Why Class 1 and 3 treated differently in U.S.?

rochrunner

Member
Not a perfect analogy, but I drive a car with a top speed of around 100mph, but it is obviously still permissible for me to drive it on residential streets with a 25mph limit provided that I don't exceed the limit, and that is what I do. So why is there a distinction on where a Class 1 vs Class 3 bike is allowed when the only difference between the two is the theoretically top assisted speed (20 vs 28mph)?

In my state -- Michigan -- the law regarding e-bikes on multi-user paths, rail trails, and other off-road uses is that Class 1 bikes are permitted unless specifically forbidden, and Class 2 & 3 are forbidden unless specifically permitted. This leads to a lot of confusion, at least partly since I don't think I've ever seen a sign on one of these trails stating the local regulations. For example, the "Great Lake to Lake Trail" is a connected route using paved and unpaved trails that go all the way across the state, but is subject to the local jurisdiction of the various segments that make it up. Just locally here, we have one trail that is officially "Class 1 only" and another that is "Class 1 & 2", but you can ride right across the county line and be on what appears to be the same trail, but is now "Pedal assisted only" (IOW Classes 1 & 3, but not 2)!

In my mind, the issue is how fast I'm riding and not how fast my bike can go. I've been going for a walk on these trails and been suddenly passed by a virtual paceline of young hardbodies going at least mid-20s in their matching team kits, so it isn't only e-bikes that can be ridden faster than might be advisable.

My interest in this subject is mainly because I'm trying to decide on an e-bike and, although I'd be OK with a Class 1 bike, which is what my wife has, the bikes with the features I'd like to have tend to be Class 3. Fortunately, there's no way to distinguish the classes other than looking for the sticker (if there is one) and official enforcement is nil as far as I can see, so I'm probably OK going with Class 3 as long as I don't do something stupid on it. It's just that the current class distinction doesn't make sense to me.
 

Alaskan

Well-Known Member
You are absolutely correct. It is the equivalent of restricting certain roads to cars with four cylinder engines, other to cars with six bangers and just certain roads to cars with V8s. Just set a speed limit for all vehicles on a given road and enforce it. No need to pop the hood to see if you are legal.

I am in Washington State and ride a class 3 bike wherever I want. I use common sense and good manners on mixed use trails, always slowing down to 10mph or lower around walkers and runners. If I want to go a sustained speed over 20 mph, I do that on roads not trails. In over 12,000 ebike miles in the past 20 months, I have never seen or had any encounters with enforcement.

Based on my experience, get yourself a class 3.and use common sense and good manners while riding. It is highly unlikely you will encounter any problems.
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
Not a perfect analogy, but I drive a car with a top speed of around 100mph, but it is obviously still permissible for me to drive it on residential streets with a 25mph limit provided that I don't exceed the limit, and that is what I do. So why is there a distinction on where a Class 1 vs Class 3 bike is allowed when the only difference between the two is the theoretically top assisted speed (20 vs 28mph)?

In my state -- Michigan -- the law regarding e-bikes on multi-user paths, rail trails, and other off-road uses is that Class 1 bikes are permitted unless specifically forbidden, and Class 2 & 3 are forbidden unless specifically permitted. This leads to a lot of confusion, at least partly since I don't think I've ever seen a sign on one of these trails stating the local regulations. For example, the "Great Lake to Lake Trail" is a connected route using paved and unpaved trails that go all the way across the state, but is subject to the local jurisdiction of the various segments that make it up. Just locally here, we have one trail that is officially "Class 1 only" and another that is "Class 1 & 2", but you can ride right across the county line and be on what appears to be the same trail, but is now "Pedal assisted only" (IOW Classes 1 & 3, but not 2)!

In my mind, the issue is how fast I'm riding and not how fast my bike can go. I've been going for a walk on these trails and been suddenly passed by a virtual paceline of young hardbodies going at least mid-20s in their matching team kits, so it isn't only e-bikes that can be ridden faster than might be advisable.

My interest in this subject is mainly because I'm trying to decide on an e-bike and, although I'd be OK with a Class 1 bike, which is what my wife has, the bikes with the features I'd like to have tend to be Class 3. Fortunately, there's no way to distinguish the classes other than looking for the sticker (if there is one) and official enforcement is nil as far as I can see, so I'm probably OK going with Class 3 as long as I don't do something stupid on it. It's just that the current class distinction doesn't make sense to me.
I don’t mean to be a bad influence, but I made a CLASS 1 label that looks just like the CLASS 3 label I pulled off. Nobody has “pulled me over” yet, so I can’t report on the effectiveness of this little ruse.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
In my mind, the issue is how fast I'm riding and not how fast my bike can go. I've been going for a walk on these trails and been suddenly passed by a virtual paceline of young hardbodies going at least mid-20s in their matching team kits, so it isn't only e-bikes that can be ridden faster than might be advisable.
Exactly. The issue is rider behavior. I've posted here plenty of times about some of the egregious behavior I've witnessed by cyclists (regular bikes not e-bikes) on MUPs. Not only road bikers in kits but also some recreational riders (younger if that matters) who dodge and weave through strolling families as little kids dart to and fro around their parents. Since you are in Michigan (as I am) did you follow the incident earlier this fall where a pedestrian was killed on a MUP due to a collision with a cyclist?

