Let’s Talk about E-Bikes


Caption: So much better than driving to school!

You’ve probably noticed that there are more electric bikes (e-bikes) around than there used to be. Once the domain of DIY tinkerers, bikes with an electric motor to make pedaling easier are now available off the shelf. For folks who are accustomed to bicycling without the help of a battery, this trend can inspire skepticism and uncertainty. Today we’re going to talk about that.

Before we dive in, it’s helpful to clarify what we mean by e-bike. E-bikes basically fall into to two categories:

Pedal Assist bikes use a motor to add power while you’re pedaling. If you stop pedaling, the motor stops. A limiter built into the motor stops adding power when the bike reaches a specific speed, usually 20mph.

Throttle On Demand bikes use a hand operated throttle, rather than pedaling action, to determine whether or not the motor is adding power. It’s possible to use the motor on a throttle-on-demand bike to propel the bike without pedaling. As with pedal assist e-bikes, a limiter built into the motor stops adding power when the bike reaches a specific speed, usually 20mph. Generally a user needs to use a mix of pedaling and electric assist to achieve a reasonable range.

Several states and national advocacy organizations have worked with the bike manufacturing industry to develop the following classification system for e-bikes.

 Can be pedaled without motor assistanceCan propelled by motor without pedalingMaximum assisted speed
Class 1 - Pedal AssistYesNo20 mph
Class 2 - Throttle on DemandYesYes20 mph
Class 3YesSometimes28 mph
MopedNoYesOver 28 mph

In most circumstances, WABA supports treating speed limited Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes as regular bikes. These low speed e-bikes make bicycling a viable transportation option for more people. They reduce barriers for folks who have longer distances to travel, heavier loads or passengers to carry, or other challenges that might otherwise preclude using a bicycle to make a trip. More people on bikes is an unequivocally good thing.

Some common questions:

Don’t e-bikes go too fast for trails?

Not really. Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are technologically limited to 20mph, and research shows that on trails, e-bike riders are generally a bit slower than unassisted bicyclists. People riding e-bikes are also subject to the same speed limits and trail safety rules as everyone else.

Biking too fast is a behavior problem, not an equipment problem. You don’t need an electric motor to be a 25mph jerk on a bike. We’ve all had the experience of being buzzed on a trail by someone riding far too fast.

By making it easier for more people to ride faster, e-bikes could democratize the capacity for bad behavior. This does not mean we should ban e-bikes any more than we should ban people with strong legs. It means we need to have systems in place to ensure that everyone is using our trails safely—infrastructure, rules, education, and social norms.

Aren’t e-bikes cheating?

E-bikes are only cheating if you’re competing.

Bike lanes and multi-use trails are not competitive spaces, they’re part of our region’s transportation and recreation network.

At WABA we’re pretty clear on this: the joy and convenience of bicycling should not be limited to the physically privileged. Everyone should be able to get where they’re going on a bike, period.

Why can’t e-bikes just ride on the street?

Since many of our region’s trails don’t have low-stress, on-street alternatives, forcing people on e-bikes to use “parallel routes” isn’t feasible or equitable. Riding a low-speed e-bike feels mostly just like riding an unassisted bike, except it’s a little easier to pedal. They’re not motorcycles, and they certainly aren’t any less stressful than an unassisted bike on busy, high-speed roads full of tired, distracted, or angry drivers.

Isn’t this a “slippery slope” toward letting electric motorcycles on trails?

No. There’s a clear framework for distinguishing between e-bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles. No one is arguing that a Tesla-Harley Davidson collaboration should be allowed on the Mount Vernon Trail.

The conversation about e-bikes highlights an important reality: Lots of different kinds of people bike for lots of different reasons.

For some folks, biking is a purely recreational. For others, it’s about fitness or competition. And for many, it’s transportation. The needs of bicyclists aren’t always going to align. This isn’t a problem—it’s a testament to the versatility of the bicycle.

More people are biking in our region than ever. That’s a good thing. But that means some of the places we bike are getting crowded, and it means that you’re more likely to be sharing space with folks who are riding for different reasons than you are.

This is where we point out, because it’s what we do, that our region needs lots more bike infrastructure. But new trails take years to plan and build. (We’re working on it!)

