An Open Letter to the eBike Community

Larry Pizzi is the Chairman of the BPSA electric bicycle committee and just wants you to try out an eBike before you make a decision about how you feel about them. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Larry Pizzi is the Chairman of the BPSA electric bicycle committee and wants you to try out an eBike before you make a decision about how you feel about them. Photo: Jim Merithew/

Editors Note: eBikes are a hot-button topic these days, so when we ran into our friend and strong eBike advocate Larry Pizzi at this year’s Bike PressCamp, we asked him if he was interested in penning an editorial for He told us he had recently sent out a mass email to bike industry insiders explaining why this is an important topic and asking for financial support. Larry says the response has been positive and people are putting their money where the eBike is. Below is his letter in full.

Important memo from the BPSA eBike committee to US bicycle industry leaders: We need your commitment of financial support immediately. Please act today!


Electric bicycles sales in the US have the potential to exhibit the volume and growth seen in many European countries. However an antiquated and patchwork regulatory environment threatens consumer confidence, retailer acceptance, and could cause market disruption just as significant use begins to take off. Federal regulation governing manufacturing and first sale has been in place since 2002 and seems to be working well for both the industry and safety. The problems come from differences in state regulation of use. Some states, mostly those with electric bike legislation enacted after the 2002 federal CPSC standard, regulate low-speed electric bicycles (“eBikes”) as bicycles and do not require special registration or licensing. In most other states where they are applying older moped laws, eBikes are considered a motor vehicle with required vehicle plates and operator licenses. Because eBike sales are legal in all states regardless of state use regulation, illegal and unregistered use is common but rarely is there any enforcement. Enforcement, could however become a growing problem if numbers increase and there are real or perceived safety concerns.

The solution to eBike regulatory problems on streets, roads, and multi-use paved trails is to fix problematic state vehicle codes. At present no state vehicle code is ideal. Twenty states are pretty good in that that they do not present any significant barriers to eBike use. These states classify eBikes as a bicycle and do not require licensing or registration. The best fourteen of these states explicitly allow eBikes on off-street paved bike paths. The other six are silent or unclear on where eBikes are allowed. Unfortunately all twenty of these state regulations have some minor flaws that keep them from being an ideal model. They may allow more power or speed than the 2002 federal CPSC definition or they may put requirements on eBikes that differ from regular bicycles, such as minimum rider age, a helmet requirement or a sidewalk prohibition.

There are more substantial problems in thirty-one other states. In twenty-six of these states, there are onerous requirements such as vehicle registration and rider licensing. Two states, New York and New Jersey, require registration but offer no legal options for doing so, making all eBikes technically illegal in those two states. In CA, CT and DC where eBikes are treated as bicycles, there are additional restrictions on where they can ride such as prohibitions from off-street, paved paths.

With regulatory hurdles in thirty-one states, where does the industry start?

The simple strategy is to prioritize the most populous states. New York and California rise to the top of the list. In New York, eBikes need to be legalized and in California, low speed eBikes need to be differentiated in the vehicle code from the designation “motorized bicycles”, which includes mopeds, to remove automatic prohibitions on use on off-street, paved paths.

A final outstanding issue also needs attention. Should states regulate eBikes with motor assist over 20mph differently than eBikes that limit motor assist to under 20mph? Safety concerns may warrant regulations on helmet use, operator age, vehicle registration, use on facilities with pedestrians, and a maximum motor assist speed similar to speed pedelec regulation in Europe. In Europe, speed pedelecs have a limit of 45kph (28mph) top motor-assisted speed and a variety of motor vehicle regulations different than regular bicycles. A lack of additional US regulation of eBikes with motor assist over 20mph may cause safety problems, which could disrupt the entire eBike market.

The BPSA eBike committee’s proposed plan.

The committee’s working group on legislative issues is made up of representatives from Trek, Specialized, Giant, Accell, Felt, Pedego, Shimano, Bosch and Sram and the committee has reached a consensus decision on a three-classification strategy that is designed to address concerns that we have heard from advocacy groups, regulatory agencies and lawmakers. The top line classification designations include the following and will be further detailed and agreed upon by the committee:

Bicycle Product Suppliers Association
740 34th St.
Boulder, CO 80303
Class 1 – Pedal assist electric bicycle with a top assisted speed of less than 20 MPH (32 KPH). Motor power is cut as bike reaches 20 MPH.
Class 2 – Throttle assist electric bicycle with a top assisted speed of less than 20 MPH (32 KPH). Motor power is cut as bike reaches 20 MPH.
Class 3 – Pedal assist electric bicycle with a top assisted speed of less than 28 MPH (45 KPH). Motor power continues to provide assist when the bike reaches speeds above 20 MPH, allowing human power to be added to make the bike go up to 28 MPH before motor assisted is cut.

