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The Oklahoma City Trails Advisory Committee hosted a conversation on allowing electric bikes (e-bikes) on Oklahoma City’s multi-use trails Friday.

The discussion focused largely on what constitutes the different classifications of e-bikes, and what role those bikes might have on multi-use trails.

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Classifications

E-bikes are classified in three different tiers. Class 1 e-bikes have a battery that assists any time the rider is pedaling. The electric assistance stops when the bike reaches 20 miles per hour.

Class 2 e-bikes have battery assistance that works with a throttle, rather than the pedaling of the rider. In the case of Class 2 bikes, the battery stops assisting at 20 miles per hour.

Class 3 e-bikes operate similarly to Class 1 bikes, but the battery assistance stops at 28 miles per hour. Many Class 3 e-bikes are also classified as “cargo bikes.” Riders of Class 3 e-bikes must be at least 16 years of age.

Concerns

Some callers implored the committee to allow Class 3 e-bikes on the multi-use trails.

Tony Carfang, a cycling advocate from Oklahoma City, spoke about his own Class 3 cargo bike.

Carfang says that in the year since purchasing his cargo bike, he has ridden the bike 2500 miles. He frequently transports his toddler on the bike when on trips around town.

Part of Carfang’s 12 mile commute is along one of the multi-use trails. He says allowing Class 3 e-bikes on the trails will result in more people using the trails as commuting routes, just as he does.

One caller stated that his partner uses a Class 3 e-bike. He said that never in her time using an e-bike or otherwise has she operated a bike at anywhere near the speed of 28 miles per hour. He said banning the Class-3 bikes would make a criminal out of a 76 year old woman who uses the trails safely and responsibly.

Current Rules

Currently all classes of e-bikes are allowed on public streets and rights of way, however, they are not all allowed on all of the trails in Oklahoma City. As of now, Class 3 e-bikes are only allowed on multi-use or natural trails if they are used as a mobility device under the guidance of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The debate on the new ordinance centers on allowing or not allowing Class 3 e-bikes on our multi-use trails.

Action Deferred

After representatives from the Parks department gave a presentation on the history of e-bike use on the trails, the city’s Legal department was asked to give a review on the legality of the proposed ordinance. A representative of that department was not available at the time of the meeting.

Ward 7 City Councilwoman Nikki Nice moved to defer the item until the October meeting of the Committee so that she and the other members of the committee would have time to do more research and also have questions answered by the Municipal Counsellor’s office.

The motion passed.

The ordinance will be heard again by the committee in October. If the committee takes action on the ordinance, it will then go before the board of the Parks department. From there it will be sent to the City Council with or without recommendation from the other two bodies.


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