 20 mi/hr ebikes should be in the bicycle lanes or considered traffic in low speed roads. Bicycle lanes are generally narrower than bike paths and powered bicycles speeding along will crowd out and discourage unpowered bicyclists. Legislation should foresee this accelerated movement to low speed streets and assign ebikes to the car lanes in these situations As well, legislation should allow paths and local communities to set rules and expectations for all bike riders to handle the mix.
    It is great for the climate to get everyone out of cars. I look forward to the day when we can all get where we need by bicycling and walking.

  72. I support regulation and continued adoption of e-bikes. Its important to encourage this affordable and climate-friendly mode of transportation. It solves problems that public transit alone cannot. I said I support ebikes of up to 20 mph on bike paths, but I wonder if it should be 15 mph. 20 mph does seem a little fast especially when going through areas with lots of pedestrians or street crossings. Maybe the law could allow ebikes up to 20 mph but municipalities could install more speed limit lines to require ebikes to go 15 mph or less.

  73. Keep all bikes off sidewalks, this has been a problem for years in Cambridge, especially in the Porter Sq. neighborhood.
    e-Bikes are motorized vehicles and should be treated the same as any motorized vehicle. Owners of e-bikes should have insurance, registered with license plate and pay excise tax.
    Some bike and e-Bike riders weave through traffic when traffic is slow or stopped at red lights. Last week I saw a parent riding a Front Cargo Bike carrying a child and weaving through traffic at a red light at the interception of Arlington St and Nichols Ave.
    Policing of bike and e-Bike riders is long overdue but this is another discussion.

  74. The old model of growth is out of whack. I agree that paths should be wider and ideally not of of mixed use for walking and pedaling ideally, and DEFINITELY not of mixed use of non-motorized and motorized of any type save for prescribed assistive mobility aids. As sure as night follows day a “slow” motorized vehicle will be modified be faster, or a fast one camouflaged to look of a slower class.

    Back to my point. How is growth going to work with the lion’s share of the fruit of all our labor un earned and prepossessed by the divergent elite? The Boston area is hemmed in by its history and would require a quantum leap in imagination-a Bigger Dig, (or an air campaign, or nuclear war galaxy forbid to break up the cow paths.)

  75. I think the question is not license or not for ebikes, but rather liability insurance and registration or not. The real concern is if and when an ebike is involved in an accident and dealing with the liability as a result to make the parties whole. The idea that power assisted locomotion can safely share a bike or walking path which is human powered is a real question. I for one would require normal registration with the registry and require insurance of some type, for ebikes, especially for ebikes that operate without human assistance for liability and for making them more difficult to steal by having a registry registration that can be used to check on ownership. In effect I think that the auto insurance system should be extended to all powered locomotion to ensure that Massachusetts has a complete system of coverage all means of private transportation. The rules can be modified, but the principal of liability coverage to use these machines on public right of way needs to be enforced.

    1. Separate liability insurance for bicycles is not required because bicycles, overall, don’t do that much damage. The liability policies included in homeowners and renters insurance are normally considered adequate, and do not exclude bicycle use. For example, nobody has ever ridden a bicycle through the side of a house; the bike and rider just aren’t heavy enough to do that kind of damage. Insurance companies don’t care about how a few jerks on bikes disrespected pedestrians, or about the crash that almost happened (and the difference between “almost” and “happened” is often that bikes are slower than cars, and we are a little more able to react) — they care about costs overall from bicyclists, and most bicyclists are careful, and aren’t noticed, and even the ones that aren’t careful do relatively limited damage to others (relative to what’s possible in a car) before they learn their own lessons the hard way.

