Arizona e-bike model municipal law

ca-e-bike-cropped[UPDATE: spring 2018 in AZ State legislature, HB2652, has PASSED; how this relates to local laws isn’t completely clear to me]

This is not coincidentally  similar to legislation passed in California in 2015, and pushed by People For Bikes along with the e-bike industry, so start there. I say similar because it’s odd it doesn’t follow the class 1/2/3 in the CA (and as of Aug 2018 the AZ law?)

Electric bikes fall under the category of what Arizona calls a Motorized Bicycle at the state level. There are a number of gotchas involved, which have been copiously documented on these pages, e.g. start here. The main gotcha is illustrated below about unwittingly needing a drivers license, insurance and registration.

No municipality can fix these gotchas, they can only be addressed by the state legislature. I can only speculate the idea is for Tempe (or whoever; there is similar effort for MAG to recommend/adopt model regulations) to adopt rules that would in effect only kick in when the state “fixes” the state statutes.

I guess my concern is these municipal laws are being over-sold or mis-represented as clarifying the state law, but they aren’t (because they can’t) e.g. in the Tempe Proposal:

“When traveling in a bicycle lane or street, a light motorized vehicle [similar to what CA calls “type 3” e-bike] may not be operated at speeds in excess of twenty eight (28) miles per hour, or the posted speed limit, whichever is lower”

I think this would lead a reasonable person to think it’s perfectly legal to ride your 28mph ebike at 28mph (or less) on a street in Tempe. Well not hardly! Because now Officer Friendly pulls you over and asks to see your:

  • vehicle registration for your ebike
  • proof of insurance for your ebike
  • Drivers license (including a motorcycle endorsement!)

You have all of those, i hope? Otherwise it’s some pretty big fines, and can even be criminal matter, e.g. if your DL is currently suspended.

There are useful things the municipalities can and should clarify and regulate, e.g. from the Tempe Proposal, e-bikes on the sidewalk must not be using the motor (i don’t know how you enforce that, but there you have it). As well as clarifying path (i.e off-street) usage is allowed, restricting it to under 20mph but allowing powered use.

Tempe City Ordinance No.  O2017.05

Proposal from the 11/3/2016 Work Study Session (I haven’t compared it to the ordinance that ultimately passes);


Specific Points about the Tempe Ordinance

They add some new definitions:

  • electric bike –hewing to the CPSC / 20mph design speed definitions. This is good because a major flaw in the 2006 state law is it refers to operating speed in the def’n of motorized bicycle.
  • light motorized vehicle (I’ll call it LMV) — not sure exactly what to make of this one. The one obvious thing is it’s electric or gas powered. But why does the definition of Light Motorized Vehicle allow for up to 35mph design speed? I would have though it would be 28 to conform with Type 3 (CA) e-bike definition. Side note: what is called a motor-driven cycle in AZ State law (what most people just call a motor scooter) typically/traditionally gasoline powered) is generally designed for 35mph; but are also typically more than 120 pounds. Another point-of-reference is mopeds (in AZ anyway) are limited to a design speed of 25mph.
    A “Tempe” LMV has no obvious place in ARS; so I don’t see how it would be possible to get it registered with DMV, it’s similar to a moped, but because it’s > 25mph it can’t be registered as a street-legal moped.
    SIDENOTE: e-scooters (the wildly popular scooter sharing companies like Lime, Bird, Razor) appear to fit the definition of LMV, which seems odd but true; formerly would have been motorized play vehicles(?).
  • Electric personal assistance mobility device (EPAMD) — effectively, a Segway; possible/probably also a “hoverboard” fits the description. The ordinance goes on to mostly define a EPAMD user as equivalent to a pedestrian

In one instance they refer to “class 3” in the electric bike section as requiring a speedometer, but there is not definition for that. Does that have anything to with a CA “type 3”? (that was in the proposal, but apparently got fixed in the ordinance.) Electric bikes must have a speedometer. Oddly, LSVs don’t seem to have that requirement.

