Electric Assist

Gazelle-174x300Not something I’ve tried myself yet, but certainly an option I might find useful or necessary in the future. Victoria from Oxford has been in touch to warn us that the DfT are currently consulting on proposed changes to the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle Regulations 1983 to harmonise the UK and European legislation.

Victoria writes “The current regulations do not distinguish between the two types of bikes, namely those where one pedals with battery assistance and the ‘twist and go’ variety where one doesn’t have to do any pedalling at all.  They both have an upper speed limit of 15 mph and like normal bicycles don’t need to have tax, insurance or a helmet.  There is the threat, however, that the ‘twist and go’ will be recategorised as mopeds.  This means shelling out more money, particularly by elderly or disabled users on tax, helmets etc.  (Interestingly motorcycles with 3 wheels which can go at over 70mph don’t have to wear helmets at all!)

We asked long time advocate of electric bikes David Henshaw, editor of A to B magazine, his view on the proposals: “My line has always been leave the twistgrip legislation as it is, but a subscriber recently forwarded Chris Juden’s response, and as is often the case, I think he hits the nail right on the head. Chris suggests a new electric vehicle category to include road-going Class 3 disability vehicles, Segways and electric bikes with twistgrips, and limiting the lot to 12.5mph. That sounds a neat way of tying up all these loose ends with one simple bit of legislation. It would mean only a small change to the current rules, as these bikes would still be able to do 15mph while pedalling, but they would have a slightly slower get-you-home function when required.”

CTC is indeed on the case, Chris Peck is currently drafting their response, and as you’d expect from CTC’s Senior Technical Officer, Chris Juden’s examination of the proposals is very detailed and, well, technical. Summarising, all existing Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles on the road prior to any change will not be affected. New EAPCs will be known as EPACs(!), thats Electric Power Assisted Cycles, and will be allowed (but not required) to have a small amount of twist-and-go assistance up to 6kph, which is just under 4 mph and considerably less than the present 15mph. As David Henshaw alluded to, a solution may exist in the parallel consultation on Electric Personal Vehicles (EPVs).

Chris writes, “Viewed objectively, a twist and go EAPC is an EPV with optional human assistance. Provided the definition of an EPV is written so as not to exclude the possibility of human assistance, or to exclude a bicycle-like form of vehicle (and it’s hard to see why it should exclude either of those options except out of arbitrary spite!) there is no reason why this sort of EAPC should not be reclassified as an EPV.”

There are however issues about where EPVs are allowed to operate, most cycling organisations are opposed to EPVs being allowed to use off-carriageway facilities which would be an issue for those using tham as mobility aids. This is Chris Juden’s explanation in full.

ICF’s response should be ready to go on Sunday (deadline is Tuesday) which will concentrate on not disadvantaging people using electrically assisted cycles as mobility aids. Anyone with more to add, let’s have your comments before then please.

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