Sen. Smith introduces e-bike legislation

Published Jun 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm (Updated Jun 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm)
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Legislation introduced June 13 by State Senator Matt Smith (D-Mt. Lebanon) would legalize electric bicycles, or e-bikes, under the state’s vehicle code and classify electric bikes as the same as traditional bicycles.

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Smith, along with South Fayette Township officials and bike shop owners, met at South Fayette’s Morgan Park to talk about the legislation and also demonstrate how electric bikes work to help users climb hills more easily.

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“We want to make sure we incorporate language for electric pedal-assist bikes and make sure it will be commonly accepted,” Smith said. Currently, some police officers view e-bikes as mopeds and will ticket a user since the bikes are not registered, or if the user doesn’t have a license.

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The proposed bill, Senate Bill 997, clarifies the law by defining and regulating pedal-assist e-bikes. The legislation specifically limits e-bikes to bicycles equipped with operable pedals, an electric motor of 750 watts or less that weighs 100 pounds or less, and is capable of a maximum speed of no more than 20 miles per hour. The proposed bill would also require e-bike riders to be at least 16 years old. The bikes would not have to be registered by users.

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According to Gary DiVencenzo, president of Hybrid Cycles, LLC in West Chester, the e-bikes can run from $1,300 to around $4,000. DiVincenzo made the six-hour drive from West Chester to South Fayette to be on hand for the demonstration and announcement of the legislation. “It’s important legislation,” he said.

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“We’re trying to make sure these are classified as any other bicycle,” Smith said. “These bikes operate like a regular bike.”

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He added that he wants to encourage bicycle use and that pedal-assisted bikes help folks “particularly in our area with the hills” to enjoy riding bikes.

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“We want to make it as easy as possible,” Smith said. He said e-bikes give those with mobility problems who may not be able to ride a regular bike the opportunity to ride. He added that people could also use the bikes to more easily get to a bike trail, instead of hauling a regular bike in the car to the trail.

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He said there’s also an economic development side to classifying e-bikes with regular bikes. “It’s a growing segment of the bike industry,” Smith said.

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Adam Rossi, vice president of Adam Solar Resource, is opening a bike shop called Adam Solar Rides on July 14 at his company’s headquarters along Mayview Road in South Fayette.

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Rossi said the bikes “can make a steep hill feel like pedaling on flat ground.” He added that the bikes, which have batteries that can be charged using a regular wall outlet, end up being very economical. The bikes can go between 20 and 40 miles on a single charge.

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Rossi said the legislation would “level the playing field” and allow people with mobility problems or diseases like multiple sclerosis to ride bikes. “Everyone who demonstrates the bicycle always smiles and always has fun,” he said.

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