Washington State Encourages E-Bike Purchase and Use, But Should It?

Washington State Encourages E-Bike PurchasesFor environmental reasons, traffic reasons, and just because they’re healthy, Washington recently became the eighth US state to offer incentives for e-bike purchases. Just as electric vehicles have become more desirable for their benefits to combat climate change, electronic bicycles are seen as a way to reduce emissions by encouraging the public to use these bicycles instead of gas-guzzling vehicles. E-bikes help reduce traffic congestion. They’re also a great way to stay in shape.

Washington approved seven million dollars in funding to support individual purchases of e-bikes and the creation of e-bike “lending libraries” over the next two years. Of this approved amount, five million dollars will be used for rebates during the next two years. The other two million will be used to create “E-bike sharing programs managed by municipalities, businesses or nonprofits.” One advocate of the new law said that the investment will allow people of all income levels in Washington to own or borrow an e-bike.

The law will give people, no matter their income, a $300 point-of-sale rebate. And, “Anyone with an income that is 80% or lower than the state’s median income is eligible for a $1200 rebate.”

Washington joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont in offering e-bike rebates. Similar legislation is being considered at the national level. The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, would provide up to a $15,00 tax credit for Americans who buy a new electric bike.

E-bike laws in Washington

E-bikes are categorized into three classes based on the ability to pedal and how fast the e-bike can go. Some e-bikes can travel near 30 mph.

Washington does not have a state helmet law. The authority to regulate helmet usage is left up to the cities. Generally, e-bicycle riders must comply with the same road rules as drivers of motorized vehicles, such as stopping at red lights and stop signs and staying on the right side of the road. E-bikes need to have proper lighting and reflecting equipment when riding at night. Generally, e-bikes can be ridden anywhere a standard bicycle can be driven, including bike lanes. Some restrictions may apply. E-bike riders need to be 16 years old.

What are the benefits of riding e-bikes?

Cycling Weekly reported in May 2023 that, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than half of all car trips are less than three miles. Cycling Weekly notes, “If just 15% percent of those trips were made using an e-bike carbon emissions would decrease by 12%.” So there is a definite ecological upside to trading one’s car for a bike.

According to Boxercycles, some of the benefits of riding e-bikes are:

  • They’re much less expensive than filling your car with gasoline. The cost to charge an e-bike is just about 10 to 20 cents.
  • They involve less exercise than traditional bikes, which means you won’t arrive at your destination all sweaty.
  • The maintenance costs are much less than a vehicle.
  • While you’ll get less exercise than on a traditional bike, you’ll get a lot more exercise than driving a car.
  • Riders should suffer less joint pain when on an e-bike.
  • You don’t need insurance, a license, or any special certification to ride an e-bike. If you can ride a traditional bicycle, you should be able to ride an e-bike.

E-bikes can go up to 30 mph though most people go less than half that rate. If you run out of power, you likely can ride the bicycle like a traditional bike, though you’ll need more energy because e-bikes are heavier.

What are the dangers of riding e-bikes?

There are a lot of good things about e-bikes, but we have some concerns, too; this is why we wonder whether Washington State is right to throw this much support behind them. Some of the negative considerations for e-bikes, according to Boxercycles, are:

  • E-bikes are more expensive than most traditional bicycles.
  • Repairs of an e-bike are more complex and more expensive than traditional bikes. The lithium-ion batteries can put a dent in your wallet.
  • You’ll probably need someone besides yourself to do the repairs.
  • You may be subject to fines, such as speeding in a school zone, if you go too fast.
  • They can be harder to bring onto public or private transportation than regular bikes.
  • E-bikes are heavier than most standard bicycles.
  • They do take a while to charge.
  • They can be damaged if they get wet – especially the battery.

A major risk of any type of bicycle, e-bike or traditional, is that riders are at risk for serious injuries from drivers who fail to see cyclists. Since it’s easier to go faster on an e-bike, there is a higher risk of getting into an accident.

Cars and trucks don’t care if you’re driving an e-bike or a regular bike, in large part because they won’t be able to see the difference. Bicycles of all types are at constant risk of accidents because cars often don’t look for bicycles on the roadway and don’t know how to drive when they do see a bicycle rider. Bicycle accidents are still likely to happen with e-bikes at intersections, on roads that don’t have specific bicycle lines, and as car drivers are opening their doors.

At Philbrook Law Office, our personal injury lawyers handle all types of vehicle accidents including e-bike accidents. We represent victims who are injured by another driver. We file product liability claims if a defective e-bike causes you harm. Our lawyers represent families if your loved one was killed in an e-bike accident. We represent adults and teenagers who use e-bikes.

To discuss your right to compensation at one of our law offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA, please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation. Our bicycle accident lawyers handle accident claims on a contingency fee basis.