Safety concerns: I don’t think anything over about 20mph is okay in a BL. It would raise the risk for the rider of becoming involved in a left-cross or  motorist drive-out collision appreciably since motorists are not expecting (what appears to be a) bicycle to be moving that fast. Too-narrow BLs would obviously become more of a problem as speeds go up. Note that mopeds (max design speed 25mph) are prohibited from using BLs under state law, yet according to the Tempe proposal the faster LSVs are ok in a BL.

I haven’t thought this through: but I wonder if everything is consistent with Tempe’s def’n of “Motorized Play Vehicle“; which was causing some problems between motorized bicyclists and Tempe PD a few years ago?

More broadly, somebody ought to make clear whether or not a motorized bike/ ebike is or isn’t a motor vehicle. This is all rather fraught, and i see in Tempe’s def’n they call an ebike  a “two- or three-wheeled vehicle…” (my emphasis added). In Arizona statute, bicycles are not vehicles, they are “devices”. What does that all mean?

Sortof interesting: they snuck in that EPMADs (Electric Personal Mobility Assistive Device. Essentially, segways; though i guess “hoverboards” now also fit the description) can use sidewalks and bike lanes.

I like the bits about you can’t use the motor on sidewalks but wonder how that might be enforced. I worry a bit about powered use on paths.

The Tension between State and Local laws (#local)

With regard to powers of local authority,  they may regulate the operation of bicycles on roads under their jurisdiction , see §28-626 & 627).

Generally speaking, local laws cannot be in conflict with state law. However, there’s this huge murky area where “Charter Cities” assert their charter grants them sovereignty, and can do anything they please, even if in conflict, so long as the matter is “purely local”. Every now and then this issue bubbles up, as in the recent/ongoing (late-2016) Tucson ordinance that prescribes that seized guns be destroyed. This local ordinance appears to be in clear conflict with a recent state law that prohibits almost any form of local gun regulation. Here’s a news article about the issue, and here are some links to the relevant laws and a report on the matter from the Attorney General (AG):

Supreme court heard arguments Feb 28(?), 2017 so decision should be coming soon… Tucson, State Argue Gun Destruction before Supreme Court. Final outcome news story Aug 2017, Tucson can’t destroy confiscated guns, Arizona Supreme Court rules, i haven’t looked at the opinion, not sure how narrow or broad this might be.






Is this an Electric Bike?

There are all sorts of interesting, unusual, unique electric powered devices popping up, Fry’s electronics recently was advertizing the a-bike folding electric bicycle for $1299, 100 bucks off.

Note that this device is not a bicycle in Arizona state law, because the wheels are only 8″ in diameter. Is this a motorized bicycle? Note the Tempe def’n doesn’t say anything about wheel size. Is it legal to ride on the road? A-bike is apparently British.



Memorandum City of Tempe
Date: October 24, 2016
To: Mayor and Council Through: Councilmembers Lauren Kuby, David Schapira, and Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage
From: Kristin Gwinn, Council Aide
Subject: Electric Bicycles Working Group Recommendation

BACKGROUND: On March 17, 2016, the Mayor and Council approved the request to create a City Manager’s Working Group exploring potential regulation of electric bicycles and other light motorized vehicles. There are currently no regulations for these vehicles at the state or municipal level but their popularity continues to grow. In a multimodal city like Tempe, electric bikes are becoming increasingly common and in the interest of public safety, baseline regulations must be put in place to ensure public safety. The Working Group met with staff from Transportation, the Police Department, and City Attorney’s office and reached out to community stakeholders including residents and representatives from local businesses and organizations such as Lectric-Cycles, The Bicycle Cellar, and Tempe Bicycle Action Group. Additionally, the Working Group coordinated with a national organization called People for Bikes that has been working with the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) to develop language that could serve as a template regionally and statewide in the regulation of electric bicycles. The Working Group discussed various issues including safe speeds, classification of various types of vehicles, and the interaction between light motorized vehicles, pedestrians, and horses on our multi-use paths. Recent laws passed in other jurisdictions were explored as possible models for Tempe, and the attached ordinance includes some language from a recent California law which is now a model for state and local laws across the country. ORDINANCE: The attached ordinance includes the following provisions:

