Richard Noble, 70, wants to continue to enjoy the outdoors the way he always has – biking along the Boise Greenbelt and in the foothills.
But biking isn’t as easy for Noble as it once was. Before setting out from his home at Harris Ranch for the Boise Farmers Market, he has to ask himself if he’ll have the energy to make it downtown and back.
It’s a common problem, and it’s been addressed through an electric bicycle that uses a motor to reduce the torque required to pedal. These pedal-assist bikes allow the elderly or those with a medical condition to ride a mountain bike without exerting as much energy.
But the laws governing where these bikes can operate in Idaho are hazy, and legislative efforts to clarify them failed to move forward this year. Noble doesn’t know if he is allowed to ride his electric bike along the Greenbelt, in bike lanes or along the trails in the foothills.
When Noble bought his pedal-assist bike from Karen Dreher at George’s Cycles, he asked her where he would be allowed to ride. She didn’t have an answer. Idaho law differentiates between standard bikes and motorized bikes that have a throttle and go much faster than a traditional bicycle, but the state has never differentiated between motorized bikes built for speed and pedal-assist bikes.
The two researched rules in other states such as California and Nevada and then turned to Noble’s elected representative, Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, for help defining pedal-assist bikes in law.
King created legislation this year defining pedal-assist bikes as being different from motorcycles, but didn’t introduce it. She had heard from people who were worried the pedal-assist bikes would damage trails. Boise officials had concerns about the impact on the Greenbelt and public trail system.
To learn more, read the full story at the Idaho Business Review.