Electric bike riders in California who don’t already hold a traditional car driver’s license may soon have a new option (or requirement) on their hands: an electric bike license.
California Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner introduced the new bill just before the weekend, designed to help provide more safety and structure around young or unlicensed e-bike riders in the state.
The bill would ban children under age 12 from riding electric bikes. Any riders who are at least 12 but don’t have a car driver’s license would be required to complete an online course, pass a written test, and get a state ID to legally operate an electric bicycle.
The proposed legislation comes in response to a significant increase in the number of young e-bike riders. Often in their teens, these new e-bike riders have flocked to electric bikes as an efficient and fun form of getting to school or meeting up with friends, securing themselves transportation independence from their parents and public transit.
“E-bikes provide that sense of freedom that so many school-aged kids and Californians are looking for,” explained Congresswoman Boerner during a press conference at Earl Warren Middle School. “But it’s crucial that we ensure that they know how to ride using the rules of our roads and make safe and smart decisions when sharing the roads with cars and pedestrians.”
The increased number of young riders, especially those that have shown either ignorance of or disregard for traffic laws, has become a major issue in many California towns.
This isn’t the first time California has flirted with the idea of instituting a driver’s license specifically for e-bike riders. The same concept was floated last year but failed to make it out of the assembly.
An electric bicycle license is not unheard of in the Western world, with some countries already instituting special training programs for e-bike riders who haven’t yet received – or are not interested in getting – a car driver’s license.
I don’t see anything wrong with this, as long as it is instituted in a fair way that doesn’t put an undue burden on riders. If you’re using the road, you need to be aware of the road rules. Just because you’ve got two wheels doesn’t mean you don’t mix with traffic.
That being said, I hope that for every dollar of public funding that goes into giving kids e-bike licenses, two dollars gets put into encouraging more kids to ride e-bikes. Nothing I’ve seen in my entire life of being a kid or an adult has gotten more children off the couch and outside than electric bikes. Electric bikes have also become one of the single most effective tools for decreasing urban transportation emissions as well as reducing congestion in cities. Every electric car driver that pats themselves on the back for being green should give a standing ovation to each e-bike rider they see – that’s the order of magnitude difference e-bikes create when it comes to their impact on cities.
So fine, let’s make everyone safer and ensure young e-bike riders are properly trained with regard to road rules. But let’s also just make sure they’re out there in the first place.
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