I'm probably extra-cautious on the MUPs just because I am on an e-bike and I don't want someone to use me as a reason to target e-bikers when it comes to discussions over trail access. But even at that, I've had a couple of low speed close-calls with joggers who were just totally unaware of their surroundings and who were jogging in the clearly marked bike lane, back to traffic and with headphones. So apart from rider behavior, I've seen some pretty awful pedestrian behavior as well.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
I would endorse the "use your head and not the bike's rating" as well.

One thing is for sure. NOBODY wants to pay to have their local trails policed. The only time the rules that are on the books are going to come into play is when/if something happens. I would not want to be "that guy" if riding on a MUT while riding a Class 3 bike.

My point is, if plans include spending a lot of time riding MUT's in some of MI's metro areas, I would be more likely to question the need for a class 3 bike. Otherwise, I don't think anyone is going to care.
 

rochrunner

Member
Since you are in Michigan (as I am) did you follow the incident earlier this fall where a pedestrian was killed on a MUP due to a collision with a cyclist?
Yes, I know exactly where that happened since I ride or run out that way often. This did seem to be a case of pedestrian fault since he was turning around apparently without looking, right into the path of the bike that was about to pass him. I'm not sure if the cyclist had a bell or otherwise called out, but with earphones he apparently didn't hear it.
 

Over50

Well-Known Member
Yes, I know exactly where that happened since I ride or run out that way often. This did seem to be a case of pedestrian fault since he was turning around apparently without looking, right into the path of the bike that was about to pass him. I'm not sure if the cyclist had a bell or otherwise called out, but with earphones he apparently didn't hear it.
I think one of the original articles I read said the pedestrian had hearing aids in both ears. The call was made by the cyclist but the pedestrian turned into the path of the cyclist (perhaps was confused and didn't clearly hear the call). There was never any mention that I saw of how fast the cyclists were travelling.
 

rochrunner

Member
My point is, if plans include spending a lot of time riding MUT's in some of MI's metro areas, I would be more likely to question the need for a class 3 bike. Otherwise, I don't think anyone is going to care.
I'm on the far north edge of the Detroit metro area, so within a few miles I can be out in the boonies or at least a fairly rural setting. We also have unlimited miles of lightly-traveled dirt roads to explore, so lots of places to ride. I can't justify a real "need" for Class 3, but given the choice and available places to ride, I'd like to have the option.

Also, there is one rural paved MUP that I have seen sheriff's deputies on a couple of times, riding ATVs, and on general patrol. We had a tragic incident a few years where a young woman was dragged off a trail and murdered by a local lowlife (subsequently caught, convicted, and sentenced), and this probably makes people feel more comfortable. I've caught up with and passed these guys a couple times on my road bike and always wave and say something like "Tough duty there!" on my way past. ;)
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
The reason for these confused regulations in reality is the regulators DO NOT KNOW WHAT AN EBIKE IS! Most seem to think an ebike is the same as a gas powered motorbike.

I can see the minor distinction between a class 1 (pedal assist only) and a class 2 (pedal assist + throttle) since class 2 bikes can be ridden like a motorbike without pedaling. The class 2 (20 mph max) - class 3 (28 mph max) distinction is simply an 8 mph increase in top speed. This is absolutely ridiculous since most MUP's I ride already have a posted 15 mph limit! As several have stated, conventional bicycles can be ridden by fit individuals at speeds exceeding 20 mph.

My approach is, I ignore the class distinction and ride my "stealthy" ebike pretty much anywhere I like unless all ebikes are specifically posted as prohibited. The rear hub motor is hidden by the chain sprocket and I keep the rear rack battery covered with panniers. The only visible sign it's an ebike is the throttle which requires close inspection to detect.
 

rochrunner

Member
I think one of the original articles I read said the pedestrian had hearing aids in both ears. The call was made by the cyclist but the pedestrian turned into the path of the cyclist (perhaps was confused and didn't clearly hear the call). There was never any mention that I saw of how fast the cyclists were travelling.
I don't want to get off topic here, but I've sometimes seen that startling a pedestrian by calling out "On your left" causes them to move to their left! If I'm not on a bike with a bell, I usually just say "Passing" or "Passing on the left".
 

dblhelix

Well-Known Member
I don't want to get off topic here, but I've sometimes seen that startling a pedestrian by calling out "On your left" causes them to move to their left! If I'm not on a bike with a bell, I usually just say "Passing" or "Passing on the left".
I have a factory horn. Pedestrians hate it so I no longer use it. They don’t hear the bell. “On your left” leads to unpredictable behavior. My solution is to go very slowly around pedestrians. Class 1 vs 3 makes no difference in this case.

