The European Parliament has this afternoon voted for a clear separation between active and passive transport.
Under current EU legislation, e-bikes, known officially as electronically power assisted cycles (EPACs) or pedelecs, are limited to 250 watts. They must propel the rider at no more than 25kph.
In today's vote at the European Parliament, MEPs decided to keep the original European Commission proposal: Only pedelecs with a maximum speed of 25 km/h and 250 watts power will remain exempt from motorbike regulation. If MEPs had voted the other way, bicycle riders may have become subject to motorbike-style rules and may have been forced to wear helmets, pay vehicle license fees and have compulsory insurance.
With 643 votes in favour, 16 against and 18 abstentions, MEPs voted overwhelmingly for the existing definitions of bicycles, e-bikes and motoribikes.
The European Cyclists' Federation welcomed the vote, seeing it as a clear separation between bicycles and motorbikes.
“We need a clear border line between what a bicycle is and what exceeds the definition of a ‘bicycle’,” explains Ceri Woolsgrove, ECF’s Road Safety Officer.
“This is important for clear decisions on the use of infrastructure and facilities for bicycles that authorities have to make on the international, national, regional and local level.”
There had been previous calls for pedelecs with unlimited output to be exempt from Type Approval procedures, meaning more powerful machines would not be subject to more rigorous testing. ECF, alongside industry groups such the UK's Bicycle Association, and Brussels-based bicycle and accessories manufacturer associations COLIBI and COLIPED, lobbied for legislation to remain the same.
A statment from COLIBI and COLIPED said:
"This positive vote will enhance further investments and developments in the industry and will support the European EPAC manufacturers in their continuous effort to bring high-end and above all safe products on the market."
Woolsgrove of the ECF, agreed:
“It’s a good thing that the exemptions to this legislation for electric bicycles remain unchanged.
“The minute you start changing the definition of a bicycle, you’re opening up cycling to a whole range of nasty legislation. It could mean compulsory helmets, insurance, licensing to name but a few of the negative consequences. You don’t want to damage the reputation of cycling, and lose all the wonderful benefits that cyclists’ have.”
Under current legislation, e-bikes have been a huge success story in Europe, with over 700,000 units sold in 2011. In Germany alone, there are already one million pedelecs in use, with 310,000 sold last year. This is in stark contrast with electric cars, which managed to sell just over 11,500 vehicles in Western Europe last year despite large subsidies.
The Parliament vote still needs be ratified by the European Council, but this is generally seen as a formality. Other countries have seen EU legislation as the best way to regulate bicycles, with Australia recently adopting EU style electric bicycle legislation.
A statement from COLIBI and COLIPED said:
"The fact that low performance EPACs (< 250W & < 25 km/h) are exempted from the European type- approval for motorised 2- and 3-wheelers, doesn’t mean that they are completely regulation free as these vehicles have to comply with both the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive 2004/08/EC and with the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.
"Moreover, and at the request of our European bicycle industry, CEN TC 333 ‘Cycles’ developed a specific standard for EPACs that are exempted from Directive 2002/24/EC, i.e. EN 15194 ‘EPAC’."