Banned! Why 2023 saw more e-bike and e-scooter bans than ever before

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Electric bicycle ridership grew to never-before-seen levels in 2023. But despite the increased ridership, or perhaps even because of it, this year has seen an increase in the number of limits and bans placed on electric bicycles and e-scooters. Here’s a look back at some of the most infamous bans and what led to them.

NYC wants e-bikes stopped at the border

Earlier this year, NYC announced an upcoming ban on the sale of electric bikes that don’t have UL-compliant batteries. Companies were given a six-month grace period, then the ban kicked in a few months ago.

The underlying issue was that several dangerous fires have begun in NYC buildings, some turning lethal, after poorly constructed e-bike batteries caught fire. 

Many leading electric bicycle manufacturers, such as Rad Power Bikes, rolled out UL-compliant batteries in response, ensuring that their models would still be allowed to be sold in the city.

Paris bans shared electric scooters, then something surprising happened

When Parisians took to the polls to vote on a referendum banning shared electric scooters, the results were fairly one-sided. Reports put the tally at around 90% in favor of banning shared e-scooters, though extremely low voter turnout meant that roughly 7% of registered voters actually voted in favor.

Regardless of the small number of votes, shared e-scooters were banned from the city. 

Interestingly, though, that wasn’t the end of the story. Within a year, shared dockless electric bike ridership had skyrocketed to over twice the levels previously seen before the shared e-scooter ban. 

I guess it just goes to show that if you vilify shared e-scooters, the villains will just ride e-bikes. Or something like that.

Burning Man may begin banning electric bikes

Bikes and other two-wheelers have always been a popular way to get around Burning Man. In fact, with cars banned, bikes are perhaps second only to walking as the preferred method of transportation.

There’s a 5 mph (8 km/h) speed limit around the entire desert encampment that, during the festival, balloons to house tens of thousands of people. Even so, electric bike riders have been criticized for riding much faster, often startling festival goers and sometimes causing collisions. 

burning man

Burning Man organizers, who normally avoid blanket bans as part of their policy of radical inclusion, took the dramatic step this year of pre-warning participants that if e-bike behavior didn’t improve, electric bikes would be added to the banned shortlist. It’s likely a case of a few bad apples ruining it for everybody, but it still underscores the importance of safe riding around pedestrians.

More college campuses banning e-bikes and e-scooters

This Fall, when students returned to campus, many colleges and universities announced that their e-bikes and e-scooters weren’t welcome back with them.

The issue is similar to that facing NYC, with fears of fires related to poor-quality batteries. Unlike in NYC, though, where steps were taken to regulate that only batteries with proper safety certifications would be allowed, many campuses announced outright bans on e-bikes.

The issue was particularly troubling because, for many students, e-bikes and e-scooters are their only form of transportation. Cars can be expensive to store on campus due to limited parking permits, and many young adults have embraced car-free lifestyles enabled by electric bikes.

electric bike company model J

Despite the increasing number of bans, electric bicycles have continued to grow into a main form of transportation around the world. 

As we head into 2024, the number of riders is only expected to grow even higher. With more e-bikes on the roads than ever before and no sign of the trend stopping, perhaps we should be asking how we can better and more safely incorporate e-bikes into our cities, communities, and campuses instead of simply attempting to ban them.

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