Electric-assisted bicycles and electric scooters are becoming more popular in Moscow, but city code lacks clarity on how and where they can be utilized.
The Moscow Transportation Commission is tasked with developing a recommendation to the city council addressing electric vehicles on pathways, sidewalks and, potentially, bicycle lanes.
Title 11, Chapter 2 of Moscow City Code does not specifically mention whether electric bicycles and scooters are allowed on pathways. The code does say it is unlawful for anyone to operate a motorized vehicle on any restricted bike path or pedestrian walkway.
City code states a person is exempt from the restrictions if the motorized vehicle rider has a permit or permission from the city allowing him or her to operate the vehicle on the path or walkway.
Emergency police and fire vehicles and motorized wheelchairs or similar conveyances operated by a disabled person are also allowed on those paths and walkways.
Pedestrians have the right-of-way over all riders except emergency vehicles, according to the code.
Idaho House Bill 76, which was approved by lawmakers earlier this year, defines what electric-assist bicycles are.
It states electric-assisted bicycles are allowed on sidewalks and pathways unless a governing board, such as a city ordinance, disallows the activity. The law says electric-assisted bicycles have all the rights and responsibilities of a bicycle.
There is no mention in state law regarding electric scooters.
The Moscow Pathways Commission discussed the topic of electric bikes and scooters on pathways about one year ago and recommended the city council allow electric bikes and scooters on pathways in city limits.
The recommendation was never implemented or amended in city code.
Bill Belknap, Moscow deputy city supervisor of community planning and design, reviewed with the Transportation Commission Thursday the codes of Moscow, Boise and Idaho regarding electric vehicles.
Belknap said he and city officials feel the city needs to address its code on electric bikes and scooters and asked that the Transportation Commission provide a recommendation.
“The way the city code addresses it currently is inadequate,” Belknap said.
He said he has met with the Moscow Police Department and the city legal department and the hope is to amend the code this spring to address unclear language.
Belknap advised that commission members examine Boise’s code as a starting point and select the elements of the code that would fit well in Moscow.
Some of the discussion among commission members Thursday focused on where electric bikes and scooters should operate and the speeds of the vehicles.
Defining speed limits by operating speed of the rider or by capability of the vehicle was one discussion point.
One member mentioned cars are able to travel faster than posted speed limits on the road so basing it on the capable speed of the electric vehicle might not be the way to address speed limits.
Setting posted speed limits on pathways, such as Paradise Path, was one suggestion.
“E-bikes and scooters are continuing to evolve very rapidly and can very quickly and very easily surpass the speed limitations that are in the code,” Belknap said.
Belknap said while speed limit signs could be posted on pathways, he asked how electric vehicle speeds can be controlled in bike lanes if they are allowed there.
“I’m worried about the differential speeds of scooters and (regular) bikes and sharing a bike lane,” he said.
The rollout of 50 pedal-assisted electric bicycles in Moscow and on the University of Idaho campus, which has been delayed several times, is expected in March.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to email@example.com.