  76. The United States urban centers are not designed for regular bicycle operations, ergo, not designed for any other bicycle type designs, powered or otherwise; nor are country lanes and roads. Almost all of the comments recorded hereon, in favor or not, are articulate and well thought out. My observations are that too many bicyclists choose to ignore typical motor vehicle regulations that motorists must adhere to. I do not own nor operate a bicycle; when I retired from the Marine Corps and continued with my college degree effort to completion, I operated a bicycle on the three block route from our bungalow to the campus, as did hundreds of other students. Motor vehicle traffic was minimal to almost non-existent. There were no problems evident nor published. The most problematic issue in today’s world is the cost to re purpose the streets and pathways; city and town excise taxes on motor vehicles goes a long way in supplementing local, state and federal taxes to establish and maintain our road and highway infrastructure. Unless it has escaped my notice, bicycle operators are not tapped to specifically contribute to the road systems that they utilize and are radically changed to accompany bicycles, nor do retail sales outlets nor wholesalers nor manufacturers. If the idea is for bicycles to largely replace motor vehicles, the elderly are left to utilize public transit; or Uber or other conveyances which are very expensive. And the public transit facilities no just not designed to handle the sick, lame and lazy that require urgent but not emergency medical care. Waiting for transportation during inclement weather is no picnic for those relegated to the afore mentioned transportation. I know that the following is off topic, however, the move to electrification of motor vehicle fleets is not, if at all, well planned. How does one dispose of those electric batteries; it takes a long time to recharge those batteries; long trips are out of the question, can you imagine the waiting lines at “re-fueling” stations? What fuels power those electric suppliers? How are those powerlines positioned ~ underground or vie telephone poles already overburdened. How can we tolerate our electric grid being exposed to EMP attacks? Does anyone have knowledge of the lead time required replace those huge electric generators? (try 18 months). The recent uptick in war time hostilities should make all of aware of just how vulnerable we are. Our planning should be on how to defend our power grid, not making way for bicycles on existing roadways. We face a national breakdown, and you, and I will be the first casualties while others will retreat to their tax funded bunkers ~ with their families.

  77. As a long time bicyclist in the city of Boston, I would like to see legislation which reduces the Bicyclist Hunting season in the city of Boston to one month, January 1 – January 31.
    Such legislation would also limit the number of bicyclists maimed or killed by any one automobile driving Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiast to three (3) in any one Bicyclist Hunting Season. This would ensure that the necessary culling of bicyclists would not lead to the ultimate extinction of the city’s Bicyclist population, and still provide for the hunting enjoyment of the city’s Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiasts.

    The legislation would necessitate the registration of all Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiasts. All Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiasts would be required to register with the appropriate city and state regulatory agencies,and show proof of mandated Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiast training of ten (10) hours each calendar year.

    A hunting and registration fee of $500. per year from each Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiast would ensure funding for such a measure, and would provide an orderly method of compiling statistics which would then be used to modify, when necessary, the length of the Bicyclist Hunting Season and the number of maimed and killed bicyclists allowed each Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiast.

    Any surplus funds from Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiast registration fee could be repurposed for any and all other municipal needs: child care, funeral expenses of bagged bicyclists, and of course, Boston Police Dept. traffic control officers.

    This legislation would be a win-win for all.

    1. Amendment to proposed legislation:
      Any surplus funds from Bicyclist Hunting Enthusiast registration fee could be repurposed for any and all Ghost Bike memorial design and installation and upkeep.

      1. The Atlantic, 9/21.
        “…European and Japanese regulators have for many years imposed pedestrian-safety standards on automakers, leading to innovations like the active hood (a little airbag-type of cushioning for a car’s hood). American regulators, however, have been slow to think beyond the driver’s seat. This helps explain why passenger and driver deaths have remained mostly stable over the past decade while pedestrian fatalities have risen by about 50 percent. From 2019 to 2020, pedestrian deaths per vehicle miles traveled increased a record 21 percent, for a total of 6,721 fatalities. This astonishing death toll has multiple causes, but the scale of the front end of many pickup trucks and SUVs is part of the problem, and that’s been obvious for quite a while.”


