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Thread: Fine for riding e-bikes on trails in DC?

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    dasgeh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    No, I want to keep the current situation where people just use reasonable ebikes on the trail in such a way that most people don't even notice, and nobody really cares.
    Maybe those people using reasonable ebikes on the trails don't want to be breaking the law.

    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    We're never going to see that level of enforcement. We might get to a point where the police will look for a person with repeat complaints and tell him to get the motorized vehicle off the trail, but we're not going to have a permanent presence that penalizes bad behavior as it happens.

    So a cop pulls someone over because he suspects they're running an overpowered bike, and the process is that they whip out the manual? And the cop just says "ok, you've got a manual"? For a scheme like that to work you'd end up with a vehicle registration scheme just like you have for cars to enforce all of the motor vehicle regulations (which would make the price advantage of ebikes vanish, and put things on a bad course for cycling generally).
    We generally only get enforcement against bikes when there's a collision, which makes sense: bikes don't pose enough risk to warrant the cost of preventative enforcement (as opposed to, say, cars). So when there's a collision on the trail, the authorities can look up the materials on the bike to see if it meets the standard. Or they can write the ticket and it can be challenged with documentation from the manufacturer. Either way, it's pretty easy.


    Quote Originally Posted by mstone View Post
    I do not believe there's any chance that will reflect the state of affairs in a decade, as improved batteries get cheaper and more widely available. That is really the only limitation at this point. I don't expect that this will be something that involves a soldering iron, but rather the purchase of a widget off amazon. You seem to think that the current limits are set in stone, but what you can buy today at a store would have been either a fantasy or a hell of an impressive DIY project a decade ago.
    So put in an exception to the ban that expires. But don't punish the families, pregnant women and disabled folks who want to use the trails now and need to use ebikes.

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    How about continue the current status quo (ban but with discretionary enforcement) but write in legalization for select classes of riders with a special need - IE families, pregnant women, and disabled folks - so no change from the status quo (since there will be no discretionary enforcement against the latter anyway) except members of the latter group who are bothered about a "technical" violation of the law can have an easier conscience (and an easier explanation to their kids, should their kids ask.)

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    I think I have a relatively simple fix from the regulation standpoint. Hear me out -

    We have a federal definition of electric bicycle that sets limits on watts, speed cutoff, etc that is applied for manufacturing standards. To me this means that any company making an electric bicycle that exceeds those standards is no longer allowed to use the term "bicycle" when marketing their product. Call it what it is at that point - an electric motorcycle.

    Part of me wonders how companies like Stealth Electric can proudly call their Bomber a "bicycle" on their website. Dude, just because you slapped a pair of functional pedals on it doesn't mean you can take it on the same MUPs where you would a $50 Huffy from Walmart. But that seems to be where a lot of the fear is coming from in this debate, the idea that somebody who buys one of these things will say, "Hey, they sold it to me as a bicycle, so now I'm going to take it on the WOD!"

    So maybe I think people really are that stupid, but if companies are forced to live up to the federal definition in their marketing materials this whole issue would evaporate. Because in my mind that simple change, from "bicycle" to "motorcycle" carries with it a whole new schema that would keep people from engaging in the kind of behavior we're all afraid of.

    BTW - Stealth does have a disclaimer, but it's buried under the "policies" section at the bottom of the homepage under the nondescript heading "product liability". It's only there that you'll see their bikes are "designed for recreational or off road use. Please consult you local authorities to find out the rules and regulations for electric vehicles." Note how when it matters (like, cause their lawyers wrote it) they call it an electric "vehicle"

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    . But don't punish the families, pregnant women and disabled folks who want to use the trails now and need to use ebikes.
    We know these folks always make the best transportation choices. I've never seen a pregnant soccer mom driving a black SUV with Maryland plates.

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    More "powerful" batteries are not the only thing holding up ebikes. It's the higher voltage and amperage that necessitates every electric component to be upgraded to handle the increased power. It's not cheap or as easy as simply replacing a battery. 36/48 volt systems are pretty standard, similar to how 12v is the standard for autos. Try upgrading your car battery to 36v and see what happens, I dare you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jnva View Post
    More "powerful" batteries are not the only thing holding up ebikes. It's the higher voltage and amperage that necessitates every electric component to be upgraded to handle the increased power. It's not cheap or as easy as simply replacing a battery. 36/48 volt systems are pretty standard, similar to how 12v is the standard for autos. Try upgrading your car battery to 36v and see what happens, I dare you!
    But the motors are simply designed for whatever common voltage is out there. And they tend to work with a range of voltages pretty well. The voltage limit is usually the controller, not the motor.

    The point is that the reason bikes aren't faster isn't that the motor tech isn't there (it is), its mostly that running a more powerful motor takes larger batteries, which increase the weight and expense beyond what people are comfortable with. If the batteries get cheaper and lighter, motor power can increase. More powerful motors already exist, and they aren't that expensive.

