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E-Bikes Present New Dangers

There are an increased number of electric motor-driven bicycles on the roads of New Canaan and they are engineered to travel at speeds up to 28 mph. This new mode of transportation creates a heightened risk of accidents and personal injury, as both the e-bike operators – often teenagers – and the drivers of other vehicles on the road are not accustomed to one another.

New Canaan Police Community Impact Officer Nicole Vartuli reports an uptick in complaints about juveniles on e-bikes speeding, being reckless and nearly colliding with automobiles. She says motorized bicycles are assumed to be just like bicycles and they are very different. Young, inexperienced operators of motorized bicycles often find themselves at higher speeds in complex traffic among distracted drivers. Life-threatening injuries have been reported across the country.

“We want the parents of children who are operating e-bikes and e-scooters to make sure their children understand the risks, the laws and the rules of the road to prevent injury to themselves, pedestrians and other motorists,” Vartuli said. “Enforcement action will be taken seriously regardless of age. Violators of motor vehicle laws pertaining to bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters may receive a ticket with a fine of $117.”

The risk of severe injury to a pedestrian is 25% when struck by a vehicle moving at 16 mph, and the risk rises to 50% when the vehicle is traveling at 23 mph, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The State of Connecticut Regulations

Electric bikes may not have a motor with more than 750 watts, and they must be equipped with brakes that cease motor function when the brake is applied. The state classifies electric bikes in three categories:

  • Class 1 are pedal-assist-only, and the motor stops when you reach 20 mph.
  • Class 2 provide electric power whether or not the rider is pedaling, and stops providing power when the speed reaches 20 mph.
  • Class 3 continue providing electrical power up to 28 mph.

Rules of the Road

  • A person under 16 years of age may not operate a Class 3 e-bike upon any street, highway, or bike or pedestrian path. Persons under age 16 may ride a Class 3 e-bike as a passenger only.
  • Helmets are required for everyone on any e-bike.
  • Electric bikes are prohibited from sidewalks and limited access highways.
  • E-bikes are not allowed on paths designed for non-motorized traffic.
  • Electric bicycles shall follow all of the rules of the roads like any motor vehicle, including yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
  • If the maximum speed of the roadway is more than the maximum speed of the cycle, the cycle must be operated in the right-hand lane or on a usable shoulder.
  • Each city, town, and borough may create local regulations for e-bikes as long as these are not inconsistent with the state's ordinance.

Connecticut General Statutes 14-286a-d cover the operation of bicycles, electric bicycles and electric foot scooters. 

Connecticut General Statutes 14-286a-d
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