This took me longer than it should have to figure out.
In this post I am going to go over the (California) definition of an e-bike and the surrounding definitions that make it a headache to deal with.
I would like to preface this with the fact that I am not a lawyer. I have simply spent too much time in the California vehicle code for my own good.
Lets begin with some basics:
Bike: Fully Human powered
E-Bike C1: Class 1 E-Bike, Can go up to 20 MPH but has no throttle.
E-Bike C2: Class 2 E-Bike, Can go up to 20 MPH and has a throttle.
E-Bike C3: Class 3 E-Bike, Can go up to 28 MPH with pedal assist. (Throttle is irrelevant)
Moped: E-Bike without pedals, can go over 28 MPH But not over 30 MPH, or has too high of a wattage.*
Motorized Bike: A bike with a petrol engine. Can’t go over 30 MPH*
* Moped’s and Motorized Bikes are the same thing under the law, I separate them for clarity in discussion only.
Now in general that is what you should be looking for, however there are some oddity’s, starting off the limit for the electric motor is “less than 750 watts” No no one makes a motor that caps out at 749 watts. In fact, I can get a motor of 500 watts and run 751 watts through it. (It will have a much shorter lifespan but you can do it.) It’s almost like whoever wrote the law, did not know how electric motors work… But that’s ridiculous… Right? </sarcasm>
However I should note that California is currently has the clearest laws regarding e-bikes in the country. (Except for NY, but we will get to that later)
Now on to where each bike can go:
Bike lanes adjacent to a road: All bikes and mopeds can use them, unless specifically prohibited.
Trails and other places: Mopeds, Motorized Bikes, and Class 3 E-Bikes are prohibited, Class 1 and 2 are permitted, this can all change if the group in charge of the trail makes an ordnance for or against one of the above.
Hiking trails: If a regular bike can’t go on it, E-Bikes probably can’t ether. Just as a rule of thumb.
Now that should be simple but there are still grey zones, such as “does prohibiting Mopeds and Motorized Bikes also prohibit E-Bikes?” that will eventually come up.
Helmet Laws, Minimum age’s, and licensing:
You must be 16 or older to ride Mopeds, Motorized Bikes, and Class 3 E-Bikes and Helmets are required for all riders.
If you are under 17, you must ware a helmet.
You must have a drivers license to drive a Mopeds or Motorized Bike. (It must also have a license plate.)
Now quickly going off on a tangent here some news (not necessarily recent) that may interest you:
First we have New York, while owning a bike in New York City is legal, Riding it on any city street is illegal. In fact, the police’s standard operating policy is to confiscate the bike, and they face a base fine of up to $500…
At one point in time, there was a drafted bill in Minnesota that would ban bikes from pretty-much every paved road. Additionally, in some Texas cities, Bikes are banned from roads where “bike paths” are available. However most those bike paths are basically a standard side walk.
So there it is, a brief overview of how the legal landscape currently looks.
I have not quite reached a year of having my E-Bike but I have definitely been using it longer than 10 months and have learned quite a few lessons over this time.
This will be a list of lessons I have learned. I will probably go into more detail on each item in other posts in the future, but for now, lets go into things I would have liked to know going into this:
Lesson 1: You will always want more/better equipment.
First item I needed, Bike Lock. Next I needed better Bike Bags. (A friend gave me some bags for free, they were falling apart when I got them, but they got me through until I could get some new ones.) I knew I would one day regret not having a tire repair kit if I put off getting one, so that went on the list. It was cold so I needed stuff for that…
Here I am more than 10 months later and I still have over $1000 worth of gear I want. (that I know I want, there is always more.)
Lesson 2: Check your routes before buying.
Now I was lucky and unlucky on this one, I was lucky since going south from me I have quite a lot of routes, this is where most places are from me. However my route going north (where my current college is) has two main routes, the shorter one has over 2 miles where you are next to cars going over 50 MPH (bike lane, no buffer space.) The other is over 5 miles longer. Additionally I live right in the middle between the two major bike routes to the next major city, 4-5 miles from ether of them.
Lesson 3: Rules of the road? What rules of the road?
So this is broken down into several sections as follows:
Cars in motion:
Let me set the scene, there is a two lane road, double solid yellow, bike lane with no shoulder. Good news, where I am the drivers won’t crowd the bicyclist, bad news, they will go entirely onto the other side of the road to do it. I mean it’s not like there is going to be a car over there or anything… I am just waiting until the day someone gets a head on collision while passing me 800 feet from a spot for me to turn out. (I will probably be laughing)
Cars at rest where they should not be:
Now the good news is the last one does not crowd bikes, this one does, most commonly delivery trucks (not talking about FedEx or UPS, etc.) If it was only there for a minute or two it wouldn’t be a problem. But people will park their regular delivery trucks there anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. In places where it is distinctly marked no parking (or worse yet, not stopping.) sometimes in front of a bus stop just to put some icing on the cake.
Bikes in motion:
So, here is a tip for bicyclists, You bike with the traffic, not against it. Now even I fudge this sometimes when I am only going one or two blocks with a very wide road. (3+ Lane width total) But a 2 lane road or more than 3 blocks is really pushing that. Bikes need to be going in the same direction as traffic, we only get one lane (if that).
