The Shape of Things to Come

Copenhagen shows us how we will save our planet

We have been saying something for a few years now: “Europe is ten years ahead of sustainable energy development than the U.S.

Please have a look at this very informative NY Times article on what the folks in Denmark are doing to reduce carbon emissions in Copenhagen. You may be puzzled that they are continuing to address climate change in light of what the U.S. has been doing recently to re-vamp our country’s reliance on coal and other fossil fuels.

Bottom line is that we all are responsible for a healthy planet, despite economic and political differences. After all, what good is a robust economy if we can’t get outside to enjoy it? Since our current administration has chosen to prioritize fossil fuel energy over renewable and sustainable energy, it is important to see what the rest of the world is doing to prepare for the future.

Enjoy!

So, what’s going on now with the Electric Bike Laws in New Jersey?

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:

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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.

 

A Bloody Mess

(v – u)/t = Tort Liability!

I was afraid of this… it was almost predictable: The laws of physics being what they are, when we have a body, particularly a human body, being propelled through space at maybe 20 mph and interacting with stationary objects we get… Tort Liability!

Check this out:

The following excerpt is from a very fine Bloomberg article and links you to the full text:

(Bloomberg) — A lawsuit targeting electric scooter-sharing companies seizes on the dangers of zipping around town on two wheels and brings gory detail to one of the more polarizing technology trends to emerge over the last year.

Nine people who were injured by electric scooters filed the class-action suit on Oct. 19 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. It accuses startups Bird Rides Inc. and Lime — as well as their manufacturers Xiaomi Corp. and Segway Inc. — of gross negligence, claiming the companies knew the scooters were dangerous and deployed them in a way that was certain to cause injuries.

I am most amazed at the revenue reaped from renting out these little devils all over the place: Bird and Lime are now two of the youngest startups to earn unicorn status in Silicon Valley with valuations of $2 billion and $3 billion or more, respectively. (Olivia Carville) Wow. Double wow.

Well, the greater the risk, the greater the reward, right? So, it’s going to be a whopper of a class-action lawsuit with big bucks, jobs and reputations at stake. One thing’s for sure- the CEOs of those companies are courageous folks. Considering the wealth created in such a short time, this is also one for the books.

In a previous post, I commented on the negatives of the Uber-like approach these companies have used very successfully to both create and position the scooter rental market. If these companies “asked permission first” we would not have seen such a meteoric rise which is, in many ways, just beginning.

Some consider the legal liability incurred to be an unfortunate but necessary part of the development of this industry. Same things happened in the development of the automobile industry (think Ford Pinto) and now we have… liability insurance. And safety. And really expensive cars.

A sure sign that scooters have gone mainstream and, just like automobiles, they are here to stay. Unless, of course, the outcome of the class-action lawsuit changes that “Dollar To Start” to “Three, Four or More Dollars To Start.” Maybe not so many scooters dotting the neighborhood then.

Good thing they rented out enough scooters to get over $5 billion in the bank.

But the good news is, very soon, as battery technology goes to the next generation, we will see scooters with a range of more than 20 miles on one charge, are heavy-duty and will be light enough to fold into a back pack. A game-changer.

I’m going to want to own one of those, for sure. You?


(Regarding the formula in the title above, and for those of you who, like me, slept through Physics, deceleration, or decrease in speed, can be calculated using multiple different formulas, depending on the available parameters. Some deceleration formulas include a = (v – u)/t, and a = (v^2 – u^2) / (2s). For humans and other creatures, it’s often not a good outcome. But it sure can be fun!)

“Hey, I’m much stronger than I thought!”

Finally in New York City, Electric Bikes Are About to Go Mainstream….!”

After a lot of advocacy on all sides, Electric Bikes and their riders in New York City are now joining the revolution without fear.

Please have a look at this great NYTimes article on a much anticipated outcome for folks who want to ride an eBike in the Five Boroughs. Our compliments and gratitude to everyone who continues to work hard to get this right!

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

It’s official: Electric bicycle prices rising in the US as the Trump Administration approves 25% tariff on Chinese e-bike imports

“Ever since the Trump administration began its trade war with China, electric bicycle importers have been nervous about what it would spell for the e-bike industry. In June those fears were realized when the United States Trade Representative published a list of 284 categories of products covering over $16 billion in trade which were all tentatively scheduled to receive 25% tariffs.”

Micah Toll for electrek, August 8, 2018

I was wondering how and when we would feel the effects of the trade war and now I know. We join the list of American businesses directly hurt by the “trade war” with China and the rest of the world.

We submitted our objections to these tariffs to the Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative during the public comment period, but to no avail.

Please read our letter to Ambassador Lighthizer here.

Well, we will not take this one lying down, that’s for sure. Our customers, our sport and our industry are very dear to us. Just when the industry is expanding more rapidly than ever here in North America and elsewhere, the “trade war” cuts us off at the knees.

So, we are going to do everything we can to keep our eBikes, eTrikes and other personal mobility vehicles and devices as affordable as they were before the tariffs, for our corporate customers and our franchise customers as well.