    EDIT: for example, here is a group buy for chinese 3000w hub motors for less than 200 bucks, designed to run at 48v:
    http://endless-sphere.com/forums/vie...p?f=31&t=63394

    3000w will easily get you into motorcycle-esque speeds. The real limit to these is hooking up enough batteries to them to get reasonable range, and the expense of such.
    Last edited by jabberwocky; 10-28-2014 at 05:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lordofthemark View Post
    How about continue the current status quo (ban but with discretionary enforcement) but write in legalization for select classes of riders with a special need - IE families, pregnant women, and disabled folks - so no change from the status quo (since there will be no discretionary enforcement against the latter anyway) except members of the latter group who are bothered about a "technical" violation of the law can have an easier conscience (and an easier explanation to their kids, should their kids ask.)
    It's an idea. Problem is, how do you know who "needs" it? Just take pregnant women: I was able to ride normal bikes without a problem with #1 until I was pretty big. With #2, riding a normal bike made me throw up starting at about 5 weeks -- long before I was visibly pregnant or I told people outside of family. Other women have been seen doing laps at HP past their due date. Everyone is different.

    The price tag does a pretty good job at weeding out people who "need" it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dasgeh View Post
    It's an idea. Problem is, how do you know who "needs" it? Just take pregnant women: I was able to ride normal bikes without a problem with #1 until I was pretty big. With #2, riding a normal bike made me throw up starting at about 5 weeks -- long before I was visibly pregnant or I told people outside of family. Other women have been seen doing laps at HP past their due date. Everyone is different.

    The price tag does a pretty good job at weeding out people who "need" it.
    You get a note from your doctor (like the parking passes for the disabled - and no, I am not worried that the trails will be mobbed with first trimester moms who don't need it but are cheating - let any pregant mom get a pass) - as for who is riding with kids in tow, that should be obvious.

    As for the price tag limiting it to folks who really need it - I would have thought so - but I met a man, at least two decades younger than me, who said he rode an ebike (could it have been e-assist only - I don't think so) to work because he is lazy (he picks it over driving because its cheaper.) And his commute is not that far - north Alexandria to Crystal City, I think. That's at 2014 prices, which I am told will come down.

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    Default Fine for riding e-bikes on trails in DC?

    Quote Originally Posted by jabberwocky View Post
    But the motors are simply designed for whatever common voltage is out there. And they tend to work with a range of voltages pretty well. The voltage limit is usually the controller, not the motor.

    The point is that the reason bikes aren't faster isn't that the motor tech isn't there (it is), its mostly that running a more powerful motor takes larger batteries, which increase the weight and expense beyond what people are comfortable with. If the batteries get cheaper and lighter, motor power can increase. More powerful motors already exist, and they aren't that expensive.

    EDIT: for example, here is a group buy for chinese 3000w hub motors for less than 200 bucks, designed to run at 48v:
    http://endless-sphere.com/forums/vie...p?f=31&t=63394

    3000w will easily get you into motorcycle-esque speeds. The real limit to these is hooking up enough batteries to them to get reasonable range, and the expense of such.
    I catch your drift. You do need larger gauge phase wires to handle the current, which I'm pretty sure this motor has. This isn't the type of motor you'll typically find on production ebikes though, except for the stealth. My point is that if you want that level of power, you might as well buy a motorcycle. Unless like me you like spending more money to build it yourself :/

    Also, I think there is a law in va now that you have register as a moped if it is capable of more than 30mph. On my 15 mile commute, whether I go by car, bike, or ebike, my average speed is never more than 20 mph. This afternoon I averaged 16mph. High speed does me no good, except for safely keeping up with traffic on short sections of lee hiway. Even if I had a 3000 watt motor I couldn't use it around here. Kind of like having a Ferrari to commute on 66. It's just a waste.

    Edit to add that riding metro consistently gives me the slowest average speed in my commute. Something like 10mph. Ugh, I'll never ride metro again!!!!
    Last edited by jnva; 10-28-2014 at 07:08 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jnva View Post
    I catch your drift. You do need larger gauge phase wires to handle the current, which I'm pretty sure this motor has. This isn't the type of motor you'll typically find on production ebikes though, except for the stealth. My point is that if you want that level of power, you might as well buy a motorcycle. Unless like me you like spending more money to build it yourself :/

    Also, I think there is a law in va now that you have register as a moped if it is capable of more than 30mph. On my 15 mile commute, whether I go by car, bike, or ebike, my average speed is never more than 20 mph. This afternoon I averaged 16mph. High speed does me no good, except for safely keeping up with traffic on short sections of lee hiway. Even if I had a 3000 watt motor I couldn't use it around here. Kind of like having a Ferrari to commute on 66. It's just a waste.
    The thing is, I think tech like this is seriously awesome! Having that sort of power would enable people to undertake longer commutes via bike, and use roads that might be too unsafe on pure human power. Like I said, I'd much rather see people on e-bikes than in cars. Its just such a murky thing when it comes to multi-use infrastructure that has traditionally been for non-motorized traffic. Sure, the bikes commonly available today aren't really any less safe than human powered ones. I've chased a few e-bikes over the years, and aside from steeper uphills I could keep up alright with some effort. I get that you guys are probably perfectly polite trail users, and just want to get to work, same as me. Allowed or not, I would never give an e-bike rider any crap for riding on the W&OD, for example, as long as they weren't being colossal dicks. Buts its also almost certainly true that e-bikes will continue to get more powerful and cheaper. Just in the last 10 years things have advanced enormously, and electric propulsion and battery tech is being heavily invested in. I don't blame people for being resistant to changing the legality of things, at least in some circumstances.

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