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Netherlands: New Rules Pending for E-Bikers

(Apr. 12, 2016) It was reported on March 25, 2016, that fast electric bikes, that is, ones capable of going up to 45 kph, (about 28 mph) will be treated as mopeds in the Netherlands as of 2017, to conform to European Union regulations on the devices. (E-Bike Users May Have to Wear Helmets, Cabinet Sources Say, DUTCHNEWS.NL (Mar, 25, 2016).) In addition, the riders “will have to wear some form of helmet.” (Id.) The e-bikes that can reach such speeds are also sometimes called speed pedelecs. (E-fiets krijgt status ‘brommer-light,’  AD (Mar. 25, 2016).)

News reports have indicated that the authorities have not yet determined whether the new bikes will be permitted on bicycle paths; discussions are still being conducted with the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment (which covers transportation) to finalize the new rules for the bikes. (Id.) Under current law, “e-bikes are treated … like lighter mopeds, with no helmet requirement and a maximum speed of 25 kph.” (Id.)

The current rules further provide that e-bike riders must:

  • be at least 16 years of age;
  • have a moped license;
  • have liability insurance for high speed e-bike;
  • ride on the mandatory cycling path; and
  • have a moped license plate (blue plate).   (Wanneer mag ik op een high speed e-bike rijden?, Government of the Netherlands website (last visited Apr. 1, 2016).)

The maximum vehicle speed determines what kind of vehicle is a high speed e-bike; hence, if an e-bike can attain speeds of up to 45 kilometers per hour, it is a moped and must conform to rules for mopeds.  Mopeds may not go faster than 30 kph on bicycle /moped paths in urban areas, faster than 40 kph on rural roads, or over 45 kph on roadway.  Other moped rules are that the rider conform to the first three conditions listed above but also drive on a bicycle/moped path drive or on the road; have a moped license plate (yellow plate); and wear an approved motorcycle helmet.  (Id.)

E-bikes are especially popular with retirees in the Netherlands, and sales are said to have been rising steadily, so that “one in five bikes now bought in the Netherlands now has a small motor. “ (E-Bike Users May Have to Wear Helmets, Cabinet Sources Say, supra.).   Because of the rise in popularity of the e-bike, “experts expect the number of cyclists killed in traffic accidents will outstrip motorists in the coming years.”   (Id.)

European Union and E-Bikes

According to a report on the subject, in the European Union, “pedelec means a bicycle with a motor that only functions on condition the cyclist pedals,” whereas an e-bike refers to “a bicycle with a motor that functions by turning the throttle, so irrespective of the cyclist pedalling.” It adds, “[t]he term electric bicycle is generic and includes pedelecs, e-bikes and combinations of these types.”  (White Paper, All You Need to Know on… EU Regulatlions for E-Bikes, Pedelecs, Speed Pedelecs, BIKE EUROPE (Nov. 2014).)

The report further points out that all e-bikes, “except pedelecs up to 25 km/h and a maximum continuous rated motor output of 250W, are subject to type-approval” under type-approval rules set forth in EU Regulation 168/2013 that will enter force on January 1, 2017. (Id.) “Type-approval” refers to “the procedure whereby a Member State certifies that a type of vehicle, system, separate technical unit or component satisfies the technical requirements” set forth in an EU Directive on the subject “or the separate directives and the checks on the correctness of the manufacturer’s data, as provided for in the exhaustive list set out in Annex I [of that Directive] … .”  (Directive 2002/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 March 2002 Relating to the Type-Approval of Two or Three-Wheel Motor Vehicles and Repealing Council Directive 92/61/EEC (Text with EEA relevance), 2002 OJ (L 124) 1, EUR-LEX.)

“Electric bikes are classified in vehicle category L1e, which is subdivided in L1e-A for ‘powered cycles’ and L1e-B for ‘mopeds.’” (All You Need to Know on… EU Regulatlions for E-Bikes, Pedelecs, Speed Pedelecs supra; Regulation (EU) No. 168/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2013 on the Approval and Market Surveillance of Two- or Three-Wheel Vehicles and Quadricycles, 2013 O.J. (L 60) 52.)