In a move that could reshape the e-bike landscape, California Assembly member Tasha Boerner has proposed Assembly Bill 530, aimed at requiring licenses for e-bike riders without an active driver’s license. This legislation comes in the wake of recent high-profile e-bike fatalities in the United States.
Key Points of the Proposed Law:
- E-bike riders without a valid driver’s license would need to pass an online written test and hold state-issued photo identification.
- Individuals under 12 years of age would be prohibited from riding e-bikes.
- The creation of a stakeholders working group, including the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles, California Highway Patrol, Transportation Agency, bike groups, and more, to establish an e-bike training program and licensing framework, including detailed classes and e-bike types.
- If passed, violating this new law would constitute a criminal offense in California.
While the idea of licensing e-bikes is not entirely new, it has typically sparked discussions that eventually fade away. According to urban mobility expert Brent Toderian, informed discussions often highlight the impracticality, cost, and potential adverse impact on public goals.
It's important to note that some regions in the United States do mandate bike registration, although this differs from the proposed e-bike licensing, primarily focused on younger riders.
The proposed law addresses a series of recent tragic incidents, particularly involving young riders. Assembly member Boerner emphasizes the need to educate parents and enhance the safety of young e-bike riders.
The most recent tragic incident involved the unfortunate death of 15-year-old Brodee Champlain-Kingman on June 22, 2023, after his e-bike collided with a van in Encinitas, Southern California.
To tackle the increasing e-bike safety concerns, cities such as Carlsbad and Encinitas have declared 'states of emergency' following several e-bike fatalities. These cities are investing in safety programs targeting all cyclists, electric and conventional, to improve road safety.
While the safety concerns for young e-bike riders in parts of California are evident, detailed data on e-bike-related incidents remains sparse. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) noted 119 fatalities related to e-bike and 'e-micromobility' accidents between 2017 and 2021 but cited the "lack of complete, consistent, and reliable data."
It's worth highlighting that e-bike sales in the US exceeded one million units in 2022, indicating a growing trend in e-bike adoption.
The proposed law brings attention to the need for comprehensive e-bike safety measures, but further exploration is necessary to fully understand the extent of the safety issue in the context of increasing e-bike popularity across the United States.