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E-bikes sales are up - and so are concerns in the community

Summit County's bikeshare program with Bewegen Technologies was the first all-electronic bikeshare in the United States.
Summit Bike Share
E-bikes are growing in popularity to get around town. Many riders are not aware of the laws that govern them.

E-bikes sales are way up and so are the number of people riding them on trails and streets. It might surprise some to know there are laws that regulate these motorized vehicles, as well as age restrictions for riding them.    

Summer in Park City means more time outdoors and on the trails. E-bikes have become a popular mode of transportation in the area. Kids ride them to parks; parents use them to go to dinner. Visitors rent them to get around. Some in hilly neighborhoods use them to make grocery store runs. The list goes on.

Allison Zarkos, a mother of two who lives in Trailside, says her 14-year-old son uses his e-bike to get to work and as his central mode of transportation. She says their family rule is no helmet, no e-bike.

“The two go hand in hand. But some of our other friends don’t have the same rules for their kids," she said. "You know, and so I can be the nagging mom, and be like you guys put your helmets on but you know, but the teen boys are not always going to listen to the moms that aren’t theirs, but, and my son knows that we know a lot of people in town. And at any point he knows someone that we know might see him and if he's not wearing his helmet, it’s not happening. He doesn't get it.”

While Utah doesn’t have a helmet law for people 18 years and older, helmets are required for riders younger than 18.

Electric bikes are motorized vehicles that fall into three classes.

Class 1 is the slowest of e-bikes; they have electrically assisted pedals that can go up to 20 mph. This class doesn’t use a throttle.

Class 2 are electrically assisted bicycles controlled by throttles. They also max out at 20 mph.

Class 3 applies to electrically assisted pedal bike with speedometers and can go up to 28 mph. Class 3 is the fastest e-bike that doesn’t fall into motorcycle category.

Lauri Bilawa is the owner of Storm Cycles, a bicycle shop in Kimball Junction. She says her store doesn’t sell Class 3 e-bikes and that only Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on trails.

“And I don't think people realize they're not because they seem surprised when we tell them that," she said. "You know, as far as the helmet thing, I think everyone should be wearing a helmet. So but again, e-bikes are not going away. And so we need to all come together and address all of these issues together.”

Another Utah law prohibits people under 14 years old from riding e-bikes without adult supervision. According to Captain Andrew Wright of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, kids riding e-bikes is a problem law enforcement is trying to address.

“What becomes tricky for us is determining whether or not they're of age," he said.
"Certainly, if someone were to call and be concerned about whether or not someone was old enough to be on an e-bike, and they were riding with them in an unsafe manner, which would include violating traffic laws.....bicycles are held to traffic laws, they have to stop at stop signs, they have to yield to pedestrians crossing, they, you know, they are held to basically the same standard as a motor vehicle. We would attempt to make contact, and then determine whether or not they are of age and if they’re in violation.”

Wright says people who ride e-bikes often aren’t as aware as they should be of laws that regulate them.

“If there's an opportunity for us to have a conversation, to educate people on what the law states because, you know, sometimes it's a, it's a matter of people not understanding what the law says they're like, well, they can ride a normal bicycle. Well, you know, e-bikes become a different story, because they can go faster they have, they have that power.”

For more information on e-bike laws please visit http://www.bikeutah.org/bicyclelaws