We’re on your side.

Nobody really wanted to wear seatbelts in a car, now we have no choice. Nobody wants to wear a safety helmet on an eScooter…

nyti.ms/2O2JIDZ

Here is a great article on the unintended consequences of providing easy electric mobility to the masses.

Besides throwing public safety to the winds and banking on a business strategy based upon apologies, these scooter companies are forcing states and communities to re-think bicycle helmet safety laws.

If you had to wear a helmet for a 10 minute scooter ride, would you be so quick to part with your money for the thrill? It would be something to think about, right? Would you have to carry your own helmet around with you in anticipation of jumping on one of these neat machines for a nice ride? Where and when do these delightfully successful, high revenue companies offer you a safety helmet as part of your “just a dollar to make it go” scooter ride?

Apparently, these companies believe that riders really do not like the inconvenience of having to don a helmet and other safety gear for a short, little 25 mph or even 35 mph ride. It’s a pain. Puts a real chill on the whole experience. And, for those of us who remember, it’s a lot like those days of old when seatbelts were a good idea perhaps, but not mandatory by law. I hated seatbelts. My Dad, who strapped himself into a P47-D Thunderbolt every day to fight for allied victory… hated seatbelts.

So, instead of buckling into them, we sat right on them. Stuffed them down into the seats. Complained about them and ignored them. When they developed a beep that would sound in an obnoxious way if the belt was not buckled, we simply buckled them up underneath us and stuffed them deep into the seat. Seems like everyone we knew knew somebody who knew somebody who heard about somebody burning up in a car wreck because they could not get out of their seatbelt. Justification.

So, they had to enact laws making safety mandatory. Now we all must buckle-up or suffer the consequences: motor vehicle violations, fines and penalties, insurance surcharges and increased rates and, oh yes, last but unfortunately least: serious physical injury and devastating head injuries that wreck our lives and this lives of those who love us, often irreparably.

Let’s face it: the real reason you buckle that belt is to silence the alarms and avoid the ticket. Kind of the same reason you don’t text while driving, right? If you are like me, you never think that you are going to actually get into a car accident and suffer a head injury. No… not me?!!

So, we now have little choice about buckling up those seatbelts and this is what is going to happen with helmets and e-scooter riding. Especially when the medical studies and data show what we all know is true: a brain in a helmet will be much better off in a collision than a brain without one. It’s a foregone conclusion. But it is also a factor in decisions by these scooter rental companies to go with what the consumer wants: convenience. And for an eScooter, especially one you rent on a whim, this means no helmet. If I was one of these very successful eScooter rental companies, I would worry about one main thing- the bottom line. If helmets mess up our bottom line, by making it more expensive to rent one or even worse, more inconvenient, then that is going to be bad for business. Perhaps that is why we did not ask permission first, before we showed up with thousands of these nifty little things in major metropolitan areas. No matter, they are here now and this is a good thing.

So, are you going to wear a helmet the next time you fire up one of these eMobility machines with a dollar? Some of you more serious riders will. Most will not, especially if the big companies are going with convenience over safety. They are not at fault- it’s a business decision. Your safety is your responsibility. Until the data from the studies comes in and public safety legislation does exactly what it did with seatbelts. Then, you won’t have a choice. Click it or ticket. Head gear or summons to court. And you can bet that the violation and related fines and penalties will cost you a lot more than the few bucks for that exhilarating scooter ride.

The main point here is; eScooters are great. Fun, functional and an important part of the continuing development of transportation alternatives in a world of commuting everywhere. But they are only great if they are safe. Common sense tells us that we should protect our brains from injury with headgear, probably every time we are going faster than we can walk or run. The big scooter rental companies are going to support your desire for convenience so don’t expect to get a nice safety helmet for that “dollar to start” fee that gets you up to 25 mph in a few seconds. At least not while the public safety issue is unresolved.

And this is from the heart: if you love these things as much as I do, get a good helmet and keep it with you so you can take advantage of the speed and convenience of these excellent machines. Please do not become a statistic in the eScooter injury studies, which will inevitably tell us what we knew all along.

Ride free… Ride far… Ride safe.

Thank You Zoey

Thank you, Zoey Penny, for allowing us to show who we are and what we are really all about. For letting us all show our best sides, in a world where there are too many sides, so much taking and so little giving.

Please read this beautiful article about Zoey and all the folks who came together to give from the heart, because it is the right thing to do. Look at the smiles, the faces and feel the love and spirit that each and everyone of us has inside, just waiting to be freely given to others.

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Loving Electric Scooters…

Now, this makes sense of it.

Thanks to Kevin Roose for your great article in today’s New York Times about… loving electric scooters!

Sure, there are problems- but look at the big picture; the “extra mile,” as it has become known. That insulting part of committing to a public transportation commute that finds you walking when you don’t have the time or the energy. Kevin has discovered that these “big” problems are not all that big at all and are far outweighed by the all-around benefits of eMobility.

