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Electric bicycles on California roads

it is incumbent upon the drivers of larger motorized vehicles to exercise reasonable care to operate safely and avoid harming those riding electric bicycles, also called e-bikes.
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    December 12, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Electric bicycles on California roads

Article provided by The Law Office of Rosenstock and Azran
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The electric bicycle: good for zipping along the ocean strand and great for maneuvering along the streets of a crowded campus. Electric bicycles are gaining popularity, especially in warm climates like California's, as we become greener in our approach to transportation.

Many people are not familiar with the e-bike, which looks like a heavy duty bicycle, but with a small electrical, battery-fired motor to increase speed, usually to a maximum of 20 to 30 mph.

California e-bike law

The California Vehicle Code defines a "motorized bicycle" in two different ways. First, it is the same as a moped if it has two or three wheels, with or without manual pedals, an automatic transmission and a motor restricted to less than "two gross brake horsepower" and limited to a maximum speed of 30 mph on "level ground."

A motorized bicycle under California law is also one with manual pedals and an electric motor that puts out up to 1,000 watts of power and does not propel the bike any faster than 20 mph, with or without the benefit of human pedaling. This type of motorized bike must carry a specific manufacturer's warning that the device might not be covered under the owner's existing vehicle insurance.

California law requires that motorized bicycles in the state comply with federal safety equipment standards applicable to "motor-driven cycles." California e-bike operators also must wear legal bicycle helmets and be at least 16 years old. Electric bikes may not be modified to increase speed capacity.

E-bikes are not required to comply with licensing and registration requirements of larger vehicles and California law says that motorized bicycles are not motor vehicles. Rather, the traffic laws that apply to bicycles apply to them.

However, drivers of bicycles (and e-bicycles) must follow the rules of the road that apply to those driving larger motor vehicles such as obeying traffic signals and signs, and the ban on driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An electric bike driver has the duty to operate it with due care toward others on the road and pedestriansand if the driver hurts another because of recklessness or negligence, he or she may be liable for the resulting harm.

The gray zone points out that electric bikes fall into a "gray zone" between the slower unpowered bicycle and the much more powerful motorcycle. E-bicycles are silent so can present some of the same dangers as similarly quiet hybrid cars: people just don't hear them coming, raising the risk of collisions. E-bikers must take reasonable care in passing or approaching pedestrians, other bikes and larger vehicles with this risk in mind.

Of course, it is incumbent upon the drivers of larger motorized vehicles to exercise reasonable care to operate safely and avoid harming those riding e-bikes. A car or truck driver who negligently strikes an electric bicycle will be liable for resulting injuries or wrongful death.

Seek legal advice

If you or a loved one is injured in an electric bicycle accident with a larger vehicle, talk to an experienced California personal injury attorney to understand your legal rights and potential legal remedies like a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

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