  78. If they’re allowed they should be limited to much lower speeds. Power is one thing, and I have no objection to an e-bike that has plenty of that for moving cargo. But speed is another, and even 20 mph is _fast_ for civilian rider (I average 16 mph over distance, and I’m not dawdling); 28 mph is 45 kph, and that’s peloton-speed. Allowing less- or un-experienced riders freighted with kids or groceries to move that fast in city traffic or on bike paths is looking for a world of trouble.

  79. It’s not just the speed, it’s the weight of e-bikes. I have been hit, twice, by cyclists while on my bicycle. Some major bruises and landed on the pavement, I was lucky I was able to keep pedaling to my destination. E-bikes should require licenses and not be allowed on bike or pedestrian paths. Register them, too. We are all Massholes, it is well documented that pedestrians and drivers in the state ignore regulations all the time. It is logical that the same population is going to behave in the same way when on two wheels, electric assist or not. Sometimes our roadways remind me of Naples. Since covid, drivers (and to a lesser extent, cyclists) have become more reckless. Something needs to be done to get everyone to slow down and follow the rules.

  80. I am a human-powered bicycle rider and a strong supporter of the use of bicycles for recreation and transportation. I frequently use the roadways in the Boston area and the Minuteman bicycle trail why riding a bicycle. I am in favor of the regulated use of e-bikes on automobile roadways, but I OPPOSE the use of class 2 and class 3 e-bikes on any bicycle paths.

    Designated bicycle paths should be reserved EXCLUSIVELY for non-motorized bicycle usage. I am willing to make a small exception for pedal-assisted e-bikes but only when the cyclist is actually pedaling.

    Why? Aside from the fact that e-bikes are driven by electric- rather than gas-powered motors, e-bikes are motor vehicles. We should not kid ourselves about this. Just watch how quickly and effortlessly many of the e-bike users on our roads are traveling! All motor vehicles should be excluded from designated bicycle paths both for the safety and the enjoyment of the users of those paths.

    There is nothing about e-bike design or usage that should exempt them from this rule unless the rider is actively pedaling. And there is no reason why our society should encourage the use of e-bikes on designated bicycle paths to the detriment of users of non-motorized vehicles.

  81. I already find many people (not all, but a significant number) who ride bikes to be inconsiderate to pedestrians on shared paths. My neighbor was walking around on a crutch last fall—he was hit twice by bicycles on the Watertown path. Bicyclists rarely take responsibility for their behavior around pedestrians; most think it’s perfectly OK to come up fast behind a person walking, yell “bike” at the last second and not even slow down, expecting the person to hear them in time and jump in the right direction in order not to get hit. My neighborhood asked the DCR to prohibit bikes along the small path along Charles River Road in Watertown, but they have so far refused. Those of us who walk there every day have numerous stories of unpleasant interactions with bicyclists. No one ever wants to say “no” to bicyclists and the resentment between bikers and pedestrians keeps growing. I shiver to think of the threat of electric bikes on shared paths—absolutely NOT. I will also say that I may someday get an electric bike to do errands, but I would have no problem with keeping solely to the street bike paths.

    Also, there are a lot of bike paths now. Keeping electric bikes to them might quell some of the complaints about these paths being obstructive and too numerous.

  82. Thank you, Will, for the good explanation and resources. I look forward to seeing the final poll. I also look forward to buying an e-bike and I hope to not have to purchase another car. I’m a senior and I think e-bikes could be very useful for most of my daily activities and needs where I live, assuming we can get safer bike infrastructure (which is in the works).

  83. At the state level e-bikes should be allowed on all off-road bike paths. As noted they are often used by seniors or non-hardcore cyclists to go farther, help with hills, carry heavier items, etc-not ride around constantly at their max speeds-(which can easily be exceeded by many road cyclists.)

    Individual towns could still ban them on certain paths.

    Regardless of how legislation goes, enforcement would be very difficult.

  84. The 20mph speed is a bit abstract to me. I both bike and walk casually, but I doubt I went close to even 20mph in my all life with a bike. It would help if some references/comparison were given. I am already concern by people exercising on bike on share road really zipping trough very close to pedestrian. And those are not ebike. Making such Encounters even easier concerns me a tad. But again no strong opinion just a worry.

