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Bicycle Association “seriously concerned” about proposed changes to UK e-bike regulations

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The Bicycle Association has expressed its concern at proposed changes to e-bike regulations made by the UK government which would double motor power and possibly allow them to be powered by a throttle.

On Thursday, the Department for Transport officially opened a consultation to determine if the continuous maximum power of e-bike motors should double from 250 watts to 500 watts.

The consultation also considers if e-bikes should be allowed to have full-throttle assistance, similar to a motorbike. This would offer powered support of up to 25 kph and remove the need for pedalling.

“Removing the need to pedal changes the vehicle’s fundamental character, so that – right or wrong – many would perceive a non-pedalled e-bike more as a moped than as a cycle,” Bicycle Association Technical and Policy Director Peter Eland told Zag Daily. 

“We are seriously concerned that if that happens, it’s just a matter of time before more moped-like regulations are called for and brought in.”

In a briefing document published by the national trade association, these moped-like requirements were highlighted which include mandatory insurance and registration for e-bikes.

Another concern that comes with a throttle is the possibility of deterring users away from active travel in general. If there’s the option to ride a bike without pedalling, the Bicycle Association fears that users may find pedal bikes, walking and other modes of active transport less attractive.

The briefing document further highlights the fire risks associated with a more powerful motor – a concern for the industry in light of a recent surge of e-bike and e-scooter related fires across the UK.

Should the UK increase the permitted power of motors to 500 watts, buyers may purchase more powerful e-bikes from outside of the EU where battery safety rules are less strict, as the EU and UK currently share the same 250 watt maximum.

While the UK government has stated online that its rationale behind the consultation is to encourage the appeal of e-bikes, the Bicycle Association has said it’s unsure why changing e-bike regulations is being made a priority now.

Nevertheless, the organisation notes that the move could pre-empt the long-anticipated introduction of a Low-speed Zero Emission Vehicle (LZEV) legislative framework which it advocates for.

“This would have potentially enabled private e-scooter legislation and perhaps also other future vehicle categories,” Peter said.

“An LZEV framework would allow the government to ‘unbundle’ existing-spec e-bikes from any new categories, be that e-scooters, other non-pedalled vehicles, heavy higher-power cargo bikes or special purpose vehicles for disabled riders.

“Then, safety and other requirements could be carefully considered and implemented according to the risks and needs of each specific category.

“If a higher-power, no pedalling e-bike class is needed, it should in our view be done under this new framework. But we understand from the government that a new Transport Bill to introduce a LZEV framework is vanishingly unlikely before the General Election.”

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