Electric-assisted bicycles will no longer be classified as mopeds that require licensing and insurance. Instead, they will be treated as regular bikes.
That's under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder Monday.
The legislation says electric bikes can be operated on any road open to regular bikes, including dedicated bike lanes and the shoulder. It also groups electric bikes into three categories based on speed and whether pedaling is required to propel the bike.
Some types of electric bikes will be allowed on paved, non-motorized trails unless local authorities object. Others will be allowed only if the local authorities say yes. No electric bikes are allowed on natural surface trails unless the local authorities permit it.
Sean Hammond, deputy policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, says the law will increase recreation and daily transportation opportunities for older people and people with disabilities.
"As a lot of our population ages, they may not be able to ride as far as they used to, or as fast as they used to, with their friends. So this allows them to extend those trips and keep getting that same enjoyment out of cycling that they used to," said Hammond. "Also those with a disability may find an electric assist bike much easier to ride and pedal and get up to a speed where they can ride with friends."
He says it's also a boon for the environment.
"Electric bikes can assist you to go longer and faster so you can increase the length of a potential commute by bike," said Hammond. He said this will help reduce carbon emissions and reliance on the automobile.
Some critics of the legislation say that electric bikes will go too fast and interfere with enjoyment of non-motorized paved trails by other users like walkers, joggers, and regular cyclists.