Montana is looking to make e-bikes allowed just about anywhere that regular bikes are — a major boon to this expanding biking segment.
House Bill 261, proposed by Rep. Steve Gunderson, would change state code to clarify that e-bikes are not considered motor vehicles, mopeds or off-highway vehicles. If passed, e-bikes would be allowed to be ridden on the same roads, highways, bike lanes, and multi-use paths that regular bikes are permitted on. This includes dirt paths. However, state agencies and local jurisdictions can still restrict e-bike use on specific paths.The bill would also restrict the fastest class of e-bikes, Class 3 e-bikes, to riders 16 and older.
The bill would align Montana with federal definitions of e-bike classes, which have been adopted by 45 other states. It would not affect e-bike access on federal lands, such as the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. However, it would make non-federal bicycle and multi-use infrastructure automatically open to e-bikes unless restricted by a state agency or local jurisdiction. Currently, Montana law defines e-bikes but does not specify where they can be ridden.
Rep. Gunderson believes that e-bikes offer cycling to people whose age or health conditions would otherwise prevent them from riding. He and his wife are both e-bike enthusiasts who enjoy getting out and riding. The bill has received support from Bike Walk Montana and Stevensville resident Chris Fox. However, some conservation and wildlife advocacy groups are concerned about the bill’s enforcement burden on local governments and possible conflicts between e-bikes and other users on natural-surface paths and trails.
SOURCE | IMAGES: MISSOULIAN
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