  85. E-bikes need to be regulated at the state level. Asking municipalities to handle putting in additional restrictions is far too confusing, and these restrictions will never be followed. If you thought having different mask rules town by town was confusing, wait until you have to get off a path (or can get onto a path) because you reached a town line on an e-bike. This will never be followed and never be enforced. The state should restrict class 2 and 3 e-bikes to preserve bike paths for slower and quieter traffic (regular cyclists and pedestrians). Don’t put this onto towns to do.

  86. I do not own a bike, people who used bike for transportation should be considered of other people on the road.

  87. I have seen accidents on the Minuteman between fast bikers and slower bikers or between fast bikers and pedestrians. Allowing e-bikes on these multi-use paths would increase the number of fast vehicles and increase the danger. Bike lanes on roads are in a different category in my mind, and e-bikes should be allowed there. But multi-use paths are for leisurely bikers, baby carriages, kids just learning how to handle wheels, scooters, pedestrians – there’s no place else for all these users.

  88. When I grew up in NH bicycles required a registration. It was mainly to assure that kids were given instruction on proper bike rules. In MA it is obvious most bicyclists could use some education. It also provided a record keeping system so you could identify your bike if it was stolen (because the police had a record of the bikes serial number even if you didn’t). That system is long gone but maybe it should come back.
    I don’t think these bikes should require drivers licenses but violations should result in real penalties because when a bike magically becomes a pedestrian and runs through the crosswalk it can easily cause accidents.

  89. The bullet points for the legislation sounds ok overall, but I disagree with the following:

    -why would you leave unresolved the question of e-bike access on natural paths without a surface? E-bikes, in general, are really expensive. Bikes are expensive, but e-bikes are even more expensive. If someone is willing to possibly damage their expensive e-bike on a non-paved surface, or where there’s a break in paved surface (ex: along the Jamaicaway), then why does there need to be ambiguity that would potentially prohibit that & create an unsafe environment where someone would need to divert their bike (such as onto the actual roadway along the Riverway/Jamaicaway/VFW Parkway)? If an e-bike user is using their bike on a non-paved surface, there’s probably a really good reason for it, and that reason very likely is due to safety compared to whatever other alternative may be present. Roadways are notorious for potholes, construction, double-parked vehicles, etc. that are often much more dangerous than being on a non-paved surface when a sidewalk &/or permanently partitioned bike lane isn’t present.

    -why would you require that an e-bike carry a permanently affixed label stating the e-bike’s power, class & top assisted speed? To me, when I see that, that just sounds like an invitation for bike thieves to want to target and break the locks off of those bikes even more. What is the purpose of such a sticker? The owner of the e-bike would already know the type of bike they purchased, including it’s top assisted speed. They may not know the exact class until they purchase it, but they know all this info. Any secondary buyer would also look up the make and model, or could take it to a knowledgeable & trusted bike shop to find out when they’re considering their purchase. The only thing such a permanent label requirement would do is 1 – create more un-needed red tape regulation, 2 – have them be an easier identification target for potential theft and 3 – potentially be used in a detrimental way for fast citation by a non-knowledgeable source. I do not see any benefit to the actual private citizen owner & operator of an e-bike to advertise their vehicle’s specs to the world & the countless strangers who pass by their parked bike while they’re at work, at Dr.’s appointments, running errands, grocery shopping, etc., especially when they’re trying to intentionally hide/cover up key attractive markings to help deter casual theft (organized theft likely will still happen, regardless, since they know what they’re doing & what they’re looking for & targeting). You don’t see expensive car owners, or any car owners for that matter, driving around with visible markings to anyone who stops by to look at them parked on the street about what class vehicle they are, their top speeds, their power, etc. It’s hard to steal a car. It’s not hard to steal a bike. Mandating this type of labeling on privately-owned e-bikes would just be creating more opportunity & interest in theft by those who are aware of the e-bike & who pass it by while it’s parked/locked up while the owner is running errands, etc.

