Euro two wheel retailers want electric bike laws changed

Cycle lobby groups have mixed views

The European Twowheel Retailers' Association (ETRA) is lobbying the European Parliament to introduce new electric bike regulations that they believe will "allow different types of electric bikes to become widely and easily available."

Electric bike choice now is far too restricted by European law (and the UK is similar), say ETRA. New European laws on electric bikes have been on the cards for the last few years but appear to have become bogged down.

ETRA believe a considerable part of the bike business is behind them but have sent out an appeal canvassing wider opinion.

BikeRadar’s Dave Clutterbuck recently trialled a Storck and wrote about how he felt the speed cap limited its competitiveness with a car (motors on many electric bikes are powerful enough and technically capable of assisting beyond the UK speed cap of 15mph – but currently become classified as mopeds if they do so).

If more liberal laws were introduced ETRA believe there would be an upsurge in popularity as more practical vehicles would be widely available without complicated red tape and extra cost. They quote "city pedelecs, speed pedelecs, electric tricycles, electric mountain bikes, electric cargo bikes, pedicabs, electric recumbents and velomobiles".

Conventional bike lobby against e-bikes

ETRA also say that members of the European Parliament are being lobbied by representatives of cyclists and the bike industry, who argue that more electric cycles will endanger the safety of “conventional” cyclists. This lobby wants to make sure that the market remains limited to cycles with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h and a motor output limit of 250W.

ETRA believes that their proposal will have no negative effects on road safety and that, on the contrary, there is a huge potential for developing the market of electric cycles and light electric vehicles and a potential for a widespread swap from cars to electric cycles for certain trips.

"More electric cycles on the road will mean less cars thus improved road safety for all vulnerable road users," say ETRA. "However, this potential cannot be unlocked if manufacturers are confronted with a regulatory framework that is not appropriate, which is the case today."

European Commission bogging down e-bikes?

At the end of last year, the European Commission developed a new proposal aimed at updating the legal line between electric bikes not subject to motor vehicle type controls (‘type legislation’ in the jargon), but "omitted to introduce any changes for the benefit of electric bicycles and light electric vehicles. On the contrary, the European Commission proposes even more inapppropriate requirements such as ... on board diagnostics, anti-tampering measures for the powertrain (which includes gears and brakes) and wheels that should be able to rotate at different speeds at all times for safe cornering."

Some countries' national laws allow for what are essentially electric ‘superbikes’ – in a class between red tape-free bicycles (including electric bicycles) and mopeds. Germany’s ‘leichtmofa’ class includes electric bikes capable of assistance up to 45km/h (28mph) and with up to 500 watt motors. A licence and insurance is required but not a helmet and the bikes are not allowed on bike paths. Switzerland also has a ‘fast class’ of electric bike with companies such as Velocity and Swiss Flyer making bikes specifically for it. 

Another Euro organisation, the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) also threw its weight behind cycles – both conventional and electric assist – recently and criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s recent decision to subsidize the emerging electric car industry as a step in the wrong direction.

ECF head honchos will be aiming to put cycling - with or without the ‘E’ – centrestage at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig on May 25-27, which will see Ministers of Transport from 53 countries attending.

Meanwhile, ETRA says that whilst "encouraging a shift to sustainable mobility" it has found itself unintentionally in a cyclists versus electric cyclists confrontation and is asking where you stand on the debate – let us know your thoughts.

If you want to sign a joint letter in support of ETRA’s stance it can be found here.

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