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Tempe Council Proposes Rules For Popular E-Bikes

(Photo by Mariana Dale - KJZZ)
This electric bike has a pedal assist motor, so the motor only comes on when the pedals are in motion.

As the popularity of electric bicycles grows, a Valley city wants to make new rules to govern their use.

Tempe City Council will vote Thursday whether to adopt ordinances that would set a speed limit of 28 mph on roads, 20 mph on shared use paths, require helmets for riders under 18 and prevent kids from riding e-bikes.

“We basically wanted to make sure that electric bikes have the same rights and regulations as regular bikes,” said Councilwoman Lauren Kuby, who was part of a working group that created the proposed rules.

An e-bicycle looks pretty similar to a regular bike except with the addition of a sleek electric motor that kicks in to make pedaling easier.

Tempe’s new ordinance defines electric bikes as two- or three-wheeled vehicle with pedals and a 750-watt max motor. The motor itself can power the bike up to 20 mph.

“They’re definitely gaining popularity as people become aware of them and start living closer to where they work in urban areas,” said Thomas Tomczyk, who manages The Bicycle Cellar in Tempe.

He said e-bikes have been around for decades in Europe, but are just starting to catch on the in the United States.

Kuby said it’s important for the city to encourage new forms of transportation like e-bikes. 

“The more we have people on bikes, riding in bike lanes the less traffic we have, the less pollution we have and we have a healthier population,” Kuby said.

Tempe City Council will decide whether to approve the ordinance Thursday. 

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.