The plan entails writing these three classifications into model state legislation that will guide use regulations, requiring the industry to apply an indelible label with the proper class designation. Proposed by classification use would be restricted as follows:

Class 1 – Anywhere a normal bicycle may be ridden. Intent is to be considered a normal bicycle in the same manner a qualified EPAC is considered a bicycle in the EU.
Class 2 – Any paved bicycle infrastructure, including multi-use bicycle paths where normal bicycle may be ridden.
Class 3 – Any street or roadway where a normal bicycle may be ridden including bike lanes that are adjacent to a roadway.

For ebike use on streets, roads and paved multi-use trails.

Use the model state legislation we develop and assist the state bike advocacy coalitions in New York and California with legislative campaigns in the 2015-16 legislative sessions.
We would begin the campaign with an eBike advocacy summit in late January 2015 with all interested advocacy groups to agree on the legislative language and develop strategy. Select an eight to twelve member eBike advocacy task force made up of representatives of People for Bikes board, BPSA and national, state and regional advocacy groups to make campaign decisions for national eBike interests as the legislation progresses. Hire a campaign coordinator to coordinate national bike industry and advocacy involvement in 2015-16 campaigns and to facilitate future strategic planning.

If necessary, we would exempt singletrack and/or unpaved trails from any changes in order to eliminate potential opposition from land managers outside the transportation sector. A separate off-road and unpaved trail strategy is described below. In future years we would target states with problem regulations starting with the most populous states.

For natural surface and unpaved trails.

Partner with IMBA to work with trail agencies and consumers in three areas:

• Establish low speed pedal assist, Class 1 eMTB as a separate category
from mechanical mountain bikes and motorized trail bikes.
• Publicize, promote and educate current legal places eMTB can be used.
• Conduct demonstrations and impact studies to evaluate eMTB use on dirt
and unpaved trails with the consent of managing trail agencies.
Finally we would explore opportunities for tax incentives for eBike purchases similar to tax incentives for other electric vehicles. Additionally there are a variety of eBike promotional activities the bike industry could conduct jointly.

Timing is mission critical and we must act immediately.

To meet this legislative timeline in both NY and California, we must act immediately to fund the initiative and get started today. January begins a new two-year legislative session in both states and our deadline for getting a bill authored and introduced into this legislative session is mid-February 2015. We have proposals from the California Bicycle Coalition and the New York Bicycle Coalition, which will become the foundation of the state efforts on the transportation sectors. We also have a proposal from IMBA on the natural surface trail sector. We have estimated the total annual cost for this work at $300,000. This estimated budget includes staffing and assistance with lobbying and program costs at IMBA, the CA Bicycle Coalition, the NY Bicycle Coalition, and any other states in which we engage.

The fairest way for the industry to raise these funds is for companies to contribute based on their planned scale and size of their individual eBike business. Most companies with plans for doing business in the eBike category already contribute to People for Bikes. We should encourage 100% participation in People for Bikes. People for Bikes have already agreed to contribute ten thousand dollars in cash and in-kind staffing for each of the two state efforts, to help offset a portion of these costs. The balance will need to be contributed by the industry distributors and manufacturers, component and systems suppliers and retailers. Recommended contributions are as follows;

• Large companies – $50,000.
• Medium companies – $25,000.
• Small companies – $10,000.
• Retailers – $1,000.

This is a relatively small amount compared to the vast potential of the eBike market in the US, and we need your commitment of financial support now. I would like to ask that you act quickly and make your commitment to contribute today. Please let me know if I can count on your support by replying to this memo. Of course, I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have and if I don’t hear from you, will be reaching out to follow-up within the next few days.

With my appreciation,
Larry Pizzi

Larry is the President of the Currie Tech Corporation and the Managing Director of the Electric Bicycle Competence Center of North America (EBCC-NA), the leading US developer of electric bicycles that are marketed and supported under the brands Raleigh, Haibike, Lapierre, IZIP and eFlow. Larry has been with the company since May of 2002.

Larry Pizzi is advocating for eBikes every chance he gets. Photo: Jim Merithew/
Larry Pizzi is advocating for eBikes every chance he gets. Photo: Jim Merithew/