By: Brian Schilling
A follow up to the JHCycling.org blog post on e-bikes and pathways posted May 13, 2017
Over the past year, Jackson has seen a significant increase in the use of e-bikes for transportation and recreation on bike lanes around town and on the county-wide system of multi-use pathways. In response to the growing trend and the questions that e-bike usage has raised about pathways safety, legal issues, and the nature of “non-motorized” travel, the Town and the County have adopted a policy regarding e-bikes on pathways and are in the process of enacting rules governing their use locally.
Starting in 2016, the Pathways Taskforce (the volunteer advisory board to the Town and County on pathways issues) engaged in a year-long process of outreach and research on e-bikes, looking at what other communities have done, evaluating benefits and concerns, and eventually reaching a consensus to recommend allowing “low-speed electric bicycles” for use on local pathways and bike lanes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission defines “low-speed electric bicycles” as bicycles that have fully operable pedals and are equipped with an electric motor of less than 750 watts that provides a maximum assisted speed of 20mph when powered solely by the motor. (For additional background information, see the link below to the staff reports and the Taskforce recommendation).
In October and November of 2017, the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of Commissioners discussed e-bikes at a series of public meetings and voted to approve the policy recommended by the Taskforce to allow Class I, II, and III e-bikes on pathways and bike lanes.
• Class I: Bikes with a top assisted speed of 20 mph that must be pedaled to operate.
• Class II: Bikes with a top assisted speed of 20 mph that can be operated without pedaling by using a handlebar-mounted throttle.
• Class III: Bikes with a top assisted speed of 28 mph that must be pedaled to operate.
The Town and the County take different routes in order to enact policies into law—in Wyoming, municipalities like the Town of Jackson are able to adopt ordinances, but counties does not have this ability. The Town has drafted ordinances for e-bikes and also for general pathway usage, basically codifying pathway guidelines such as “travel on the right, pass on the left, signal audibly before passing, ride safely and in control,” as well as providing the ability to set speed limits on pathways. The Town Council has recently completed two of the three required readings to adopt the ordinances with the third reading scheduled for June 4th.
The e-bike ordinance will require users to have their bikes inspected and permitted, which involves taking the bike to the Police Department, attesting that it meets the legal definition of a Class I, II, or III e-bike, and then being issued a sticker showing the class, top assisted speed, and wattage that must be displayed on the bike. Otherwise, the rules for e-bikes are generally the same as the rules for conventional bicycles.
Teton County is in the process of adopting general rules for County facilities which will include e-bikes and pathways. Language very similar to the Town policy has been drafted but the meeting to approve the rules has not yet been scheduled.
In this interim period between adopting the general policy and enacting ordinances/rules to formalize the policy, the Town and County have taken a permissive stance on allowing e-bike usage on the pathway system. No citations or fines have been issued to anyone riding an e-bike responsibly on the pathways.
• The Town and County have adopted a policy to allow use of “low speed electric bicycles” (Class I, II, and III) on Town and County pathways and bike lanes.
• The Town will soon complete the process of approving ordinances to make this policy official. The County has drafted language to adopt rules for regulating e-bikes but has not yet scheduled the public hearing.
• E-bikes in the Town must be inspected by the Town and will be required to display a permit (an inspection sticker) that shows the Class, top assisted speed, and wattage.
LINKS FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Town Council staff report on e-bike and pathway ordinances (Starts on p. 270)