Effective February 3rd, 2020, electric bikes with the following features are allowed under South Carolina law: the bikes must not be able to exceed 20 mph, must have less than 750W of power, and the “assist” must stop either when the rider brakes or stops pedaling.
Electric bikes have the following components:
- A motor, either in the wheel or installed in the frame
- A battery (usually 36V or 48V)
- A controller (think of it as the system’s brain)
- A display (though not all electric bikes have one)
- A sensor, either for speed (think rotation of wheel or pedals) or torque (it senses pressure on the pedals)
So, why all the noise about ebikes?
The issue seems to be tied to the belief that ebikes are more dangerous to ride than regular bikes because they go too fast. Studies show, however, that ebike riders tend to travel between 12 and 14 mph, similar to the average speed of a pedal bike.
Also, standard pedal bikes can reach speeds quite a bit higher than 12-14mph, and serious cyclists on a road bike can average around 20mph. Plus, most electric bikes also have disc brakes (like your car’s brakes), which are not affected by wet weather.
For those who have never ridden one, ebikes are a lot of fun.
They have also brought about a renaissance in cycling, making this popular pastime accessible to pretty much everyone! This is especially transformative for those with health issues that have kept them from riding bikes with confidence—now they have the option of a fun, clean, healthy way to get out and explore. And it’s great for Hilton Head’s small businesses! Ebikes allow for a greener approach to delivery, a way to reduce traffic and pollution and a solution to overly congested parking lots.
There is still a lot of confusion surrounding the advent of the ebike. But stopping their use on Hilton Head is not an acceptable solution. With ebikes now legal throughout South Carolina, the solution is education.
Kenneth Fagut is an industry expert who helped with eBike legislation in New York State. He is the CEO of LEV Tech Development and Managing Director of Avocado Bikes, LLC.