In the meantime, the best way to keep our trails as pleasant places is not by excluding different kinds of riders, it’s by practicing courtesy and common sense. Here are a few of our recommendations:

  1. Follow the rules of each trail, including speed limits. Call your passes and give plenty of space when passing. Remember, it’s your responsibility to negotiate space in a way that is comfortable and safe, both for you and for everyone else on the trail.
  2. Have reasonable expectations. We live in a major metropolitan region, and our trails are some of our greatest public spaces. Expect to share them with other people biking and walking. Expect to accommodate people who are moving at different speeds than you.
  3. Don’t judge other people’s reasons for riding. All bikes are cool bikes! It’s much more fun to celebrate the shared experience of bicycling than it is to be grumpy at people for riding differently.

Get in touch!

We know WABA members and supporters have strong opinions about e-bikes from many different perspectives and that’s okay. Please feel welcome to share your thoughts by dropping us a line at advocacy@waba.org.

Disclosure: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is an independent membership 501(c)3 non-profit organization. WABA receives no direct funding from the electric bicycle manufacturing industry.

Work for WABA: Membership Coordinator Job Opening

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association seeks an enthusiastic, dynamic, detail-oriented membership coordinator to manage WABA’s growing membership program. We need a go-getter with strong and sincere people skills; someone with enthusiasm for WABA’s mission, and the qualifications necessary to identify, engage, and recruit potential individual members, business members, and donors. The Membership Coordinator serves as the liaison to our 6,000+ members.

The Membership Coordinator will report to the Director of Development and work directly with WABA staff to integrate membership throughout our programs. WABA is growing organization, and on occasion, all staff are asked to assist in general duties and at major events.

Our Mission
WABA works to create a healthy, more livable region by promoting bicycling for fun, fitness, and affordable transportation; advocating for better bicycling conditions and transportation choices for a healthier environment; and educating children, adults, and motorists about safe bicycling.


  • Meet and exceed individual membership and business membership recruitment and retention goals.
  • Oversee member benefits/discount partnership program. Secure new member benefit partners and promoting existing partners.
  • Collaborate with WABA staff to effectively grow and promote membership through our outreach, events, education, and communications.
  • Coordinate membership appreciation events and represent WABA at our events, other community events, and through pop-up, on-street outreach to engage area bicyclists and actively sell memberships.
  • Manage the WABA merchandise, including maintaining inventory, fulfilling online orders and managing pop-up shops at events. Manage and maintain WABA’s membership database.
  • Coordinate with staff to recruit, train, organize, and oversee volunteers, manage the volunteer database, and coordinate volunteer activities to meet organizational goals.
  • Serve as staff liaison to the Board of Directors Membership Committee.


The ideal candidate will have:

  • Demonstrated success in a sales or fundraising position,
  • A high attention to organization, detail, and communication,
  • The ability to balance multiple tasks and priorities simultaneously and follow through on commitments,
  • A self-motivated approach, able to manage programs and campaigns independently,
  • Previous CRM database management experience, ideally using Salsalabs, SalesForce, or similar,
  • Experience with direct mail and email membership campaigns,
  • Strong computer literacy with specific experience using Microsoft Word, Excel, and google office suite,
  • An enthusiastic commitment to WABA’s mission.


This position is full-time. Expected salary range is $36,000-$40,000. The position is based in the WABA Office in Adams Morgan, Washington, DC. Benefits include 100% employer covered health/dental/vision insurance, flexible work schedule, vacation, sick and personal leave, committed colleagues, fun working environment, optional voluntary accident/disability insurance and WABA’s 403(b) retirement program.

WABA is committed to providing equal employment opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, arrest record or criminal convictions, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, sex, or age.

How to Apply
Send a cover letter and resume to jobs@waba.org. Please include “Membership Coordinator” in the subject line. Please no phone calls.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis; the position will remain posted until filled. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply by or before Friday, May 12th, 2017. Only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

Be WABA’s Next Development Director

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) seeks an effective, organized, and driven Development Director to lead WABA’s development team. The Development Director will be the chief fundraiser and work in close partnership with the Executive Director and the Board of Directors

A vital member of the senior leadership team, the Development Director works collaboratively to support existing programs and campaigns, and develop new programs and revenue streams. The Development Director will procure funding for programs through membership and major donor programs, foundations, grants, corporate sponsorship and private contracts. They will supervise WABA’s events, membership, and development staff. This includes leading annual work planning, developing evaluation metrics, and overseeing budgets.

The Development Director will report to the Executive Director, and work directly with the Board of Directors and staff leadership to achieve WABA’s strategic goals. The ideal candidate will share WABA’s vision for better biking in the region, and enjoy working in a fast-paced and collaborative environment.

