The car-free US town that just passed speed limits on electric bikes

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Michigan’s Mackinac Island has introduced a new speed limit for electric bicycles, slowing down one of the only motorized forms of transportation in the town.

Mackinac Island, located between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsula, is known as one of the few car-free towns in the US.

The historic city is devoid of privately owned cars, with the only motor vehicles on the island belonging to government services like police cars and ambulances.

That left electric bicycles as one of the few motorized options on the small island. Federally classified as bicycles instead of motorized vehicles, e-bikes feature an electric assist motor of 750 watts (1 horsepower) or less, and can reach speeds of up to 20 or 28 mph (32 or 45 km/h), depending on the classification.

However, Mackinac Island already limits use of electric bicycles to Class 1 e-bikes, a minority of electric bikes in the US that are limited to 20 mph and—most critically—lack hand throttles that would allow them to operate the motor without pedaling. All e-bikes on the island must also be locally licensed.

But those days of 20 mph e-bike speeds on the island are gone after Senate Bill 682 was signed into law this week by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The new law will limit electric bike speeds to just 15 mph (25 km/h), with the island’s business district imposing an even stricter limit of just 10 mph (16 km/h).

The Mackinac Island Convention and Visitors Bureau supported the bill, along with local politicians. State Senator John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, introduced the bill. According to a statement provided by Damoose, “I spoke with Mackinac Island officials and worked out agreeable terms prior to formally introducing the legislation earlier this year. This was an important update that had bipartisan support all the way to the governor’s desk.”

Others, such as State Senator Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, worry that it will be hard to enforce the new law, considering electric bicycles are already usually capable of 20 mph speeds. Many electric bicycles don’t even come with speedometers, making it hard for the rider to know if they are traveling above or below 10-15 mph.

The move adds to a growing list of electric bicycle restrictions imposed by cities and states around the US.

California is attempting to amend state laws to prevent electric bicycle tuning that can lead to illegally fast electric bicycles.

Key Biscayne in Florida went even further, outright banning all electric bicycles after the death of a local cyclist involved in an accident with an e-bike.

via: Detroit Free Press

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