The state Senate voted unanimously on Monday to pass a law that, if signed by the governor, will add clarity to Idaho code on electric-assisted bicycles, or e-bikes.
House Bill 76, which amends the existing definition of e-bikes to match industry standards, passed both legislative chambers without opposition.
“Before this legislation, it was not clear in law if an e-bike was treated like a human-powered bicycle, a motorcycle or a moped,” said Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, who sponsored the bill. “This ensures they’re treated as a human-powered bicycle.”
The bill delineates three categories of e-bike: Class 1, which is a bicycle with a motor that works only up to 20 mph and only when the rider is pedaling; Class 2, which can go up to 20 mph even when the rider is not pedaling; and Class 3, which has a motor that runs up to 28 mph when the rider is pedaling.
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The categories are consistent with industry definitions, Nelson said.
Because the legislation defines e-bikes as human-powered bicycles, HB 76 also adjusts Idaho code to explicitly permit the use of e-bikes on sidewalks and paths unless otherwise prohibited.
But for the most part, Nelson said, not much will change because the legislation leaves regulations up to local governments.
Since December of 2017, e-bike riders have been able to use sidewalks and crosswalks, bike lanes, streets and the Greenbelt within Boise city limits on bikes with top speeds of 20 mph. A similar ordinance passed by the Ada County Commission in March of 2018 allowed the operation of e-bikes on the Greenbelt while prohibiting operation on Foothills trails.
City of Boise spokesman Mike Journee said he didn’t anticipate any change in city regulations due to the new law. Under the current ordinance, riders with disabilities can secure a waiver to use low-powered e-bikes on Foothills trails.
Elsewhere, Nelson said, the legislation should make it easier for local governments to regulate e-bikes by category, making it easier for cyclists to know where they are and aren’t allowed. He said the law is an important way to keep up with technological advances.
“I think we need to continue innovating in transportation in this state, and this was an easy way to do it,” he said.