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The law is a funny thing. They are necessarily broad in their definitions so that they can capture each of the wrinkles of real life. But sometimes they cover more territory than they are meant to. Such is the case with a new law in Arizona, which seems to require a driver’s license to ride an e-bike off-road.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs just signed into law Arizona Senate Bill 1567which prohibits anyone from operating an off-road vehicle (such as a quad or motorcycle) from doing so while consuming alcohol or possessing it in an open container. That seems sensible enough, amiright? However, the law has a second provision: that anyone operating an off-road vehicle must possess a driver’s license and have gone through a driver education course.

That requirement doesn’t sound too nanny-state, but Arizona’s definition of what constitutes an off-highway vehicle (OHV) deviates from what we find in most other states. Arizona stipulates, “An OHV is a motorized vehicle that is operated primarily off of highways and that is designed, modified or purpose-built primarily for recreational nonhighway all-terrain travel. An OHV includes a tracked or wheeled vehicle, utility vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, motorcycle, four-wheel drive vehicle, dune buggy, sand rail, amphibious vehicle, ground effects or air cushion vehicle and any other means of land transportation deriving motive power from a source other than muscle or wind.”

While they didn’t specifically name eMTBs, they meet the definition. They are purpose-built for recreational, nonhighway, all-terrain travel. That also includes fat-tire e-bikes or any other e-bike you might ride off-road, such as a gravel e-bike.

There’s a rich irony to the idea that you might need a driver’s license to ride an e-bike off-road. You don’t need a driver’s license to ride a bike on the road. And you certainly don’t need one to ride a bike where no roads are present.

That driver’s license requirement has another unintended (we hope) consequence: It means kids can’t ride e-bikes off-road, though they could still ride them on-road. That sounds crazy.

Communities around the country are confronting the issue of what sort, where and even whether kids should be allowed to ride e-bikes. Thanks to some high-profile injuries and even deaths of kids riding e-bikes, cities are considering what sort of restrictions might be important. But those debates all regard the use of e-bikes on the road.

There are currently 11 states that require e-bike riders to have a driver’s license, thereby limiting ridership to those 16 years old or older. Arizona was not among them. Where those states’ laws require a driver’s license to ride any e-bike at all, Arizona’s law has no effect on kids riding e-bikes on the road.

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