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A new bill in California is aimed at outlawing the unrestricted operation of e-bikes and bans the sale of devices that aid a rider in unlocking their e-bike.

Califonia Cracking Down On Fast E-Bikes?

A new bill in California appears to be intended to address the growing number of e-bikes that offer unrestricted speed. The actual details of the bill may not provide the sort of solution that lawmakers and communities are looking for.

California Assembly Bill 1774 amends Section 24016 of the Motor Vehicle Code with two new provisions aimed at curbing e-bikes that can exceed 28 mph.

In item (d) the bill states: “A person shall not tamper with or modify an electric bicycle […] so as to change the speed capability of the bicycle, unless the bicycle continues to meet the definition of an electric bicycle […] and the person appropriately replaces the label indicating the classification required[…].”

Item [e] adds: “A person shall not sell a product or device that can modify the speed capability of an electric bicycle such that it no longer meets the definition of an electric bicycle[…].”

An optimistic reading of (d) in AB 1774 suggests that it would outlaw using a manufacturer’s built-in settings that would allow someone to “unlock” their e-bike and operate it in what some manufacturers call “off-road mode”—a setting that allows the motor to produce power without restriction.

The question with this provision is just how it will be enforced. Will police actually set up speed traps meant to snare riders who are going faster than 28 mph on their e-bikes? That seems unlikely. But without training radar guns at riders, how will they know whether an e-bike is being operated as a Class 1, 2, 3 or unrestricted e-bike?

Item (e) from AB 1774 is meant to prevent people from buying devices that allow an e-bike to operate unrestricted. Rather than combat e-bikes that come with the ability to be unlocked and ridden unrestricted, this is aimed at devices being sold that allow a user to unlock e-bike motors that weren’t intended to be unlocked, such as those from Bosch and Shimano.

How will the state enforce (e)? They don’t spell it out. Considering there are devices being sold online it is fair to ask how they intend to prevent someone from buying such a device through a legitimate online retailer.

The biggest question of all is also the most basic: Will AB 1774 make a difference?

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