Motorized bikes, e-bikes, and scooters get regulations

Coast Provincetown’s URB-E electric scooters demo on Commercial Street.

Coast Provincetown’s URB-E electric scooters demo on Commercial Street.

The Provincetown Select Board has been discussing e-bikes, scooters, and the variety of small motorized devices for several months. This started in response to a new company that started renting URB-E scooters in the spring. After much consternation on social media, in the local press, and at public hearings on the topic, new regulations have been approved and are ready to go into effect.

There were two issues under consideration: 1) should the town allow the rental of motorized bicycles, e-bikes, or scooters, and if so, how should they be regulated? and 2) should these devices be allowed to travel two-way on Commercial Street like the common pedal bicycle?

Definitions

Explaining what these things are is far more complicated than you'd expect. Compared to other states, Massachusetts law is vague on how motor-assisted bicycles are categorized, but the town followed the state definitions anyway:

"Motorized bicycle", a pedal bicycle which has a helper motor, or a non-pedal bicycle which has a motor, with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and which is capable of a maximum speed of no more than thirty miles per hour.

"Motorized scooter", any 2 wheeled tandem or 3 wheeled device, that has handlebars, designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, powered by an electric or gas powered motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion. The definition of "motorized scooter" shall not include a motorcycle or motorized bicycle or a 3 wheeled motorized wheelchair.

According the the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, neither of these categories of vehicles are required to be registered with the state.

The town didn't make any attempt to define "e-bike" and doesn't use that word in any of the regulations. Under these definitions, any e-bike would be considered a "motorized bicycle."

Rental businesses

After town counsel opined that the existing by-law prohibiting the rental of "two-wheeled motorized vehicles" was unenforceable and likely to be challenged in court, the Select Board came up with a new set of regulations specific to "motorized bicycles and scooters".

In short, the regulations required the businesses to apply for a license from the town's Licensing Board and meet the requirements of reporting the number of vehicles they are renting, having insurance, and requiring their renters to use helmets per state law. The new licensing requirements were adopted at the Licensing Board's June 26 meeting.

The Select Board went on to request that the Licensing Board expand the new licensing requirement to all non-motorized bicycle rentals as well, and those regulations were amended on July 24. The bicycle-specific changes added requirements for reporting the number of bicycles to be rented, having insurance, and that all rental bikes have front and rear lights and a bell or horn.

Traffic regulations

The board went on to pass new traffic regulations to specifically prohibit two-way travel by any unregistered motor-assisted device on Commercial Street, including pedal-assist e-bikes. The regulations allow any unregistered, bicycle-like vehicle to use town bike racks.

Resources

Provincetown Traffic Regulations Article 8: Motorized bicycles and scooters (PDF) Amended Licensing Regulations - Rental or Lease of Bicycles, Motorized Bicycles and Scooters, July 24, 2018 (PDF) Licensing Regulations - Rental or Lease of Motorized Bicycles and Scooters, June 26, 2018 (PDF)