  • Defines electric bicycles and electric personal assistance mobility devices as compared to other light motorized vehicles.
  • Grants electric bicycles all rights and duties applicable to bicycle riders, including yielding right of way to pedestrians.
  • Limits electric bikes to speeds of 28 miles per hour or posted speed limit on roads and bike lanes and 20 miles per hour on shared or multi-use paths.
  • Prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from riding an electric bicycle and requires that any rider or passenger under the age of 18 wear a protective helmet.
  • Designates violation of this article as a civil violation with minimum fine of $100.

DIRECTION: Respectfully request that Council approve and forward the attached ordinance to the next available Regular Council Meeting for public hearing and vote. WORKING GROUP MEMBERS: Councilmember Lauren Kuby Councilmember David Schapira Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage STAFF ASSISTING THE WORKING GROUP MEMBERS: Shelly Seyler, Deputy Director of Public Works, Transportation/Traffic Engineering Sue Taaffe, Public Works Supervisor Bill Amato, Police Legal Advisor Amanda Nelson, Public Information Officer Elizabeth Higgins, Chief of Staff – Mayor and Council Kristin Gwinn, Council Aide RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES ASSISTING THE WORKING GROUP MEMBERS: Lectric Cycles – Chris Head, Electric Bike Manufacturer The Bicycle Cellar – Bike Sales Tempe Bicycle Action Group – Ryan Guzy Darryl Jacobson Barnes – Circle G HOA Chris Boyles – Calle de Caballos HOA


2 thoughts on “Arizona e-bike model municipal law”

  1. Scottsdale
    I don’t find anything specific to e-bikes in Scottsdale’s ordinances.
    UPDATE, effective Dec 2018, see this comment for link to ordinance #4372
    , everything below needs to be re-visited in light of the new rule…

    I don’t find anything specific that would prohibit ebikes from sidewalks, there’s a definition of “human powered” in 17-98 that would exclude any motorized bike from the def’n of bicycle, but that’s in an article relating only to paths.
    More generally, the only mention of bicyclist sidewalk riding is that it’s prohibited when there’s a sign (placed by the chief of police, which is unusual wording) stating so.

    Multiuse Paths? Paths = paved, off-street.
    Paths rules are very clear — any/all forms of motorization are prohibited (with exceptions for disabled mobility devices).
    The city of Scottsdale has a blanket prohibition against “any vehicle or device with an attached motor or power unit, whether or not it is operation, upon a multiuse path…”

    Sec. 17-98. Definitions… Human-powered means movement accomplished or propelled by human power, such as
    walking, running, or by any vehicle or device which is designed and equipped to be propelled by human power, without any assistance by a motor or power unit…

    Sec. 17-99(a) Multiuse paths are for the exclusive use of pedestrians and any human-powered vehicles or devices

    Sec. 17-100. – Prohibitions.
    (a) No person shall operate, use or place any vehicle or device with an attached motor or power unit, whether or not it is operation, upon a multiuse path or within three (3) feet of a multiuse path. This subsection shall be inapplicable to the use and operation of a motorized wheelchair

    Trails? Trail = unpaved
    This sign popped up post/pic on stevebaySign at Granite Mountain: “Electric Bikes are Prohibited Enforcable Under S.R.C. 21-12(2)”. This particular rule applies specifically and only to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, are there other “trails” in Scottsdale?:

    Sec. 21-12(b)(2) General rules for use…
    No motorized vehicles shall be allowed in the preserve, except in designated parking areas. This provision shall not be construed, however, to prevent the use and operation of a motorized wheelchair by a person who ordinarily uses such equipment, when the person is engaged in activities otherwise permitted in the preserve.

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