    -who is going to tamper with or alter an e-bike’s power without changing an unneeded label? 1 – you’d have to have a lot of money to even attempt that kind of change and 2 – access to or knowledge of advanced bike mechanic skills. On top of it, why would you want to? Especially for city biking? Biking, in general, but especially in the city, and especially on an e-bike or any motorized bike vehicle (meaning, non-car, non-truck vehicle), can easily get more dangerous with higher speeds, especially when inter-mingled with car & truck traffic on the same shared roadway, and the risk is not to other traffic, but exponentially to the person operating the bike, especially an e-bike. Any serious cyclist, or just even casual one, would know this.
    The battery range on an e-bike, specifically an assisted pedal bike (or what’s deemed here as a class 1 e-bike) is so completely limited. The time it takes to charge that kind of battery isn’t short, either, & to have it be removable (with you taking it on & off the bike multiple times) isn’t something hugely feasible, especially at the lower price end of those kinds of bikes, so it’s not like they’re necessarily going to remove the battery & be re-charging it at work with their bike parked outside on the street. Unless you’re going on a really short ride, like really short, that battery does not last long at all (maybe the tech has changed in this price range, but I doubt it & the batteries are expensive). Most people who have this type of bike keep the assist turned off until they actually need it & turn it off again when they don’t, otherwise they’d drain their whole battery before finishing their round-trip, especially if hills &/or heavy weight are involved. If you’re on a mixed elevation route with a pedal assist bike with limited battery range, it’s entirely likely & reasonable that the pedal assist will only be turned on by the cyclist when absolutely needed for steep inclines, and manually turned off on plateaus and downhill to conserve energy. To have a regulation saying not to tamper with a sticker which really shouldn’t need to be there at all in the first place makes no sense. I don’t see the benefit for the private citizen who actually owns & operates their own e-bike & who already know the specs.

    -why would you allow a municipality or agency to prohibit e-bikes (or some classes of e-bikes) on a path? If you are treating an e-bike like a bike (which is what it is), why would you allow a municipality or agency to prohibit an e-bike from being on it? Not for the benefit of pedestrians or other cyclists who the e-bike user could more readily pass them by on the left. When you remove the pathway option (which is often the safest option), you are more often than not re-directing those users almost always to regular roadways that are mixed with car & truck traffic which is significantly less safe for the e-bike or bike cyclist & creates an highly disproportionate undue burden & safety risk for that individual.

    -why do you need a regulation about class 3 e-bike users wearing helmets? All bike users, in general, should be wearing helmets, especially at higher speeds, and the user should already know this. You don’t regulate riders of motorcycles, scooters, Vespas, etc. to wear a helmet (or if so, I’ve seen lots of people around the city not wearing them), so why would you regulate it here? I don’t see how this regulation will help & protect the user of the class 3 e-bike who likely would already be wearing a helmet, but I do see how it can easily open the door to be potentially negatively used against them later if they were in an accident, even though you write that “failure to wear a helmet shall not be used as evidence of contributory negligence in a civil action.” I don’t see how these special rules protect the actual private citizen user of that class 3 e-bike.

    -why does the Department of Transportation need to promulgate additional regulations? That seems like a very broad-based carte-blanche vague statement.

    -what is a “motorized scooter”? the way that’s written in parentheses (“a two or three wheeled vehicle which is propelled by a gas or electric motor but is not a motorized bicycle or a motorcycle”) sounds too vague. There is a difference between a motorized scooter that’s an assistive device/powerchair to help transport someone with limited mobility that could fall under this definition, which is an incredibly different type of vehicle (especially limited with regards to speed) vs. a Vespa. You could take a Vespa onto Storrow Drive or The Big Dig tunnels. You can’t take a bike there, or an assistive scooter device or a powerchair.