Everyone in motion (when they should not be):
Now I am an advocate of the idaho stop. But it’s not the law in my area. Even so if there is no one at a stop sign (or I’m going right into a bike lane.) I will sometimes only slow to 2-3 Mph before proceeding (after checking to see it’s clear.) But I will see cars straight up blowing through stop signs like they don’t exist. And cyclists literally cut through two lanes of opposing traffic to make a left without even slowing down. Seriously, that is why cyclists don’t have the idaho stop, because people already don’t care.
Cars at rest when they should be in motion:
So, I think this is the law pretty much everywhere so here I go: if a cyclist comes up to a stop after you and makes a full stop, that’s an indicator **for you to go**, not for you to be nice and wave them on. Please don’t wave me through, it confuses everyone.
Tl;Dr: The DMV has to low of a fail rate.
Lesson 4: Wait? People use bike lanes?
So, in the last item I went over cars being in the bike lane, but that’s not all we also have the following!
* Shrubs & Trees needing to be trimmed.
* Road Kill
* Garbage cans (Remember where they are going to be out on which days, until they randomly decide to change it!)
* Construction euquipment.
* Roots under the road.
* And more!
I mean it’s not like anyone uses that little old bike lane right?
Lesson 5: You don’t always need to stay on the road*
If you have a class 3 E-Bike you don’t get to have this one, otherwise:
Sometimes there are trails that cut through empty lots (not always legal), parks, green belts, etc. that are not on maps, go cycling for fun, check satellite and street view. There may be a shorter / safer / faster route that you can use (if you are willing to take the road less traveled.)
Lesson 6: Read your vehicle code!
So, in california, E-Bikes under a certain wattage with pedals is not considered a moped or motorized bicycle.(CVC 406) It’s a Electric Bicycle. (CVC 312.5) This means that if the sign says “motorized bicycles prohibited” it should not cover you. (I have not had to fight this yet but I think it would not be hard. IANAL)
Lesson 7: Your local bike shop is your friend!
I actually only stumbled upon this one over this weekend. I went into my local bike shop and they helped me solve a long nagging problem with my bike (without charging me), and they also had panniers that I think will fit my bike. Yah, I’m going be getting my equipment from them from now on.
I probably learned more, but I was not writing these down beforehand so I am probably going to make more additions of this list.
This is going to kind of function as a test post for my blog as well as my first blog post, so let’s see how this goes…
So, since this is the beginning of my blog, I figure it would be a good idea to go over the backstory on how I got started on this whole adventure.
So let’s start off with why I wanted an E-Bike (Well E-Cargo Bike), how I found out about the RadWagon, and why I chose to buy it. (and the whole shipping ordeal)
So, for the longest time, I have had the mentality of “If I can’t get supplies by myself, Then it’s going to be dead weight,” Which is a very sustainable approach but tends not to work too well. Take cars for instance: They tend not to work without gas, and I can’t supply it with gas in the middle of no-where. Electric on the other hand: That I can supply with just a few solar panels.
Originally I was just looking at an electric TuckTuck. (That’s a 3 Wheel Scooter with rear seating for passengers) One with a full cab design. Think of it like a little cheap electric car. One made in china would cost between $2,000 and $3,000. So it would be expensive but not that expensive. There are two problems with the idea:
- It is in a gray zone legally regarding registration.
- Finding insurance proved difficult as it does not really fall into any set category.
And then I found the RadWagon, I actually found it while watching Linus Tech Tips first and then saw it again on the What’s Inside Youtube Channel, and it looked very appealing for me. I proceeded to do a bit of research and quickly decided that this would be the bike for me.
The main reasons why are as follows: (in no specific order)
- The battery is removable: This means re-charging it is easy.
- It has a high cargo capacity, letting me have a trailer with stuff in it if I want. (Or just have a lot of cargo bags)
- It had a reasonably high capacity battery, giving me a decent range.
- I could use it as my primary mode of transport instead of the family minivan.
- I would not have to pay for insurance.
- It is considered (under California law) to be equivalent to a normal bike and can go anywhere a normal bike can go unless specifically prohibited at the entrance of the trail or whatever.
- It felt ‘right’ for me. (Industrial feel? I don’t know.)
I worked all throughout the holiday season to make enough money to buy the bike and came up around $100 short. And then the price Dropped something like $250. YAY!
So I went ahead and bought it.
Shipping was supposed to take 3-4 days, it took over a week.
RadPower Bikes got the bike out within 24 hours wich was fantastic! UPS on the other hand…
Well UPS left the bike in Portland OR, for 6 days. It took me phoning them for them to go find the package and get it moving.
And of course, the box showed up damaged. (although nothing major was damaged and everything was fine except for one end-cap that they sent to me as soon as I phoned them.
All in all excellent support from RadPower Bikes.
Next post will be about my first 150 miles spent on the bike, lessons learned, and such. Expect it to be a very long post.
Yah… I’m no longer going to even try to plan what post to put up.