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At their meeting on September 19, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission passed a new regulation that allows cyclists to use e-bikes in Kansas State Parks. The regulation passed with only one commissioner voting no.  This is great news for Flint Hills Trail and Prairie Spirit Trail State Park users who want to ride e-bikes on the trails.

My friend Nick Kromacher and I traveled to the meeting in Garden City to make public comments in support of the regulation.  We also brought a e-bike to the meeting and made it available to demonstrate prior to the meeting.   Here’s my summary of the regulation and my view on some of the concerns that were voiced.  

What does the regulation do?

The regulation, KAR 115-8-13a, exempts e-bikes from motor vehicle registration requirements effectively classifying “electronically assisted bikes” as non-motorized vehicles.  The regulation references the Kansas definition of “electronically assisted bikes (8-1489) below.

8-1489. “Electric-assisted bicycle” defined. “Electric-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor. The electric-assisted bicycle’s electric motor must have a power output of no more than 1,000 watts, be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on level ground and incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device beyond 20 miles per hour.

What bicycles are covered?

As expected most of the concerns from the commissioners and the public seems to be the definition of an e-bike and what types of bicycles should be covered under the regulation.

Bicycle Product Suppliers Association  (BPSA) has developed a classification system for different types of e-bikes.  For the most part bicycle manufactures make bikes that conform to these classifications.  These definitions are available on the People for Bikes website.

A “class 1 electric bicycle” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

A “class 2 electric bicycle” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used

exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

A “class 3 electric bicycle” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and is equipped with a speedometer.

Class 1 and Class 2 Electronic Bicycles are Allowed

The commissioners were in favor of including “Class 1” bicycles in the regulation because the motor only engages when the rider is pedaling.  However, there were concerns about allowing “Class 2 electric bicycles” because a rider could operate the motor without pedaling.  One of the commissioners felt that this was “cheating”.    However, the challenge was mostly with the definition and not with the regulation itself.  In the end, the commissioners agreed to proceed with the vote on the regulation and address any concerns with the definition at a later date.  So, my understanding is that under the regulation as passed, class 2 bicycles would be allowed because they meet all of the criteria of an “electronic assisted bicycle” under the current definition.  The important part of this is that the motor does not engage at speeds over 20 mph.

Class 3 Electronic Bicycles are Not Allowed

Under the regulation as passed “class 3 electronic bicycles” would not be allowed in State Parks.  The rational of the commission seems to be the concern about speed.  The only difference between a class 1 and a class 3 electronic bicycles is that  class 3 bicycles can reach a speed of 28 mph vs. 20 mph for class 1.   My concern with this restriction is that a cyclist can operate a class 3 bicycle and never exceed 20 mph.  In my view regulating this is akin to placing a cap on cars that have the ability to exceed the legal speed limit.   If I buy a class 3 e-bike for use on the roads,  why should I be excluded from using it on the trails.  I believe a better approach would be to regulate and enforce speeds limit rather than place restrictions on the. bicycles.

 Other Concerns

The other are of concern was with how riders on e-bikes would interact with equestrian users in the parks.  One of the commissioners was concerned that this regulation might bring more cyclists and would create more opportunities for conflict with horses.   Members of the community and others on the commission pointed out that the expectation of cyclists on e-bikes was no different than for cyclists on traditional bikes.  In my view, the concerns of how different types of trail users interact should can be addressed through education.  In my experience conflicts on the trail are usually the result of users not understanding the proper Trail Etiquette rather than a lack of respect for other users on the trail.

 

This is a  Big Deal!

I want to thank the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism for taking this big step forward.   People need e-bikes for many reasons.  Many riders say that e-bikes have enabled them to participate in an outdoor activity  that they love after an injury or as they grow older.  This new regulation will make our beautiful Kansas Parks and Trails accessible to more people and will attract new people to cycling and the outdoors.  This is a very good thing for Kansas!