    -why would DCR exclude class 2 and class 3 electric bikes from paths? The Esplanade & related Emerald Necklace (Riverway/Jamaicaway/VFW Parkway) are all DCR operated land and are key commuting corridors for cyclists, especially because, in general, they’re much safer than the main roadways they run alongside, specifically because the take slower & less-visible bike & pedestrian traffic off of the car & bike roadways. The #2 (?) worst intersection for car accidents in Boston is at an intersection on the Jamaicaway near the pond on one of many blind corners due to road curvature & design & was listed a few years back in an article, with photos, showing the most dangerous intersections in Boston (based on how they were designed from an urban planning/infrastructure perspective, # of accidents & severity of accidents). Leaving holes open for DCR or any other entity to say that an e-bike, of any type, is prohibited from using pathways on DCR land or “off-street recreational paths” is a huge safety mistake & ups the safety risk for the actual cyclist exponentially, especially when the alternative is for that e-bike user to then intermingle with car & truck traffic, especially in an area where there are already known high numbers of car & truck accidents & close calls that are completely unrelated to any type of bike or pedestrian presence.
    Highly recommend watching this short 5 minute video published by NBC10 Boston of Northeastern University Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Peter Furth, discussing both that Jamaicaway Intersection, as well as one on Columbia Road & Dorchester Avenue (he’s talking mainly from a car/truck perspective, & the problematic accidents & issues that occur, with every single traffic signal cycle) on roadways that are also utilized by bikes, or run alongside DCR bike pathway areas that e-bikes should be allowed on:

  90. I often ride my bicycle on the Minuteman path. I frequently see people riding recklessly and endangering people walking, and people with children. Young men in good shape on a good bike can easily exceed 20 mph – and do. They should be on the street. Instead of banning motorized vehicles, the state should impose and enforce speed limits for all vehicles.

  91. I have read the comments which cover the full spectrum. Pedal bikes and trikes with or without electric assist can go at speeds up to and beyond the national speed limit. It is the rider that controls how fast it can go. Walkers, runners, bikers and car drivers all *can* behave as responsible people aware of the surroundings and obeying the speed limits, they can also disobey posted signs, limits and empathetic behaviour. The eBike allows people to get outside and ride terrain that would otherwise be denied them, a person with 2 replaced hips can (and does) still ride and bicycle tours. The eAssist allows physically handicapped people to ride in a group for company. People who are critically aware of “the rules” and need to ride outside check and avoid trails that prohibit eBikes. Some trails have recognised this, the Bruce-Freeman trail for example, and permit eBikes. How to control bad behaviour? I have read the “license them” comments, where do you draw the line? Will a 3 year old’s first trike need to be licensed and pass a state mandated test? Does licensing prevent traffic violations? Licensing will also be an additional burden for the under priviledged who need their bike to commute to work, shop and carry goods. Licensing could serve a an identifier for scofflaws but then some form of enforcement will be required. On the comments on physical attacks on motor vehicles, it takes 2 to create a conflict, I have been shouted at riding my trike on quiet back roads by motorists who were inconvenienced at having to pass me, “you are not allowed to ride that thing etc. etc”, I use that as an exmple of intolerant behaviour on both sides. Thank you for the comments, an interesting read.

  92. A motor is a motor. Electric, or internal combustion. A motorized bicycle is a scooter and must be relegated to the streets with all other auto-motive traffic.

    Driving a bike with motor puts you in a different headspace and will pervert the meaning of a walking/ biking path.

    The only legislation required is one that expressly forbids/excludes motorized traffic from any and all walking and biking paths.

    The only kind of e-anything on a walking, or biking path should be on that goes no faster than a brisk walk without human input.

  93. My biggest concern about the legislation and use of e-bikes is the opportunity of the ebike user to get up to 20 MPH on a shared use path. 20 MPH is too fast on a path with pedestrians or kids on bicycles; a person on a regular bike ought not to go that fast on a shared path. If used on a street, an ebike user should have a license to have at least some assurance the rider is familiar with the rules of the road, which, as some commenters have already indicated, are sometimes ignored by bicyclists. These might be a few bad apples, but to the extent that’s true for all classes of drivers, of any type of vehicle, accountability is the price to be paid.