I am more likely to be hit by a Bird scooter on campus (max speed 19mph) than I am by a Class 3 bike. I was almost hit last week by a group of four student learning how to use their scooters on the sidewalk. The Class 1 v Class 3 ebike distinction appears to be promoted by the bike industry lobbying group as effective for establishing baseline ebike legality state-by-state.

I was riding in Manhattan yesterday during rush hour. Cars, me, delivery ebikes with throttles, regular bikes, scooters and pedestrians with a significant subset going the other way on one-way streets. Class designation is an exercise in irrelevance, practically speaking.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
I'm on the far north edge of the Detroit metro area, so within a few miles I can be out in the boonies or at least a fairly rural setting. We also have unlimited miles of lightly-traveled dirt roads to explore, so lots of places to ride. I can't justify a real "need" for Class 3, but given the choice and available places to ride, I'd like to have the option.

Also, there is one rural paved MUP that I have seen sheriff's deputies on a couple of times, riding ATVs, and on general patrol. We had a tragic incident a few years where a young woman was dragged off a trail and murdered by a local lowlife (subsequently caught, convicted, and sentenced), and this probably makes people feel more comfortable. I've caught up with and passed these guys a couple times on my road bike and always wave and say something like "Tough duty there!" on my way past. ;)
Then you're not for from my place on Pontiac Lake in Waterford. We're only a few yards from Pontiac Lk. Rec Area, and ride there frequently, even stopping to chat with authorities. No Issue. Legality has never even come up. We've also trailered to and ridden is several of the Metroparks (very nice!), but with things being much more organized there, I might be a little more concerned about my bike's rating.

Same story here in FL. Though I have never even felt they've looked twice, the more organized/busy the riding area, the more nervous I become. It would be REALLY nice if authorities in both areas could come up with some easily enforced common sense rules. -Al
 

Tars Tarkas

Active Member
I think the analogy of cars (and tractor trailers) that can easily exceed the speed limit is a good one. I agree with the opinion that most of the problem with ebike regulations is a matter of lack of education. I don't see how it matters how a bike is powered or how fast it can go as long as it doesn't actually go too fast and is ridden with a normal amount of common sense and courtesy. Unfortunately, there are always going to be a__holes on e-bikes, a-bikes, scooters, inline skates, etc. etc., who will cause problems. And, unfortunately, probably the only enforcement, as someone else mentioned, is going to be after the fact, when someone gets hurt.

Until e-bikes settle in to the modern zeitgeist, I think we'd be well served to show by our behavior that e-bikes, and e-bike riders are normal bike riders who just don't have to pedal as much.

Following the tangent about people's reaction to "on your left" or a bell, I see it all the time. For some reason, many pedestrians step to the left as they turn to address the warning. I look out for it as a matter of routine now by either passing way to the left and/or slowing way down. Most people are great about this and walk (it's mostly pedestrians) well to the right. I think the problem is with newbies who don't know trail protocol. Where I mostly ride there are no posted instructions on trail protocol. I wish there were a few here and there.

TT
 

6zfshdb

Well-Known Member
Following the tangent about people's reaction to "on your left" or a bell, I see it all the time. For some reason, many pedestrians step to the left as they turn to address the warning. I look out for it as a matter of routine now by either passing way to the left and/or slowing way down. Most people are great about this and walk (it's mostly pedestrians) well to the right. I think the problem is with newbies who don't know trail protocol. Where I mostly ride there are no posted instructions on trail protocol. I wish there were a few here and there.
The best approach I've found is to slow to a crawl, say "excuse me" and then "Thank you" after passing.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Slow to a crawl, as in a speed that will allow you to stop completely within just a couple of feet!
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
Speed and bicycles has been an issue since safety bicycles were invented. That’s when horses were the main mode of transportation. Why WOULDN’T classes of eBikes be an issue in America? We have nearly 150 years of controversy to live by.
 

Tars Tarkas

Active Member
The best approach I've found is to slow to a crawl, say "excuse me" and then "Thank you" after passing.
Exactly. There have been several times I've stopped completely, with my feet on the ground, which I'm okay with. I'm good with any kind of safety measure that's in my control. And we'll never get to the point that everyone on the trails acts "right" all the time! 🤪 Much better to play it safe and be the nice guy instead of the jerk!

TT
 

rochrunner

Member
We've also trailered to and ridden is several of the Metroparks (very nice!), but with things being much more organized there, I might be a little more concerned about my bike's rating.
At least in Stoney Creek Metropark, there are no e-bikes allowed on the MTB trails. But again, I've never seen this posted and have seen a few on the trails. There was an article recently in the NY Times about how great eMTBs are and it unleashed a s***storm of protest in a majority of the reader comments. Lots of strong opinions to say the least!
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
IF there's a little tyke on the bike path, I pretty come to a stop unless the mother knows there's a bike coming. Even then, they have jumped out in front of me with a karate pose.

I do find it amusing how some dogs will turn and give eye contact, even while their owners are off in the clouds.

I learned last month that the next burb to the east of me doesn't allow any ebikes, scooters, hoverboards on their bike paths. No big deal. I've always turned around there because it changes from forest preserve to park, and I have to cross a busy 50 mph road to get there..