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Sep 08 2021

Electronic Bikes

By Theresa Stratford for The Island Connection

E-bikes are subject to the South Carolina motor vehicle laws and have been deemed strictly prohibited for use on public beaches.

Apparently defining an e-bike is in order for Seabrook Island before they can totally prohibit them on the beach, per the Town of Seabrook Island ordinance, section 32-42 (vehicle use). The ordinance clearly states that e-bikes are considered to be motor vehicles and as the ordinance states: “The driving or operation of any motor vehicle, of any kind or nature, on the beach is prohibited.” The town does make exceptions to emergency use vehicles, government vehicles, security vehicles, vehicles for handicap individuals, vehicles for turtle patrol, maintenance vehicles, vehicles to transport watercraft for Camp St. Christopher and other vehicles deemed essential. E-bikes are subject to the South Carolina motor vehicle laws and have been deemed strictly prohibited for use on the beach. However, a public comment was submitted to the Town Council meeting on Aug. 24 to ask for distinction for class 1 e-bikes. 

The public comment was submitted in support of class 1 e-bikes, stating that these are not considered motor vehicles. Class 1 e-bikes do not use a throttle, but are instead “pedal assist.” Town Administrator Joe Cronin will look at the distinction since the state has also omitted class 1 e-bikes as being classified as motor vehicles. “The question remains – is the intent that our prohibition would be across the board for all e-bikes or would we follow the state level and allow class 1 e-bikes since you have to be physically pedaling the bike? Class 1 e-bikes do not replace the pedaling with a full-on throttle,” Cronin noted. 

Mayor John Gregg said that he had no objections to considering class 1 e-bikes as just regular bicycles. 

But he questioned how beach patrol would know the difference. “How will they know if this is a pedal assist bicycle or an offensive electric bicycle?” Gregg asked. According to Aventon, a manufacturer of e-bikes, pedal-assist only e-bikes, or class 1, tops off at 20 mph and has no throttle. The electric motor with pedal assist is only activated once the rider starts pedaling. The bike will go up to 20 mph once the rider starts pedaling. Aventon states that class 1 e-bikes are given the permission to ride anywhere any other type of bike would ride due to the low speed and operation. A class 2 e-bike, according to Aventon, features a throttle and maxes out at 20 mph. A throttle, as defined by Aventon, is a feature e-bikes have that can come in a grip-twist or button where the bike takes off without having to pedal. These e-bikes max out at 20 mph on throttle and 28 mph on pedal assist. A class 3 e-bike, as defined by Aventon, features pedal assist only and tops off at 28 mph. They are considered “high power.” Cronin agreed with the mayor that beach patrol would need to make a distinction and he agreed to meet with them about the differences. “I don’t want to make this unreasonably challenging or difficult to make the distinction,” Gregg said. 

Cronin will review the current ordinance and make necessary changes to ensure that class 1 e-bikes are not prohibited from Seabrook Island beaches since they do not fit the criteria as a motor vehicle.

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