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State lagging on bicycle law, says senator, seeking to upgrade electric bikes

Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review - Jake Pawlak, chief of staff for Sen. Matt Smith, takes a test spin on an electric bicycle at Morgan Park in South Fayette, Thursday, June 13th, 2013. The test ride took place after a press conference by Sen. Smith, who is proposing that pedal assist bikes become legal under Pa. Vehicle Code.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Keith Hodan  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Jake Pawlak, chief of staff for Sen. Matt Smith, takes a test spin on an electric bicycle at Morgan Park in South Fayette, Thursday, June 13th, 2013. The test ride took place after a press conference by Sen. Smith, who is proposing that pedal assist bikes become legal under Pa. Vehicle Code.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review - Ryan Eggleston, South Fayette Township Manager, smiles while taking a test spin on an electric bicycle at Morgan Park in South Fayette, Thursday, June 13th, 2013. The test ride took place after a press conference by Sen. Matt Smith, who is proposing that pedal assist bikes become legal under Pa. Vehicle Code.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Keith Hodan  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Ryan Eggleston, South Fayette Township Manager, smiles while taking a test spin on an electric bicycle at Morgan Park in South Fayette, Thursday, June 13th, 2013.  The test ride took place after a press conference by Sen. Matt Smith, who is proposing that pedal assist bikes become legal under Pa. Vehicle Code.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review - Ryan Eggleston, South Fayette Township Manager, takes a test spin on an electric bicycle at Morgan Park in South Fayette, Thursday, June 13th, 2013. Assisting Eggleston is Adam Rossi, of Adam Solar Rides, an electric bike business scheduled to open this summer in Bridgeville. The test rides took place after a press conference by Sen. Matt Smith, who is proposing that pedal assist bikes become legal under Pa. Vehicle Code.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Keith Hodan  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Ryan Eggleston, South Fayette Township Manager, takes a test spin on an electric bicycle at Morgan Park in South Fayette, Thursday, June 13th, 2013. Assisting Eggleston is Adam Rossi, of Adam Solar Rides, an electric bike business scheduled to open this summer in Bridgeville. The test rides took place after a press conference by Sen. Matt Smith, who is proposing that pedal assist bikes become legal under Pa. Vehicle Code.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013, 11:40 p.m.
 

Leave the car at home.

A bill introduced Thursday by state Sen. Matt Smith would allow motorized pedal bikes to go everywhere traditional bikes go.

Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, said his bill would legalize electric pedal-assist bikes under the state vehicle code and bring Pennsylvania up to speed with the rest of the country.

Pennsylvania is among five states that don't include the bikes in their vehicle codes, and police sometimes stop riders with them to ask if they have licenses such as they'd need for a scooter, he said.

“This is really about bringing Pennsylvania law in line with the 21st century,” Smith said at an event in South Fayette's Morgan Park to introduce the bill. Demand for the bikes is growing, so a classification under the law is needed for them, he said.

Pedal-assist bikes “should be treated like any other bike under the vehicle code,” Smith said.

Riders choose the level of electric assistance they want, and use it when they want.

The bikes cost $1,500 and up, and run on rechargeable batteries. The battery life lasts for 20 to 40 miles, depending on the level of assist used.

Adam Solar Resources, a Bridgeville company focused on solar energy initiatives, has developed a line of the bikes, and Vice President Adam Rossi said he plans to open an electric bike shop in July in South Fayette.

“We need real solutions to the transportation crisis,” Rossi said. “I think these bikes are going to be a huge part of the solution.”

The bikes make up 1 to 2 percent of all bike sales in the United States, and about 18 percent in Europe, Rossi said, citing information from Currie Technologies, a California-based electric bike maker. Adam Solar Resources is a Currie dealer.

Rossi said the bikes allow older people or those with injuries to ride.

“This takes away the concern that they can't navigate a hill,” he said. “It actually enhances bike use.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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