The North Bergen Board of Commissioners has introduced an ordinance to regulate low-speed electric bicycles and scooters, following their continued rise in popularity and similar moves by the township’s neighbors in North Hudson. Township Counsel Tom Kobin said the ordinance is identical to those passed by nearby municipalities.
“Guttenberg has adopted it,” Kobin said. “Union City either has or is in the process of doing it. The idea is to have everybody have substantially similar ordinances on these.”
“These can be very helpful, but it can be very dangerous,” Mayor Nicholas Sacco said. “I think this will help define what an electric bicycle is.”
Defining ‘e-bikes and e-scooters’
Kobin said the ordinance defines what they are, where the public can use them, and other things of that nature.
According to the ordinance, a low-speed electric bicycle is defined as a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. There are two classifications: “class 1 low-speed electric bicycle” which is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases at a speed of 20 miles per hour; or “class 2 low-speed electric bicycle” which is equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle and is not capable of providing assistance when reaching 20 miles per hour.
Similarly, the ordinance defines a low-speed electric scooter as a scooter with a floorboard that can be stood upon by the operator, with handlebars and an electric motor capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion at a maximum speed of less than 19 miles per hour.
Any electric bicycle or electric scooter with an electric motor greater than 750 watts is not considered a “low-speed” electric bicycle or scooter and is prohibited.
Codifying new rules
“There’s provisions in here on helmet use,” Kobin said. Those wanting to operate a low-speed electric bicycle or scooter must wear a helmet. Those under 14 must wear wrist guards and elbow pads in addition to a helmet.
The speed limit for low-speed electric bicycles or scooters is 20 miles per hour. Operators can not ride with their feet removed from the pedals or with hands removed from the handlebars. Any tricks or “fancy riding in [the] street” is prohibited.
“You can’t carry passengers on them,” Kobin said. No passengers are permitted on a low-speed electric bicycle or scooter unless the passenger is carried in a proper bike seat, trailer or other accessory that complies with current regulations and the passenger is wearing a properly fitted and fastened helmet.
“You can’t hitch rides with other vehicles,” Kobin said. Low-speed electric bicycle and scooter operators are not permitted to attach the themselves to any streetcar or vehicle on a roadway.
“It dictates where you can park them,” Kobin said. Parking is prohibited on streets, except in racks or specified spots. When parked on sidewalks, low-speed electric bicycles and scooters must not impede movement.
No one over the age of 13 can ride a low-speed electric bicycle or scooter on a sidewalk. Whenever driving on the sidewalk, operators must ride in single file, yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian. No one over the age of 13 can ride a low-speed electric bicycle or scooter on a sidewalk in a business district between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Unless on a designated bicycle path or walkway, the use of low-speed electric bicycles or scooters is not permitted in public parks. The vehicles can utilize bike lanes on streets.
According to the ordinance, low-speed electric bicycles and scooters must drive as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. Low-speed electric bicycle and scooter operators can not carry packages, bundles or articles that prevent them from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
Every low-speed electric bicycle or scooter must have a lamp on the front visible from at least five hundred feet away, and with a red lamp on the rear visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet away. In addition to the red lamp, a red reflector can be mounted on the rear. Low-speed electric bicycle or scooter must have a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for at least one hundred feet. Sirens and whistles are prohibited.
Kobin said there is a whole section on use of the low-speed electric bicycles and scooters in businesses.
Businesses utilizing these vehicles for deliveries must provide the operator with a reflective vest, and have affixed a tag, license, decal or marking affixed to the low-speed electric scooter or bicycle identifying that it is being operated on behalf of the business.
“If they’re going to be used for business purposes, they’re going to have to be registered with the police department,” Kobin said.
If the business does not follow the ordinance, they can be charged with operating violations. The first penalty will cost $50, then $100, with the third time landing the offender in court. If convicted, third violations and beyond can cost anywhere from $200 to $500.
The board voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance. A public hearing will be held at the next North Bergen Board of Commissioners meeting on at 11 a.m. on Oct. 20 at Town Hall at 423 Kennedy Blvd. For more information, go to northbergen.org.
West New York, too
Meanwhile, the West New York Board of Commissioners adopted the same ordinance at a meeting later that same day.
At its October meeting, the West New York Board of Commissioners approved an identical ordinance “promoting the safe use of electric bicycles and scooters.”
Following a public hearing, the board voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance amending town code relating to the low-speed electric bicycles and scooters. Read it online at: https://www.westnewyorknj.org/_Content/pdf/ordinances/Ord1921.pdf.
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