Are electric bikes motor vehicles? Or are they just bicycles that give the rider a push?
That’s the question lurking behind the city of Boise’s gradual push to regulate electric bikes. City attorney Robert Luce appeared before the City Council on Tuesday afternoon to unveil a first attempt at a law that would restrict the horsepower of electric bikes and where they can be ridden.
If adopted as planned, the law would allow electric bicycles, also called E-bikes, to have motors of no more than 750 watts, or about one horsepower. The top allowed speed would be 20 mph. Those guidelines match standards that other cities around the country have adopted, Luce said.
As they’ve become more popular, E-bikes have drawn the attention of regulators around the state, although no laws specifically for them have taken effect in Idaho.
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If Boise’s law passes, E-bikes would be allowed in streets, including bike lanes, and the Boise River Greenbelt, but not on sidewalks. Riders could not use them on trails in the Foothills unless they first obtained special permission from Boise Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation director Doug Holloway told the council his department would allow riders with disabilities to use E-bikes on those trails.
It’s unclear whether a person could get a DUI on an E-bike. Idaho’s DUI law applies only to motor vehicles. Luce predicted the decision on E-bikes and DUIs will end up before the Idaho Supreme Court someday.
The city didn’t set a timeline for a vote on the E-bike regulations.