N.J. debates whether to let electric bicycles use the sidewalks

 Electric bikes have small motors powered by batteries. (Big Stock photo)

Electric bikes have small motors powered by batteries. (Big Stock photo)

A bill advanced by a New Jersey Assembly committee would allow riders to use low-speed electric bikes on streets, bike paths, and sidewalks.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace believes the bikes with speeds under 20 miles an hour would be a good means of transportation for short distances.

“Around the world when you look in cities you see people using electric bicycles to get around town. It reduces traffic congestion. It reduces pollution. It gets people outside.”

Assemblywoman Annette Chapparo has some concerns about allowing electric bicycles on sidewalks.

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“With heavy pedestrian traffic, and now the electric bike is a higher speed, I don’t want it to be pedestrians getting knocked over. It’s too much.”

Eustace says he’s not planning to get an electric bicycle himself, because he already has a regular bike and walks to work. But he believes the electric version would attract people who aren’t already bicycle riders.

“I think that people are seeing a changing trend in that people need to reduce our carbon footprint at some point and find a better way to get around. They won’t be putting gas in their cars. They won’t be putting carbon into the atmosphere. They’ll be less people on our roads for congestion. So, all around, it looks like a win-win situation.”

The legislation would not require electric bicycle operators to have a driver’s license, furnish proof of insurance, or register the bike.

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