Job Responsibilities

  • Meet or exceed 2017 fundraising targets.
  • Manage and grow the portfolio of foundation grants, corporate funders, and individual donors.
  • Track and evaluate the efficacy of WABA’s fundraising.
  • Oversee management of donor database, including gift processing and donor recognition.
  • Lead, manage, grow and inspire the development, event & membership staff team.
  • Serve as staff liaison to the Board of Directors Development Committee.
  • Attend major events, rides, advocacy, and education programs as needed.

The ideal candidate:

  • Has experience managing an annual portfolio of $250,000 (or more) that includes grant writing, major donor cultivation, and corporate giving
  • Is a seasoned team leader, with experience supervising, mentoring, motivating and evaluating employees
  • Is a clear and persuasive writer
  • Is detail-oriented, highly organized, self-motivated and able to work closely with others
  • Has experience working in diverse communities and on diverse teams of staff and volunteers
  • Is proficient in CRM databases, Microsoft Office and Google suite for business
  • Has a Bachelor’s Degree or relevant experience.

Benefits include employer-covered health/dental insurance, a flexible work schedule, vacation, sick and personal leave, committed colleagues, fun working environment, and WABA’s 403(b) retirement program. The salary range for this position starts in the upper $50s and is negotiable commensurate with experience. This position is full-time.


Send a resume and compelling cover letter addressing your interest in the position, commitment to WABA’s mission, and relevant work experience to jobs@waba.org. Please include a persuasive writing sample with your application. Include “Development Director” in the subject line.

The position is available immediately. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled. Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to apply by April 7th, 2017

WABA is committed to providing equal employment opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, arrest record or criminal convictions, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, sex, or age.

No phone calls please.

This post revised on April 14th, 2017.

Welcome the 2017-2018 WABA Board of Directors

The 2017 Washington Area Bicyclist Association Board of Directors. From left: Jessica Hough, Paul d’Eustachio, Randall Myers, Scott Barash, Peter Gray, Mark Blacknell, Keya Chatterjee, Greg Billing, Jim Titus, Elizabeth Lyttleton, Matt Liddle and Joanne Neukirchen. Not Pictured: Martin Moulton and Laurance Alvarado

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association Board of Directors held the 2017 Annual Meeting on February 28th at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in downtown DC. Members voted in a slate of six new and returning Board Directors to serve the organization for the 2017-2019 term. The following individuals were voted in by the membership as Directors:

Laurance Alvarado, returning
Scott Barash, returning
Mark Blacknell, returning
Keya Chatterjee, returning
Jessica Hough, new
Joanne Neukirchen, returning

WABA would like to welcome our newest Director Jessica Hough. Jessica is a long-time resident of Bethesda, MD and commutes to work in downtown DC several times a week.  During the day, Jessica is a tax attorney and leads her law firm’s DC tax practice. A full bio for Jessica and all Board Directors can be found on the WABA website here.

In accordance with the WABA Bylaws, the Board held its officers election on March 20, 2017. By a unanimous vote, the Board elected the following officers for the 2017-2018 term:

Paul d’Eustachio, President
Randall Myers, Treasurer
Martin Moulton, Vice President
Joanne Neukirchen, Secretary

Outgoing President Mark Blacknell served WABA for six years. His exceptional service, outstanding leadership and dedication to the WABA mission is sincerely appreciated.

The WABA Board of Director is comprised of 13 Directors who serve two-year terms with half of the board elected annually. Elections are held at the Annual Meeting, generally scheduled in late winter. The Board has six working committees that set strategy for the organization. Committee membership is open appointed non-board members. The six working committees and the chairs are:

Admin & Finance – Scott Barash, Chair
Development – Laurance Laurance, Chair
Membership – Joanne Neukirchen, Chair
Programs – Elizabeth Lyttleton, Chair
Advocacy – Peter Gray, Chair
Equity – Unfilled (New committee. Chair soon to be filled)

Non-board committee members provide valuable external insight to the organization. There are needs on the Development, Membership and Equity Committees If you are interested in serving WABA on a working committee as a community member, please contact Executive Director Greg Billing or Board President Paul d’Eustachio.

Updates On The Projects You Care About

If you already received our letter, you know we’re in a tough spot. WABA is operating $60,000 behind budget because of an unusually rainy events season. This shortfall hasn’t held us back…yet. We’ve had a monumental year for advocacy wins (make sure to check out this list below).

