New Jersey Bill Proposes Mandatory Insurance and Registration for E-Bike Riders

It has been a challenging week for those who appreciate the freedom of riding e-bikes without unnecessary state-imposed difficulties and obligations. The disappointing news for electric bike riders and advocates of decreasing car dependency originates from New Jersey, where there is a proposed bill that aims to mandate e-bike riders to register their bikes and possess liability insurance.

The recent development comes after several significant crackdowns on e-bikes, including California’s proposal to mandate a special driver’s license for e-bike riders and the Dutch police’s implementation of road-side speed compliance checks for e-bike riders.

Today, there will be a discussion on Bill S2292, which outlines the new requirements for e-bike riders.

The state legislature is believed to have substantial support for the proposed legislation, which would also extend to electric scooter riders.

The bill seeks to impose registration and liability insurance regulations on e-bikes and e-scooters, similar to those that currently apply to motor vehicles like cars and motorcycles. This requirement is being proposed, despite electric bicycles and e-scooters being consistently classified as consumer products rather than motor vehicles at the federal level.

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The new legislation is gaining support based on a number of fatal crashes involving electric bicycles. However, it is important to note that the actual numbers do not support this justification. From 2017-2021, there were only 119 fatalities linked to electric bikes, whereas there were a staggering 192,709 fatalities linked to automobiles during the same period.

To put it simply, electric bikes seem to be significantly safer than cars, with a mortality rate approximately 1,600 times lower. This gap is expected to widen further in the future. Therefore, if the objective is to prioritize safety and minimize fatalities, there are more accessible options that can be pursued instead of focusing on the limited benefits of cars.

E-bike riders strongly criticize the legislation, arguing that it imposes an unnecessary burden that will discourage people from riding bikes. They believe that this will lead to an increase in the number of cars on the road, ultimately resulting in more fatalities due to the imbalanced transportation impact caused by the legislation.

Many people opt to commute on e-bikes due to financial constraints, as buying a car can be expensive. In the US, the average monthly payment for a used or new car ranges from $530 to $730. In contrast, a good quality commuter e-bike can be purchased for the cost of just one month’s car payment. Additionally, e-bike riders typically spend less than $1 per month on charging expenses, which is significantly lower than the maintenance and operating costs associated with cars.

The proposed bill could potentially place a disproportionate burden on low-income riders, who might struggle to meet the financial obligations of registration and monthly insurance expenses.

Many riders have chosen to buy an e-bike as an affordable option, enabling them to reduce their car usage and commute on two wheels whenever they can. However, if they are required to have a separate insurance policy, it may discourage more occasional e-bikers from embracing alternative modes of transportation.

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