Guest editorial: Working group urges clarity on 'e


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Jun 13, 2023

Guest editorial: Working group urges clarity on 'e

Guest Editorial by The Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle Working Group The

Guest Editorial by The Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle Working Group

The Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle Working Group is a collection of industry-related organizations and experts working together with land managers, law enforcement, and manufacturers to develop recommendations and educational materials to help ensure safe, legal, and responsible recreation of electric bicycles and electric-powered two-wheel vehicles.

 The group's members are at the bottom of this letter.

There have been a plethora of articles in recent months shining a light on the immense challenge we — the bicycle industry, advocates, and retailers — face with educating consumers, land managers, and law enforcement when it comes to electric bicycles, including electric mountain bikes, on natural surface trails. Specifically, with the use of the vernacular "e-bike" to refer to both electric bicycles and out-of-class electric vehicles (OCEVs) including electric motorcycles.

Using "e-bike" without definitions or context blurs the line between what an electric bicycle is, and what's allowed on trails.

Using "e-bike" without definitions or context blurs the line between what an electric bicycle is, and what's allowed on trails. The generic use of "e-bike" by the media, the bicycle industry, and even our own advocates causes significant confusion with land managers, retailers, consumers, and trail users. One recent example was the "Through the Grapevine" column in the April 2023 edition of BRAIN. The column identifies many of the issues seen with out-of-class electric vehicles, without defining what type of electric bicycle or electric vehicle the author is referring to in the story. Another example was a NICA story titled, "Everyone's Invited: How E-Bikes are Changing the Coaching Landscape" where the use of the term "e-bike" implied an electric bicycle within the class system. We in the industry should take every opportunity to clarify the difference between an OCEV or electric motorcycle and a legally defined electric bicycle in the three-class system. When we lead by example, it is easier for the media and consumers to understand the difference between an electric bicycle and an OCEV. This will help improve access by showing land managers that allowing Class 1 electric bicycles on trails does not equate to also allowing OCEVs and electric motorcycles in the same area.

As an example, Class 1 pedal-assist electric bicycles have been authorized on trails in California's Santa Monica Mountains. Without clearly understood definitions, there has been an influx of all classes of electric bicycles, OCEVs, and e-motorcycles on these trails. User education will be critical to maintaining this access in the future. OCEV's growing presence on trail systems threatens access for everyone. Land managers are struggling to enforce their own rules — such as only allowing Class 1 electric bicycles. We, as an industry, do our land managers, trail users and consumers a disservice when we fail to make these important distinctions.

Most places where electric bicycles have been granted access on non-motorized natural-surface trails limit access to Class 1 pedal-assist electric bicycles. This is consistent across all states that have electric bicycle laws on the books.

Continued media and industry references to"e-bikes" without class guidelines only exacerbate the confusion and lead to frustration and conflict on the trails..

As we deal with a public that is intrigued by products that allow them to go bigger, faster, and longer, mentions of class compliance in media seem to be nearly nonexistent and widely absent. A stark example was the mainstream media reports of celebrity Simon Cowell's "e-bike" accident that resulted in a spinal injury. Nowhere in the media was it mentioned that the crash was on an overpowered, out-of-class electric motorcycle. It was just referred to as an "e-bike."

Perpetuating this mislabeling of all types of two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles under the generic umbrella of "e-bikes" presents real problems for consumers, advocates, law enforcement, and land managers. Those responsible for managing trails are rarely equipped with the means to determine if an electric bicycle or motorcycle is compliant with local bicycle laws, NHTSA, or CPSC regulations. Additionally, how are consumers expected to know the nuances of the class system when there is only a generalized category of "e-bikes" being discussed in bicycle industry marketing and media? Words are important, and the media, bicycle industry, and advocates should know that.

We all need to do better at distinguishing between Class 1 electric mountain bikes, out-of-class electric vehicles, and e-motorcycles in our media, marketing, and sales if we want to keep land managers on the path to opening more opportunities for Class 1 electric mountain bikes. Specifically, the Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle Working Group requests that the industry and cycling advocates take the lead. If the industry takes the lead in clarifying explicitly that pedal-assist Class 1 electric bicycles are the only electric bicycle that is endorsed by the industry for use on natural surface singletrack bicycle trails, we believe that the media, advocates, and land managers will follow.

Failure to do this could result in the worst-case scenario, rallying land managers to rescind Class 1 electric bicycle access, and possibly even traditional non-motorized mountain bikes. A scenario that surely does not serve riders or the industry.

The Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle (OCEV) Working Group includes:

Editor's note: BRAIN has grappled with the terminology issue before, such as in our April 2022 article "Approximately none of the recent 'e-bike' accidents have involved e-bikes." But we operate under the assumption that the readers of BRAIN, a trade publication, understand the difference between an e-bike and an electric motorcycle or electric scooter. So BRAIN will continue to use the term e-bike when referring to electric-assist bicycles (which have pedals) — whether they are Class 1, 2 or 3 or outside that system.

And we will continue to call electric scooters "e-scooters" as we refer to electric motorcycles as "electric motorcycles." When necessary or helpful in our articles to distinguish between the classes of e-bikes or creations that are outside the three-class system, we will continue to do so.

We agree with the authors that writers and editors of consumer-facing media, whether their articles are read or viewed by bicycle enthusiasts or the general public, should consider their audience's familiarity with the relevant terms and be careful not to call something an e-bike when it is not an e-bike.

Guest Editorial by The Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle Working Group The Out-of-Class Electric Vehicle (OCEV) Working Group includes: