BEND, OR -- A Central Oregon lawmaker wants to tighten rules around electric bikes. State Representative Emerson Levy told the Bend City Council Wednesday she's proposing legislation, "That kids 16 and above can be on pedal-assist only; Kids 16 and under cannot be on a throttle bike. And the current law, for the record, is that any child under the age of 16 cannot be on any form of electronic bicycle. We know that’s not being followed, but I think it’s important to state."
She also wants more education for riders and bigger penalties for violators. Currently, the largest bike-related fine is $25 - for not wearing a helmet. "We don’t have the police force to be able to commit the time for enforcement. And pulling over a kid can be really unsafe, and maybe that’s not what we want to do," she told Councilors, "But I believe the statutory mechanism should be there, and right now it doesn’t exist at all."
Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz agrees resources are limited, "The challenge also comes in the fact that we’ve had a couple times where young riders - early 20s, late teens - have turned a simple violation stop into a felony elude." He added, "We prefer not to chase those folks. We really are going to put them in danger, put our officers in danger." Krantz acknowledged e-bike usage has skyrocketed in Bend since May.
Rep. Levy says her proposal comes from roundtable discussions hosted by the city, following the death of a Bend teen in an e-bike crash in June. "Our goal has been threefold, which is to clear up our laws and really to put that clarity into the laws that haven’t been updated since 1997, educate our students about bike and e-bike safety, and then work towards long-term solutions."
Through those roundtables, Levy says she learned some bikes can be easily modified to go much faster than advertised; in one case, as fast as 74 miles an hour. "How you get around the regulation is you ship it and match Oregon law, but then you switch it to ‘off-road.’ And then that’s how you go to 74 miles per hour." Under Oregon law, an e-bike's electric motor is supposed to top out at 20 miles per hour. But Levy says modifications are easily found online to make the engine go faster, at no cost.