A line of electric-assisted bicycle sit on display at Juneau Bike Doctor in February. Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday vetoed a bill that would classify such bikes the same as regular bikes that passed the Legislature this year by a combined 57-2 vote. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

A line of electric-assisted bicycle sit on display at Juneau Bike Doctor in February. Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday vetoed a bill that would classify such bikes the same as regular bikes that passed the Legislature this year by a combined 57-2 vote. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Dunleavy vetoes bill classifying e-bikes the same as regular bikes

Spokesperson calls bill, which passed the Legislature 57-2, “unnecessary bureaucracy.”

A bill defining electric-assisted bicycles the same as regular bicycles that passed the Legislature by a combined vote of 57-2 was vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, because “it creates unnecessary bureaucracy by regulating recreational activity,” according to a spokesperson.

House Bill 8, sponsored by Rep. Ashley Carrick, a Fairbanks Democrat, sought to revise state code to allow e-bikes in the generally recognized three-tier classifications to ride anywhere a regular bike is allowed such as roads, bike lanes and multi-use trails. The bill also separated e-bikes that generate less than 750 watts of power from motor vehicles — such as motorcycles and motor scooters — meaning owners of the lower-powered bikes would be waived from being required to register them with the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Alaska, one of four states that have no references to e-bikes at all in statute, would have become the 40th state to pass legislation similar to Carrick’s bill. Similar bills were introduced during the previous two legislative sessions, but failed to pass.

There was little legislative controversy during the most recent session, as the House passed the bill by a 39-1 vote and the Senate by an 18-1 vote. But Shannon Mason, a spokesperson for Dunleavy, stated in an email Monday the governor felt such policy should be made at the local level.

“Governor Dunleavy vetoed this bill because it creates unnecessary bureaucracy by regulating recreational activity,” Mason wrote. “However, if people want these types of activities regulated, the governor believes the decision should take place at the local level, where communities can decide for themselves what they permit and prohibit. Alaska comprises of a wide range of diverse communities with different trails, activities, and desires for regulation. Like his approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor believes these decisions should be made at the community level.”

Carrick, in an interview Monday, said the bill contained “sideboards” allowing local governments some control of the definition of e-bikes and where they can be used.

“The bill adds clarity to a gray area and, I believe, helps significantly to prevent unnecessary regulation,” she said.

Carrick said she is hoping to talk to Dunleavy administration officials about the intent of her bill, but also is hoping for a possible veto override by the Legislature when it reconvenes since it passed by far more than the two-thirds vote necessary.

“Obviously, as we’ve seen with other veto overrides, the logistics of accomplishing that can be a little different than the logistics of just moving a bill through the legislative process,” she said. “So we’ll have to wait and see. But I am hopeful that there’s recourse here with a veto override, potentially.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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