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COG approves e-bikes on shared-use paths

The Council of Governments voted unanimously on Monday to allow electric-assisted bicycles use of shared-use paths.
The Council of Governments voted unanimously on Monday to allow electric-assisted bicycles use of shared-use paths. Centre Daily Times, file

The Centre Region’s shared-use paths provide a great opportunity for cyclists and pedestrians to separate themselves from traffic.

The next time you walk down one of these paths and someone passes you on a motorized bicycle, don’t worry — the rider is allowed to be there.

The issue of whether electric-assisted bicycles, commonly referred to as e-bikes, should be allowed on the paths of the Centre Region was resolved Monday when the Council of Governments voted unanimously to allow the bikes use of the paths.

Allowing e-bikes the use of the shared-use paths was a high-priority item when the Centre Region Bike Plan was rolled out in December, senior transportation planner Trish Meek said. These paths, like the ones along South Atherton Street and Blue Course Drive, are set up for both pedestrian and bicycle use.

An e-bike is very clearly defined in Pennsylvania law, Meek said, addressing Act 154 of 2014, which specifically addresses “pedalcycles with electric assist.”

E-bikes are not considered motor vehicles under this act, she said. In order to be considered an e-bike, the bicycle must meet certain specification, including weighing less than 100 pounds, having operable pedals, having a motor that is 750 watts maximum and being able to travel no faster than 20 mph on level ground when powered by the motor.

“The way many of these bikes are designed, when you get above 20 mph with the assist, the motor shuts off,” Meek said. “These parameters make it more like a bike than not like a bike. It’s very clear what specifically applies here.”

E-bikes do not include vehicles like mopeds or scooters, she said, which do not meet the parameters established by the legislation. E-bikes are essentially indistinguishable from regular bicycles, but have a battery pack attached to the frame.

“They’re pretty seamless,” she said. “They may already be operating in the area and we don’t notice them.”

The law clarifies that e-bikes do not constitute motor vehicles, she said, and as such, do not need to be insured in the state. No person younger than 16 is allowed to operate an e-bike either.

Establishing an e-bike policy across the region makes it easier for residents to know where they can use these bicycles, Meek said, as several paths cross municipal lines. The Centre Region Planning Agency could then let shops and riders know the parameters these bikes fall under, keeping them compliant.

E-bikes can be found in a few shops around the region already, she said. Higher end bikes can go up to $4,000, while basic ones are around the $1,400 range.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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