We don’t want to slow down or scale back on the important campaigns and programs that make bicycling better.

As a WABA member and someone who’s committed to our vision, it’s important for you to know our financial status. And as a WABA member, you know that your contributions sustain our work and make us stronger.

We’re asking for your help to keep the pressure on.

WABA’s been your voice for biking for 44 years and our accomplishments are your accomplishments. Your donations drive the advocacy wins you deserve.

You deserve a connected, low-stress bike lane-and-trail network. You deserve traffic laws that make sense for people on bikes, and effective law enforcement to make them work well. You deserve accurate data-collection, smart education campaigns, ample bike parking, and bike-accommodating public transit. You deserve dedicated, passionate bike advocates who have your back.

WABA succeeds because people like you choose to contribute your time and your hard-earned money to better bicycling. Please consider a mid-year tax-deductible donation to the persistent and critical action that will lead to a region that truly prioritizes bicycling.

You deserve a safe place to ride. Every dollar you send is critically needed, efficiently used and deeply appreciated. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service. Donations to WABA are tax-deductible to fullest extent of the law.

If you’ve already sent a donation by mail, thank you!

2016 Advocacy Projects

In Rock Creek Park, after too many years and thousands of petition signatures, construction equipment will start rolling in to rebuild Beach Drive and the trail any week now.
In Montgomery County, WABA members secured $9 million in new funding for world class bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Dooring in Virginia is now a ticketable offense, thanks to our partners at the Virginia Bicycling Federation and all of you who voiced your support for Senate Bill 117.
Our underdog campaign to reform Contributory Negligence in DC gathered 12,693 supportive emails, expert legal support, and a great deal of political will. The bill is anticipated to become law this fall.
Our work with the Alexandria BPAC and hundreds of local advocates led the City of Alexandria to add half a million dollars to its Complete Streets budget.
We worked with AAA (believe it or not), the Metropolitan Police Department, and dozens of other stakeholders to create and pass a bill with a wide range of legislative improvments for bicyclists in DC.
With the support of WABA and a rapidly growing coalition of regional trails advocates, the National Park Service released a groundbreaking Paved Trails Study that proposes hundreds of miles of new trails.
As SafeTrack work continues, we’re working with WMATA and local governments to provide ongoing support for those who want to give bicycling a try.
One of the most exciting trail developments is the completion of the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which will connect 16 miles of trails in DC to 30 miles of trails in Maryland. The trail is expected to open in October.
Our Montgomery County Action Committee successfully advocated for the first protected bike lane in downtown Silver Spring! Construction is slated for this fall.
Thanks to your contributions and National Park Service support, we’re creating the Alexandria Bike Campus this fall in Jones Point Park.
As the Met Branch Trail trudges its way through the bog of multi-jurisdictional bureaucracy, we’re there every step of the way: ensuring coordination, good design, and accountability. Construction on the next segment will begin next fall.

Matthew Henson Trail Crossing at Viers Mill Road is Still Deadly

On Sunday July 17th, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, 31 of Silver Spring, was killed crossing Viers Mill Road in Silver Spring where the Matthew Henson Trail crosses a high speed Maryland State Highway, according to the Washington Post. The exact details of the deadly crash involving Mr. Osorio are not public, but the trail crossing is a known safety hazard. This is the same location where Frank Towers, 19 was killed in December 2016,  just days after receiving a new bike for Christmas.

Trail users must cross 7 lanes of traffic where drivers regularly exceed the 45 mph speed limit. For reference, a person walking or biking struck by a driver at 40 mph or greater has an 80 percent chance of dying. At this trail location, there is no traffic light requiring drivers to stop for people walking and biking across the road. Compounding the problem, the trail crosses Viers Mill Road at the bottom of a hill with poor sight lines.

After the death of Frank Towers, the Maryland State Highway Administration “improved” the trail crossing with overhead flashing yellow lights which must be activated by trail users. The crosswalk beg button provides visual and audio cues that the yellow lights are active which was a deficiency of the previous design. This was a flawed approach from the beginning, as yellow lights only require drivers to exercise caution, but not to stop. Any design that requires less than a full stop will continue to cause safety issues. WABA pleaded with engineers to design and constructed a traffic light or HAWK signal which would require drivers to come to a full stop. The request was denied, now with deadly consequences.

