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E-Bikes Are Ex-Asperation

Thu, 06/20/2024 - 19:05
Lt. Chelsea Tierney of the East Hampton Town Police Department presented to the town board about e-bikes on Tuesday.
LTV East Hampton

At an East Hampton Town Board work session full of safety information for pedestrians, cyclists, and fire-pit lovers, the presentation that drew the most interest from the board was one on e-bikes, given by Lt. Chelsea Tierney of the East Hampton Town Police Department. “The biggest thing is that people just don’t know the laws,” she told the board.

The two most misunderstood laws? E-bikes are only allowed on roads with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or less. And: No one under the age of 16 is allowed to operate an e-Bike.

Councilman David Lys highlighted some popular roads where e-bikes cannot be used: Route 114, Montauk Highway, Springs-Fireplace Road, and, in Montauk, Flamingo Avenue, West Lake Drive, and South Edgemere.“I’ve seen them riding in Amagansett by the big field on the sidewalk at a rapid speed,” said Councilwoman Cate Rogers. “Are e-bikes allowed on sidewalks?”

“They are not allowed on sidewalks,” said Lieutenant Tierney. “We have town code prohibiting that.” E-bikes are also not permitted on nature trails.

“Are they meant to be in bike lanes, or are they meant to be on the road?” asked Councilman Tom Flight.

“They can travel in bike lanes or on the roadway,” was the answer.

“So, a bicycle can go on any roadway, regardless of the speed limit, but an e-bike cannot? That seems a little illogical,” said Mr. Flight.

“It is New York State law, it’s not my law,” Lieutenant Tierney replied.

Highlighting the complexity of the new technology, she showed the board a graph depicting seven types of e-bikes, including a scooter, separated into three classes. Each class has a motor that switches off after the bike reaches a maximum speed. While bikes in classes one and two lose their motor assist after reaching 20 miles per hour, class three motors don’t cut off until they reach 28 miles per hour, which is three miles over the maximum allowed speed for an e-bike in New York State (25 miles per hour).

E-bikes are not registered or insured, so they’re not treated as motor vehicles by the police. A further complication is that helmets are required if the rider is 16 or 17, but optional once they turn 18.

“The fact that they don’t require a helmet, it just seems nonsensical to me,” said Mr. Flight. He suggested creating code that would pair helmets with rentals. “That would put the onus on the bike shops or hotels who lend these bikes.”

“State law is very open to towns enacting their own interpretation and safety measures,” said Lieutenant Tierney. Part of the problem, she said, is that parents rent e-bikes for their children, “then they give it to their 12, 13, or 14-year-old child to ride. I don’t think they do it to commit a violation. They do it because they just don’t know.”

“A lot of enforcement will come from the police department,” said Councilman Lys, “but enforcement is going to have to come from parenting, too. If you want to use e-bikes legally, go ahead. But parent your children better, too.”

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