E-bikers in New Zealand have a good lot. The far thinking transportation ministry has given a lot of latitude in the definition of a bicycle and we e-bikers ride on powerful and swift little motorcycles, legally. The legal limit of electric assist that makes a bike still a bike, and not a moped is 300 watt average motor draw. Within that power range, e-bikes don’t get registered and inspected, and don’t pay road fees for their usage. E-bikes get an incentive to prosper their owners with a remarkable economy of operation, assuming they play by the rules.
Unfortunately that wattage limit is regularly exceeded by people that abuse the NZ regulation and ride far more powerful bikes than allowed by law. The various rationales they use for the illegality are that:
- No one will know and the police don’t check.
- They are experienced riders and can handle the high speeds attained.
- They aren’t hurting anyone by their high speed riding. I think all of these excuses are false and I will explore each one with you now, hoping you will agree to stay legal on your e-bike.
That the police don’t check is somewhat true. The police will check when there’s an accident and especially when there is a collision with another person, but seldom otherwise. What we need to remember is that no matter what the bike looks like, if and over-amped bike is used on our roads or bike lanes, it is an unregistered moped, full stop. If someone gets hurt by that rider, it is a serious criminal offence, and well it should be. Endangering the public for ones short sighted economy should get the harshest treatment, and no doubt that is what the courts will deliver.
What these foolish few don’t realize is they also imperil the whole electric bike industry by giving e-bikes an association with reckless behavior and criminality. They may spoil the utility of all of us riding legal bikes in an instant of inattention. Their brake systems and converted bike frames were never meant for such speeds, and the danger is inherent. The laws can change against us, and these boy-racer types may be the undoing of a needed transportation option. I am working against that tragedy.
Secondly, these riders overestimate their ability to be safe. At speed, almost any incident with another vehicle or pedestrian leads to serious injury. The pedestrian will not be at fault here. They have a right to expect that bicycles are traveling at moderate speeds on the bike and shared usage trails. The bikes must be capable of the power driving them, and that is clearly not the case for too many of the illegal machines owned by the irresponsible. Speed stacks the odds against such behavior.
Lastly, they are endangering anyone exposed to their extreme momentum, and to endanger someone is to transgress upon them. Where there is danger, eventually there will be injury. Stay with the legal limit and we will all be secure in our remarkable transportation advantage; the e-bike.