Montgomery County is committed to Vision Zero. This is the principle that we must design our streets so that no person (bicyclist, pedestrian or driver) will be killed while using them. This requires that policy makers and traffic engineers be ultimately accountable for design decisions made in our transportation system. People make mistakes when they use our streets, but streets should be designed to be so safe that those mistakes aren’t deadly.

Following Sunday’s crash, WABA reached out to local and state elected representatives, and transportation officials requesting action. On Thursday, July 21st, the entire Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Maryland Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate prioritization of trail crossing improvements. The letter calls out the current dangerous conditions and the need for immediate action.

Fixing the Matthew Henson Trail crossing at Viers Mill Road is just the beginning. This needs to happen now to prevent future injuries and death at this location. But there are dozens of other trail crossings in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County that need attention too. We need the leadership of the Maryland State Highway Administration to work with localities to protect vulnerable road users by focusing on critical street and trail crossings. This means prioritizing the life and safety of people walking and biking over the convenience of people driving.

No one should die walking or biking across the street.

July 29th, 2016 Update: The delegation from Maryland’s 19th District sent a letter to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate corrective action at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Veirs Mill Road.  A special thank you Senator Manno (D-19th) for organizing this action on this important community safety issue.

The Fix Contrib bill has been delayed another two weeks

At the #FixContrib Rally

At the #FixContrib Rally

On Tuesday, the DC Council voted to postpone acting on the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 until July 12th. The legislation would repeal DC’s unfair and punitive contributory negligence standard for bicyclists and pedestrians involved in crashes with drivers.

While we commend the Council, particularly Councilmembers Cheh and McDuffie, for attempting to fix this unfair situation, we call on the Council to act quickly and decisively to adopt the Act on July 12th. There are real world, daily consequences that come with deferring action on this bill. Only an hour after the bill was postponed, a woman riding a Capital Bikeshare bike was critically injured in a crash with a motor vehicle. The details of yesterday’s crash are unknown to us but it highlights the absolute and day-by-day urgency to protect bicyclists and pedestrians who are hit by drivers. Our thoughts are with the injured victim, her friends, co-workers, and family.

Tuesday’s Council meeting, which we expected would result in passage of the bill after the first reading, began with an unexpected request. Councilmember McDuffie requested withdrawal of the bill and postponement of consideration until the next regularly scheduled meeting in October. Councilmember Cheh opposed this, sparking a procedural debate. The result is that the vote on this crucial bill has been postponed until July 12th.

It’s clear that Councilmembers McDuffie and Cheh both support fixing contributory negligence, as is evident in the overall support of the bill and elaborated on in the Judiciary Committee’s report. It’s also clear that a majority of the Councilmembers support changing the law. The question now is how to do it.

The current bill would allow for 100% recovery of damages in cases where the bicyclist or pedestrian is less negligent than the driver. In circumstances where the cyclist or pedestrian is found more negligent than the driver, the recovery is zero. This is the strongest legislation for vulnerable road users. It recognizes the unique and exposed nature of people walking and biking, and give them full recovery when they are injured by negligent drivers. We believe that this is the best approach to changing the current regime and that Council should pass the existing bill.

The alternative approach floated by Councilmember McDuffie in yesterday’s meeting appears to propose a different comparative negligence model. While the exact language of the Councilmember’s proposal is unknown, it is our understanding that his proposal would not only bar vulnerable users at 50% fault or more from any recovery (as does the present bill), but it would also reduce the recoverable damages of any plaintiff by the amount the plaintiff found to be at fault. Put another way, a bicyclist or pedestrian who is found to be 10% at fault when getting hit by a car will not be able to recover the full amount of her medical bills, damages to her bike, or lost wages. Under the existing bill, the vulnerable road user would be able to recover all of her damages. While we would likely continue to support the bill if Councilmember McDuffie’s amendment passes (it is still a measurable improvement over the status quo), we support the bill without amendment.

We will continue remain respectful and passionate throughout this campaign, We ask our members, supporters and the greater bicycling and walking community to remain respectful in the debate too.

We strongly supports abolishing the unfair contributory negligence regime for vulnerable road users, and believe that quickly passing the existing bill before the Council is the best way to achieve that goal. We thank Judiciary Chair McDuffie for moving this bill out of committee and before the full DC Council. The bill, as introduced and amended in the Judiciary Committee, represents a carefully negotiated compromise between the involved stakeholders and should be passed without further delay.