In a previous post, we mentioned that we would try to involve city and municipal government in these programs before getting a scooter or eBike wheel in the pavement and still believe this is the best approach. But… time and tide wait for no one, so articles like this from Mr. Roose are so valuable to making eMobility vehicles accessible and fun for all.

One day, we believe that the technology will allow everyone to have access to an “eRide” for commuting and fun and we are pleased to be part of it.

Thanks Kevin!

In This Case, Maybe Better to ask Permission First…

“Electric Scooters Are Causing Havoc. This Man Is Shrugging It Off.”

Well, here’s an example of maybe too much and maybe too fast. We have been watching carefully as standout start-ups in the eMobility world are making their mark in cities across North America. Obviously, we just love the technology. Not to mention the positive impact on commuting and the environment that eVehicles, like those offered by these breakout companies like Bird Rides and LimeBike, bring to the community.

These companies bring eMobility to the masses by providing relatively low-cost rentals of eMobility products like electric bicycles, electric scooters and other eMobility vehicles. This is a good thing. One only needs to look at Europe, China and other countries to see that we are just now catching up to the big demand for eMobility transportation and recreation that this technology brings. So, why a controversy?

Of course, new things are always controversial as they invite change: something that is not always easy for an individual, community or even a society. Some do not take the challenge well:

“Somebody whizzing along at 15 miles an hour, that’s a symbol of entitlement and arrogance,” said Fran Taylor, a retired medical reporter. She called the scooters “a plot of the young people to kill off all us old farts so they can have our rent-controlled apartments.”

I think Fran Taylor has a good sense of humor and her quote is emblematic of a resistance to change and new things. I’ll bet she had wink in her eye and a smile on her face when she made that statement and deep down, she really wants to try one. But, let’s face it, people going 15 miles per hour every-which-way and hordes of eScooters strewn all over the downtown area and transportation hubs are not the best for everyone.

Travis VanderZanden, the chief executive of electric scooter company Bird Rides, seems to like the highly successful and lucrative “UBER” business model. If you have a look at the website, it has a lot a similarities to UBER, and that’s also a good thing. But here’s the big difference: at the end of the ride for an UBER car, the car (and, for now, the driver as well) move on to the next rider and at the end of the day, the car goes home with the UBER driver. When the ride is over, the vehicle disappears.

Not so, apparently, for eVehicles, especially eScooters, rented from one of these budding transportation companies. At the end of the ride, the eVehicle is left right where the ride ends- wherever that may be. There’s the big difference and there’s the big problem. Mr VanderZanden believes that it is a question of society catching up with the technology:

Mr. VanderZanden said given how enormous a social shift he believes his scooters are, he was not surprised it ruffled some feathers. But people would eventually adjust, he said. “Go back to the early 1900s, and people would have a similar reaction to cars because they were used to horses,” he said. “They had to figure out where to park all the dockless cars.”

Well, okay, but back in the early 1900s, folks found parking places for their newfangled automobiles and most of the horses had a place to go to eat and sleep after the rides. Mostly because the riders owned them and assumed a responsibility for them. And then came parking tickets for those who did not. Regulation. Had to happen.

We would do it much differently.

Rather than apologizing later, we believe that the only way to a robust and sustainable eVehicle sharing program anywhere, is to ask permission first. Make a plan. Anticipate the negatives and evaluate the overall impact that reactive regulations can have on the industry and on the bottom-line. After all, unless they are returned to a dock or designated location, these eVehicles will wind up in someone’s neighborhood at the end of the ride. Maybe we need to ask the neighbors first.

Okay, so this is certainly not the popular business model that has recently dominated the transportation world:

“If there is something familiar about these scooter companies’ strategy of just showing up in cities without permission, that’s because that has now become a tried-and-true playbook for many start-ups. In its early days, Uber, the ride-hailing giant, also barreled into towns overnight to launch its service and only asked for forgiveness later.”

But look at the downside: lots of people having lots of anger about lots of scooters and eBikes left all over the place. Sounds like low-hanging fruit for legislation and regulation to me. And, be careful what you ask for.

We have had quite a number of inquiries about a bike-sharing program and are committed to making sure that we ask permission first. Okay, maybe we don’t look so good to venture capitalists, who want a quick and good return on their investment, because we take the time and effort to sit down with State, County and Local government officials to fully explore the benefits and burdens of implementing an eVehicle sharing program. We take the time. We’re slow. But that’s okay.

For us, this is much more than just optimizing profits. It is a community partnership that deserves the best we can give it. This is one reason we are so involved in legislation and regulation in our State and across the country.  This is all too important not to be.

If you are a town, college, university, or any other government or private entity and are considering an eVehicle sharing program, please give us a call (873-500-0197) and certainly feel free to comment here on our blog. We would love to share our thoughts on the best way to implement one of these great programs.

We are grateful to be involved in advocating the best eBike legislation for the industry as well as for the safety and well-being of our communities. We like to make sure everyone is considered, especially the neighbors, before the first eVehicle-share hits the pavement.

What do you think?