California is considering a driver's license for e-bikes

Originally published at: California is considering a driver's license for e-bikes | Boing Boing


I bike as one of my primary modes, and I can see the point. They’re basically motorbikes, and can easily hit 40-50kph on level terrain. They don’t have the slow acceleration of pedal bikes or even gas engines, and many people hack them to work without pedaling.

I think I could be convinced of this, provided it isn’t implemented in a way that screws poor people. It should be cheap and easy to get, and also an existing driver’s license should allow you to use one.


Agreed. A lot of the so-called ebikes available today are more powerful than my old Vespa.


It would certainly make sense to have different regulations for different classes of e-bikes. An electric-assist bike that allows a rider with bad knees to take on hills like their more athletic counterparts is one thing, but a motorbike-under-another-name tearing up the sidewalks and bike paths is quite another.


That’s how it is here in Germany. The former kind is treated like a bicycle. The latter is quite rare and counts as light motor bike.


There is a very popular jogging/bicycle path which runs through some of Seattle: The Burke Gilman trail. Over the last decade the upper speeds have substantially increased from spandex racing bikes to what appear to be standard motorcycles yet electric. The common shout “On Your Left!” is no longer sensible unless the shout is begun 200 meters prior. Note the “class” designation that’s still being worked out:

and that “Speed Limit 15” is pretty much a joke


Yes, that type of regulation makes sense but I hope they can come up with a way to enforce it. It’s easy today to put a huge amount of power and speed into an e-bike that’s visually indistinguishable from a much more modest e-bike that wouldn’t need any kind of licensing.


Last local news story I saw applied enforcement to the electric unicycles but I think I have seen it applied to the e bikes as well: Cops fine them for not having insurance. Only problem is they cannot get insurance.

Not a good way to enforce things but given the absence of regulations the police will find a way.


In NYC, all manner of regular bicycles, e-bikes, mopeds, e-scooters, and sometimes light motorcycles are used indiscriminately on the sidewalks. ALL are serious hazards and all are illegal (except for cyclists under 13 years old). There is no signage (except those ignored at some park entrances). There is no attempt at education or enforcement. Anyone traveling on less than 4 wheels can easily act like a pedestrian when they want to and a vehicle when they want to with general impunity. Whichever gets them where they want to go the fastest.

I don’t think licensing any portion of these would have any positive effect and the distinction between vehicle types is too blurry.

Also, here policing e-bike licenses would definitely be used primarily against people of color. It’s not even a question.


I walk to work, and frequently have to beware of ubiquitous e-vehicles that use the sidewalk instead of the bike path adjacent to the road: OneWheels, e-scooters, e-bikes, e-skateboards and any mashup of small vehicle + battery-powered motor. I’m also starting to see electric powered motorcycles, with enough HP to be street legal. They are quick and almost completely silent, often travel in groups, and incautious operators travel too fast for either driver or pedestrian to react in time to a potential collision. They are frequently rented to tourists as cheap transportation without more than a cursory safety briefing.

I don’t know what a good solution might be, but I miss the little bells that almost every kid’s bike had on the handlebars.


i’ve seen a couple of these in the last month or so while bicycling. the silent, suddenly there’s a person there weaving around you part is what’s gotten me. it feels super unsafe.

the only thing i can think of is requiring manufacturers to give the super fast e-bikes ( scooters, unicycles, etc. ) engine motor sounds.


Em. People can hit 40 kph on level terrain with an pedal powered bicycle…

Heck, bicyclists regularly exceed 70 kph on down hills where I live.

The issues with safety, at least to others, is related to both speed and mass.





Keep 'em coming, I’ve had a shitty day.


We need something like that in BC(Western Canada). People are interpreting the bike-paths as anything electric, sometimes with no pedalling required; short, fat, heavy electric motorbikes with vestigial pedals at best.

However, since there is zero enforcement I’m guessing electric motorbikes without plates are already breaking many laws.


Uh. Government regulation isn’t really a neoliberal or neoconservative position given they’re all about laissez faire.

California’s government is largely run by modern liberals which are a completely separate group from neoliberals.


The moped rule is 28mph before needing a license, I think? It should apply.


In California you need a M1 or M2 license to ride a moped, and they require a special license plate, but they don’t need to be insured.


It varies by state.

Yes, which is why I specifically said "in California " which after all is the subject of this discussion thread.