Cleantech & EV'sNews

The US state that just accidentally banned kids from riding electric bikes off-road

In what appears to be a first of its kind, a new law was just enacted in Arizona that seems to have swept up some electric bicycles in an effort to outlaw kids operating off-road vehicles.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has just signed into law Arizona Senate Bill 1567, which focuses on two key issues regarding off-highway vehicles (OHVs). The new law makes it a criminal offense for anyone to operate an OHV while consuming or possessing an open container of alcohol, and it also aims to prevent children from operating them by requiring a valid driver’s license and driver training. The former seems like a good idea, but it’s the latter that could pose a problem for kids riding recreational e-bikes.

The issue is the way Arizona defines OHVs. As stated in the new law, “An OHV is a motorized vehicle that is operated primarily off of highways and that is designed, modified or purpose-built primarily for recreational nonhighway all-terrain travel. An OHV includes a tracked or wheeled vehicle, utility vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, motorcycle, four-wheel drive vehicle, dune buggy, sand rail, amphibious vehicle, ground effects or air cushion vehicle and any other means of land transportation deriving motive power from a source other than muscle or wind.”

The legal definition of a “highway” is just a public road or street, not the colloquial highway we think of as high-speed roads. And while many e-bikes are designed for use on public roads, there are plenty of others, such as electric mountain bikes and trail bikes like Sur Ron-style light electric dirt bikes, that are obviously designed for non-road use. In Arizona’s broadly defined OHV category, technically these electric mountain bikes and other similar e-bikes could be swept up in the category of “transportation deriving motive power from a source other than muscle or wind,” i.e., a 250W to 750W e-bike motor.

In the US, electric bicycles are not regulated as motor vehicles at the federal level, but instead as consumer products just like all bicycles. However, Arizona’s state laws go further, painting with a broad enough brush to include some electric bicycles in the category of OHVs. While e-bikes designed for road use such as commuter, cargo, utility, and other road-going styles are likely safe as they are not considered “designed, modified, or purpose-built primarily for recreational nonhighway all-terrain travel”, there are several types of e-bikes, light electric trail bikes, electric mini-bikes and others that are certainly designed primarily for off-road all-terrain travel.

specialized levo sl kids
A young girl rides a Specialized Levo SL Kids model electric mountain bike

The new law, which was largely intended to prevent children from operating ATVs, side-by-side UTVs, and other similar off-road vehicles, lays out the penalties for underage violators operating an OHV in the state without a valid driver’s license.

For violators under 12 years old, the citation will be issued to the child’s parent or guardian. For violators between 12 and 15 years old, the citation can be issued to either the child or their parent/guardian.

Not only is electric mountain bike becoming a popular sport among teenagers, but there are even models such as the Specialized Levo SL Kids that are specifically designed for younger riders with smaller frames and reduced power.

Furthermore, even adult electric mountain bike riders could be impacted by this law if they don’t possess a valid driver’s license and haven’t completed Arizona’s upcoming OHV safety course.

Electrek’s Take

I’m not a lawyer here, but it seems like the law should have been crafted with a bit finer legalese to prevent this kind of bycatch from such a wide net. Unless Arizona’s goal was really to require a driver’s license to ride an electric mountain bike through a park, then someone screwed the pooch here. Sure, there have been sporadic e-bike bans before, but I don’t think the bill’s authors intended for this to apply to electric bicycles.

I’ve already heard from Arizona parents of kids who ride and who are working to get the law overturned or updated. With any luck, the state issues a clarification on the law to exclude off-road e-bikes or minibikes, many of which are popular with children as a common outdoor activity in the state. Without it, riding electric mountain bikes before getting a driver’s license is effectively illegal in the state of Arizona, at least unless you keep your fancy new eMTB on the pavement and tell the cop that it’s just a commuter with really good suspension.

specialized levo sl kids

via: ABC 12News


Author: Micah Toll
Source: Electrek

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