  94. It is time for all bikes to be registered, all bike riders must have compulsory insurance and sign that they have read a safety bike riding guide. This is long overdue.

  95. The common good is to minimize use of cars within a city limits via promoting public or alternative transportation. E-bike licensing, registration and insurance requirements are deterrent rather then stimulus in such matter.
    The major issue with recreational pathways seems to be scared/panicked pedestrian due sudden bike passing silently at speed from behind. Sound signal requirements for bike manufacturers/dealers, education and encouragement of sound signal use by bikers could be very effective solution.

    From bikers point of view its always desirable to ride in designated lane. Riding on the sidewalk determined by lack of biking infrastructure rather than individual choice. As example, beginning or the end of commute, safety issues, blocked shoulder, road work, damaged road surface and riders physical abilities affects rider to go on the walkway. Legal pressure wont make much difference on riders choice.
    Ineffective bike lane design should be taken in to consideration. Pedestrian prefer walking on smooth surface vs rough brushed concrete. No barrier design between bike lane and sidewalk might intuitively push pedestrian to walk in to much smoother bike lane causing rider-pedestrian conflict. North End bike way and Western Av in Cambridge comes to mind.
    Limits on e-bikes very likely to push riders in favor of car transportation. Therefore risk to public safety must be evaluated from cars vs e-bikes prospective.

  96. Sorry I missed this poll. After largely giving up biking due to badly aging knees, I have been so happy to rediscover it over the last year+ and be able to enjoy it again thanks to a class-2 e-bike. Please keep these bikes able to be used just as any other bike would. In particular, there needs to be access to paths like the Minute Man, Cape Cod and other bike trails around the state. Some currently bar Class 2 bikes which just seems like mean discrimination against older or physically limited riders who benefit from e-bikes. If there are concerns about speed and safety, just set speed limits or safety rules on trails. Despite the battery helping me out, I am often passed by real daredevils on their racing bikes who have no electric assist whatsoever. The issue shouldn’t be the type of bike someone is riding, but whether it’s being operated safely.

    I personally don’t think special licensing, registration treating e-bikes differently than manual bikes is necessary or desirable.

  97. Please pass the e-bike legislation. It’s a climate and quality of life solution. It just needs basic regulations in the bill provisions. Thank you, Senator.

  98. Comments regarding BOSTON
    1. Bicycles ridden by someone over 9 years old should not be ridden on a sidewalk where a pedestrian is present. (In downtown Boston that means never.)
    2. Any power driven wheeled vehicle should not be operated on any sidewalk regardless of age. They are too dangerous to be treated as toys. Even skate boarders need to walk and carry their skateboard wherever a pedestrian is being passed in either direction.
    As far as enjoying biking along the Charles (as opposed to commuting), a biker should get there on a bike path or walk the bike on the sidewalk.
    Bikers that disobey lights, stop signs and common courtesy are giving all bikers a bad name. We need to protect pedestrians (walkable cities) and responsible commuter bicyclists (fewer cars).
    3. Many non-powered bikes use the bike lanes in excess of the speeds in the bill. Powered bikes should be allowed in bike lanes.
    4. The speed limit on the vast majority of Boston streets is 25 mph. At that speed, some power bikers can ride in light traffic but must be licensed to prevent the kind of hit and run in others comments. Greater enforcement of speed limits for cars is needed.

  99. I commute from Brighton to Cambridge daily along the Charles River
    E-bikes scare me with their speed
    I can’t imagine what it must like for pedestrians. It’s just you have to judge timing of pedestrians, skaters , joggers when your on a bike and sometimes you have to react quickly
    Which would be difficult when riding at high speed. Also just the weight of those bikes in a collision.
    E-bikes are great but keep them on them on the road

  100. No, no, no thank you! PLEASE ban all motorized vehicles from bike lanes, paths and sidewalks.

    The only legislation I want to see is no motorized vehicles of any kind in bike lanes, sidewalks, and bike paths, with express inclusion of all elecro-motive conveyance. (Unless you have a handicapped waiver and limit that to mobility devices and class I.)

