Last year, we were watching the New Jersey electric bicycle legislation grow and develop and are very happy to see that things have been coming along nicely.
If you got to read my past posts on this law, you saw that the bill was in committee last term and stayed there as the session ended. Fortunately, the bill was reintroduced as A 1810 in the current term and has made some amazing progress.
On January 31, 2019, A1810 was amended once again and adopted unanimously by the committee thank to the great work of many legislators, including one of our favorites, Asmb. Gordon Johnson. This means that as of the date of this posting, the bill can be presented to the full assembly for a vote and I would expect it to pass with flying colors.
It’s not perfect- the bill does not include an important group of eBikes that can go between 20 and 28 mph assisted:
“The amendments also provide that any electric bicycle with a motor that is capable of propelling the bicycle in excess of 20 miles per hour with a maximum motor-powered speed of no more than 28 miles per hour on a flat surface is to be treated under State law as a motorized bicycle, commonly referred to as a moped.”
In 2017, we offered a substitute for this legislation to Assemblyman Tim Eustace that we believed solved all the safety and regulatory concerns. Here is our draft legislation. A4663 ESC Draft Amendments
Our bill did not adopt the People for Bikes Model legislation for a number of reasons. Assemblyman Eustace was most concerned, and rightly so, with supporting the large number of cyclists in the Garden State who were active members of People for Bikes. A very good choice on his part and we agree. There are many benefits to the PFB Model eBike laws, perhaps the biggest one being: they provide a legal framework and structure for the adoption of eBike laws similar to the Federal eBike laws and laws in many states in the Nation. They make them legal to own and operate, subject to local laws and regulations.
And that’s what is happening here in New Jersey.
The next steps now for A1810 are for the Senate to adopt the Assembly version present it for a full vote and if it passes there, the bill goes to Governor Murphy’s desk to be signed into law. This could certainly happen this legislative term.
Here’s the good news already:
The good news is that the bill makes just about every kind of eBike out there legal to operate in New Jersey, subject to local laws and restrictions. So, if you are hesitating to purchase that eBike you have been longing for, you are in good shape if you are concerned that a law will come along that will make your new eBike somehow illegal.
What’s that you say… you would feel better with a guarantee? That’s a lot of money to spend on an eBike- what if I can’t ride it because it is against the law? Well, eBike shops could not guarantee the outcome of legislation, just like they cannot guarantee that their customers will all safely and legally operate their eBikes in the State. In fact, no eBike shop anywhere could offer a guarantee that local laws and conditions will not impact on the operation of electric bicycles.
But wait… why can’t I get a copy of the local New Jersey laws that show me that these things are legal?
There simply is no provision in the New Jersey Laws that makes eBikes legal or illegal. Right now, they are defined as motor vehicles in the state statutes. This is why we are happy to see A1810 moving along nicely. For a law to be legal and effective it must be enforceable, among many other things.
I occasionally get stories about folks who have contacted their local police department to ask the question and are told that eBikes are illegal in New Jersey. Well, if you accept the current law as valid, you would have to register, license and insure your eBike as a motor vehicle in New Jersey, right? But… you could not do that even if you tried, nor could the Division of Motor Vehicles.
Interestingly, I also get a few stories from folks who have contacted the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles directly to ask if they are legal and how they can get them registered and inspected. I am informed that a DMV representative tells them that the eBikes are illegal and they cannot be registered or inspected as motor vehicles. Unenforceable. No provision in the laws or regulations to register or inspect eBikes as motor vehicles.
But wait… People for Bikes is very clear: “…Therefore, riding an electric bicycle in New Jersey is illegal.”
Our valued partners, People for Bikes have done some incredibly important work on eBike legislation in the U.S. Their Model eBike Laws have been adopted in many states and they are hard at work in states like New Jersey to advance eBike safety and development.
Here’s what they say about the current legality of eBikes in New Jersey:
This is one good reason we are quite happy to see A1810 moving closer to becoming law. It means the eBike you are thinking of buying will not only enjoy specific language in our laws defining it but it will never be subject to the same regulatory requirements that operating cars, trucks and busses are. No registration, no insurance, no operating license. Just like in the majority of states in the country. They are not now and will not be in the near future.
But I have heard about all the problems they have in New York- aren’t they illegal there too?!!
They certainly were, at least in Manhattan Borough, but all that has changed.
If you care enough…
Last year, we were very pleased to learn that the premiere bicycle trade organization, People for Bikes, has made significant strides in New Jersey through lobbying efforts and support, to secure the passage of this important legislation.
If the current state of the laws here in the Garden State is the only thing between you and your new eBike, and you want to do something about it, I urge you to contact People for Bikes through their legislative action website here. We were informed by Alex at last year’s Interbike Conference they have retained a lobbying firm here in New Jersey and your contacts and questions will be very helpful to them.
And you will get the unique pleasure of being involved with an important and planet-saving cause: the proliferation of zero-emission transportation alternatives. Not to mention riding that new eBike with an even bigger smile on your face.
If you are looking for a reason NOT to buy an eBike this year, this could certainly be one of them. But you would be one of the few still wishing while everyone else is out riding.
I will be happy to respond to comments and questions here in this blog- please feel free to contribute and perhaps we can ease some of your fears.