Local leaders call for e-bike legislation

Asphalt road with bicycle and electric transport lane. Cycle and zero emission vehicles white sign on floor. Recreation area for green energy transport in city park.

Local Leaders Call for E-Bike Legislation

For immediate release: Tuesday, March 29

BOSTON - Twenty mayors, managers, and local officials from 16 Massachusetts municipalities today issued a letter calling on the Legislature to pass An Act relative to electric bicycles.

Officials from Arlington, Bedford, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lexington, Medford, Melrose, Natick, Newton, Salem, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, and Winchester signed onto the letter supporting the bill, which is currently in the Joint Committee on Transportation.

An Act relative to electric bicycles would create a statutory definition for three different classes of e-bikes and clarify operating regulations for these vehicles. This change would align Massachusetts laws more closely with federal standards, as well as standards in 42 other states and the District of Columbia.

The bill's passage would allow cities and towns to regulate the use of electric bicycles, proactively include them in local transportation plans, and integrate them into the region's transportation network.

Municipal leaders note that "a state level approach will ensure consistency across municipal boundaries and strengthen opportunities to promote regional cycling connectivity."

E-bike adoption would expand mobility options for people looking to travel long distances, offer accessibility benefits for people with certain disabilities or the inability to cycle up hills, and encourage alternatives to traveling by automobile—reducing road congestion and transportation-related emissions.

Download the letter here or read the full text below.

Press Contact

Elise Harmon-Freeman
Communications Manager
eharmon@mapc.org
617-933-0797

The letter

Dear Chair Straus, Chair Crighton, and members of the Committee, 

We, the undersigned municipal officials and staff, write to you in support of H.3457/S.2309, An Act relative to electric bicycles, filed by Representative Dylan Fernandes and Senator Sal DiDomenico. This bill would provide a clear statutory definition of electric bicycles that is in line with dozens of other states. By updating these vehicle specifications and operational requirements, this would allow our cities and towns to regulate the use of electric bicycles as part of local active transportation plans and programs.  

Electric bikes have many benefits that municipalities would like to encourage, including mode shift from automobiles, which reduces congestion and emissions. Electric bicycles also offer accessibility benefits for people with certain disabilities or the inability to cycle up hills. There is also the overall mobility improvement electric bikes provide for riders to travel longer distances and access more destinations. 

The existing statutory definition of motorized bicycle is not in line with the electric bicycles growing in popularity today. Statute prohibits operation of motorized bicycles on shared use paths, and requires users to be at least 16 years old, possess a driver’s license, and wear a helmet. Electric bikes are also subject to vehicle registration requirements.  

While electric bikes are typically used similar to nonmotorized pedal bikes, statute current subjects electric bikes to more restrictive operating requirements. This discrepancy causes regulatory challenges for municipalities looking to procure, permit, and actively promote use of electric bicycles on local roadways. H.3457/S.2309 would establish the statutory clarity needed for communities to proactively plan for how we integrate electric bicycles into our broader transportation network. Importantly, by creating three classes of electric bicycles, this bill also makes a necessary distinction between lower speed pedal assist electric bicycles and higher speed vehicles, which require slightly different operating regulations. This change would align Massachusetts laws more closely with federal standards as well as 42 other states & the District of Columbia. 

We support legislative efforts to update definitions for e-bikes and delegate regulatory authority to municipalities and the Commonwealth over the shared and personal use of these vehicles. A state level approach will ensure consistency across municipal boundaries and strengthen opportunities to promote regional cycling connectivity.  

We strongly encourage the Joint Committee on Transportation to report this bill out favorably. Thank you for your consideration of these comments, and please do not hesitate to reach out to Eric Bourassa, Transportation Director (ebourassa@mapc.org) with any questions. 

Sincerely, 

Adam Chapdelaine
Town Manager, Town of Arlington

Sarah Stanton
Town Manager, Town of Bedford

Jascha Franklin-Hodge
Chief of Streets, City of Boston 

Joseph Barr
Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, City of Cambridge

Tom Ambrosino
City Manager, City of Chelsea

Jay Monty
Transportation Planner, City of Everett  

Susan Barrett
Transportation Manager, Town of Lexington

Jim Malloy
Town Manager, Town of Lexington

Breanna Lungo-Koehn
Mayor, City of Medford 

Jack Eccles
At-Large City Councilor, City of Melrose

Maya Jamaleddine
At-Large City Councilor, City of Melrose

Ryan Williams
Ward 7 City Councilor, City of Melrose

James Errickson
Town Administrator, Town of Natick

Ruthanne Fuller
Mayor, City of Newton 

Kim Driscoll
Mayor, City of Salem

David Kucharsky
Director of Traffic & Parking, City of Salem  

Katjana Ballantyne
Mayor, City of Somerville

Erin Wortman
Director of Planning and Community Development, Town of Stoneham

Julie Smith-Galvin
Town Council Chair, Town of Wakefield 

Ken Pruitt
Sustainability Director, Town of Winchester