    Also, there should be no filtering for powered cycles of any sort: motorcycle, shooter, moped, electric bike.

    The fact that it’s illegal will make people do it carefully and as for fleeing liability, I’d rather see that than an increase of morbidity and mortality that will come from legalizing filtering.

    License, no license it doesn’t matter. Once you open this door to numbers of people motoring in bike lanes and paths and the like they’re not going to be, “speaking the same language,” so to speak with regards to shared awareness.

    Its an outrage that an industry could be so presumptuous.

    And, speaking of bikes. Why are there so many bikes on the road without a proper reflector set!!!!!

    I mean, I might be open to licensing bicycles and I’m dern well set on on licensing “e-bikes,” for galaxy’s sake.

  101. I am cautious to ban any kind of e-bike from shared use paths, mainly because our roadways are not yet safe from being hit by cars, and we want to encourage people to use e-bikes as much as possible
    There *should* be strict rules however about operating at a safe speed for the given conditions on shared use paths. A 15 mph speed limit (or less) on shared use paths likely makes sense, but more importantly, when more pedestrians are present, people should bike more slowly.
    One thing that bothers me is how much scrutiny we are giving to regulate e-bikes in terms of limiting speeds and limiting where they are allowed, YET cars, trucks, and SUVs can go 100 mph+ and have no such regulatory restrictions. We allow them nearly everywhere and rely on the driver to operate safely. I fear that we are spending far too much time focusing on the wrong dangers.

  102. I am mortified that pedestrian and bike paths are being sold out to become roads for motorized vehicles.

    I begrudge even allowing Class I electric motorbikes on bike paths as they change the nature of the paths. Walkers and peddlers have a different mindset from people motoring on e-bikes.
    Is this the beginning of the end of walking and pedaling paths?

    “Sold out,” is too harsh and not intended ad hominem.

    Seriously, the e-“bikes,” will hit a critical mass and then -bam- no more pedestrians and good luck to the real bikes.

    And, well before it reaches a critical mass it will suck proportionately to the number of motorized bikes.

    1. Just found these comments and agree with Fred’s many replies regarding the differences in the thinking between pedestrians / pedal bikers and those of e-bikers. I find that human powered path users are there for very specific reasons and usually for health and well being. They call on their bodies to perform and go further than just a walk around the neighborhood. The e-biker might feel great being outside, but they are not physically engaged. I think there is a mutual respect among human powered users and a degree of selfishness with e-bikers. “I feel great” but could care less about the people that are whizzing by. I think most human powered activities are in relative silence and the paths I have been on are very peaceful. I can’t put into words how disruptive it is to hear a blaring e-bike horn or two on a path that I’ve known to be serene for decades.

  103. People need to understand that e-devices (skateboards, bikes, scooters, one wheelers, etc.) are already on most shared use paths in the Commonwealth PRIOR to being allowed. And there is absolutely no enforcement now when it is clear they are ALL in violation of the current “no motorized vehicles” regulations. Once some (i.e., class 1 bikes) are allowed, there will be even less incentive for enforcement. DCR and others have no bandwidth for enforcing any of this. A cyclist or e-cyclist has no obligation to be carrying a license or any form of identification on them, so ticketing users is essentially impossible. Thus, this debate is already over! E-devices are going to use these paths, and nobody is going to stop them until there are numerous serious accidents resulting in a loud, organized upheaval.
    For all that e-bikes and other e-devices add to alternatives for the general public, they are sadly inflicting a major detraction from the primary recreational intent of many of our shared use paths across the Commonwealth. Users zipping by with electric motors changes the experience in negative ways for most path users. So much for escaping from the fast moving monotony of our city and town streets.

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