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Why Nebraska Needs to Classify E-Bikes

LB738 is a bill to make a simple change to the definition of an electric bicycle in our state statutes. That’s all it does. The language in this bill does not include anything regarding enforcement or regulation; it simply updates the definition to reflect the 3-tier classification, which has become the national standard being adopted by most other states. 

What are the three tiers? 

  • Class 1: Max Speed 20 MPH, provides assistance when pedaling (no throttle)
  • Class 2: Max Speed 20 MPH, provides assistance when pedaling or throttle 
  • Class 3: Max Speed 28 MPH, provides assistance when pedaling (no throttle)

Electric pedal assist bikes are becoming increasingly common and many new vendors have entered the market with a variety of products. Some products now being marketed as e-bikes are actually not bicycles at all - they are pedal REPLACE, not pedal assist - creating new challenges for people in charge of state parks, trails and other recreational facilities to manage their spaces accordingly.

The majority of e-bike sales in the last few years have been Class 1 bikes. However, Nebraska currently maintains a "No Motorized Vehicles" rule for parks, trails, and other infrastructure.

"The process was always tenuous since the ‘No Motorized Vehicle’ and ‘Nebraska Electric Bike Laws’ can contradict."

If Nebraska’s state statute reflects thee new national standard it will give land and facility managers a clear definition to point to in helping them ensure safe, legal e-bikes have access while limiting access for pedal REPLACE (commonly called motor bikes or dirt bikes). 

Justin Johannes testified on Tuesday, February 14th to the Transportation and Telecommunications committee with the example below to showcase the need for statewide classifications:

"Since most of our trails, parks, and tracks are located on public lands, the relationship between Landowner and the Land Managers relies on a shared understanding of the cycling landscape.  

Bicycles have changed and evolved parallel to the local parks and trails. Still, the current Nebraska electric bicycle definitions don’t require functional pedals and can be interpreted to include some types of electric ‘dirt’ (or motor) bikes. 

One of my roles within the community was Track Operator for OmahaBMX located at Hefflinger Park. During my tenure, we often had to address electric dirt bikes within the park and on the BMX track. The process was always tenuous since the ‘No Motorized Vehicle’ and ‘Nebraska Electric Bike Laws’ can contradict. It also took time, effort, and passion from the volunteers giving back to the community."

Nebraska is one of only eleven states that has not adopted the 3 tier classification in their statutes. All of our neighboring states have the 3 tier language in their statutes.

In the example of Heartland Bikeshare and Bike LNK, the addition of e-bikes to their bike share fleet has led to record-setting usage numbers. However, they are unable to add e-bikes to their station at Mahoney State Park because of lack of definition with current statute.

Overall, this is a common-sense, simple bill which will allow Nebraska to evolve with the booming e-bike market and keep their trails, parks, and infrastructure accessible and safe for all users.

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