Wait, that’s illegal?

Minnesota’s laws make bicyclists say “yikes”

More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019

Yikes on a bike.

It’s a saying I picked up while being a camp counselor this past summer, and frankly it’s one of my favorite things to say. Apparently I say it so much, some of the other Spectator staffers wanted me to write a rendition of “Wait, that’s illegal?” all about bikes.

They asked, and I will deliver. Let’s go.

In the state of Minnesota, electric bicycles are limited in both their top speeds and driver minimum age. According to Minnesota Statute 169.011, Subdivision 47,“An electric-assisted bicycle with pedals and a motor that can’t go faster than 20 mph is considered a bicycle under state law; all relevant bicycle laws apply.” and Minnesota Statute 169.222, Subdivision 6(b) “The driver of an electric-assisted bicycle must be at least 15 years old.”

So what does this mean?

Well, those super cool high school sophomores who somehow snuck a vape into their homeroom classes can’t be believed when they start bragging about their new electric bicycle whip. That kid can’t operate an electric bicycle, and it definitely can’t go as fast as he says it does.

Now, my curiosity was piqued at the top speed limit for this electric bicycle law. Is 20 mph really the be-all and end-all of electric bicycle distinctions? My theory is that when a motor on a vehicle such as this goes above 20 mph, the gray area between electric bicycle and motorcycle becomes apparent. What is the difference between an electric bicycle and a motorcycle if not the size of the motor?

I also have questions for the specific age requirements of this law. A person must be 15 years old to operate an electric bicycle, but would that count as driving in some capacity? Kids these days begin learning how to (legally) drive at 15 and a half, but where would an electric bicycle fit into the mix?

If a person was able to drive, why would they choose an electric bicycle? Would it be for environmental reasons? Would it be for aesthetic reasons? The hipster in me needs to know.

Electric bicycles are one of the most efficient modes of transportation out there right now. According to an article published by Forbes, with rechargeable batteries and almost no emissions, electric bicycles offer their riders up to 60 miles of distance per charge. There are some electric bicycles which can reach speeds of 28 mph! That’s a fast bike!

Now, the aesthetics. I feel like it’s undeniable to discuss just how cool someone riding an electric bicycle looks. Their aesthetic is one that I’m here for. You go, random hipster, you go.

What all of this boils down to is public safety. In order to avoid what I would call “yikes on a bike,” one needs to operate whatever vehicle, whether it is two-wheeled and electric or not, with the same care and consideration that one would operate a Hummer with.

Those who ride electric bicycles should wear helmets and know other bicycle and road laws if they choose to use this mode of transportation. Bicyclists have rights on roadways too!

And if that’s the case: Be safe, my dudes. And ride on.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected]