UK - legality of thumb-throttles in DIY conversions

flecc

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Oct 25, 2006
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A decision which was most likely based on ignorance and/or a desire to protect the motor industry as opposed to what is or isn’t classified as a bicycle which is in any case somewhat subjective.
It was nothing to do with protecting the motor industry, it was solely about keeping a power assist model as a bicycle so it could avoid motor vehicle bureaucracy. The two basic decisions to achieve that were first made in Japan and then largely copied by the EU, whose rules also applied to us.

Those decisions were first that as the motor would only be to assist the rider, power could only be applied when pedalling. That is entirely logical, since if the motor drives without pedalling, one is not cycling but motoring. Second that there would be an assist speed limit to keep within bicycle bounds.

This second one is contentious, since it is so dependent on national views and circumstances. In Japan cyclists have to by law leave the road in many crowded city areas and share the pavements, so low cycling speeds are common there. They set the 25 kph assist limit and also a severe continuous power phase down from 15 kph (9.4 mph).

The EU copied Japanese law but without the severe power phase down, since the 25 kph assist limit matched the common cycling speeds in their cycling countries like The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

The UK law was the toughest of all initially, a real 200 watt limit and a 12 mph assist cutoff. That assist limit was increased to 15 mph in the 1980s to match EU law and then again slightly to 15.5 mph to make an exact match. Eventually 32 years later we got the extra 50 to reach a 250 watt rating.

The problem almost unique to the UK since about 1980 is that many now regard a typical cycling speed as 20 mph, so there's now a mismatch between the law and many cyclist's views.
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spanos

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Feb 18, 2011
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That's really ingenious, but sadly probably still illegal.

In a test case the judge's ruling was that the rider effort through the pedals had to propel the machine. The circumstances of that case were different, but it seems likely the way the judge interpreted the law would also rule against this method.

Basically it's the assist word that counts, the rider is the primary means of propulsion at all times.
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But what happens if you take the battery out of Mando ? Does the functional pedal really generate enough to power the motor /bike ? I guess they must or i struggle to see how the mando has functional pedals in any true sense.
 

anotherkiwi

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I guy has asked me to help him electrify a velosolex from the 50's. The velosolex is a pedal assisted moped so has a full speed throttle, should be an interesting project.

Can anyone think of a way to implement the following system?

- when not pedaling, throttle limited to 3.7 mph (6 km/h)
- when pedaling, throttle limited to 15.5 mph (25km/h)


cycle-analyst/controllers/anything?
The walk assist on throttle might be severely limited in power. On the KT controller the power provided by the walk assist of the button press is only about 50-60 W, not enough to get me moving on the flat. As I don't have a throttle I have never played with the P4-C4 parameters - P4 = 0 C4 = 1 should be what you are looking for: Zero startup (in English no need to pedal) and "handlebar speed is limited to 6 km/h". But this is for "walk assist" under EN 15194 so in theory the throttle just replaces the walk assist button press and you have to be off the bike when using the throttle.

In at least one EU country there is a "start assist" throttle level on s-pedelecs which is limited to 20 km/h so it can be done.
 
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Nealh

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i just found this video showing a KT-LCD3 setup and the "P4" setting at 2m25s seems to do what i'm looking for (only enable the throttle when pedals are moving). can anyone confirm that?
Yes correct.
P4 #1 C4 #0 = Throttle only active after pedal/crank movement, with KT it is about 1/8 - 1/4 turn.
Stop pedalling no throttle, obviously pas has to be fitted and operational.
 

2Lazy

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Jul 17, 2013
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It was nothing to do with protecting the motor industry, it was solely about keeping a power assist model as a bicycle so it could avoid motor vehicle bureaucracy. The two basic decisions to achieve that were first made in Japan and then largely copied by the EU, whose rules also applied to us.

Those decisions were first that as the motor would only be to assist the rider, power could only be applied when pedalling. That is entirely logical, since if the motor drives without pedalling, one is not cycling but motoring. Second that there would be an assist speed limit to keep within bicycle bounds.

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The law is complete nonsense, in my opinion. The cadence sensor on my ebike is such that I can waggle my legs around putting in virtually zero effort and the motor will give full power. As such, it does not and should not make any difference whatsoever whether my legs are moving or not.

Have a speed limit and a weight limit, by all means, but why impose an arbitrary restriction which doesn’t improve safety and compromises the utility of the product, especially for disabled riders?

In the US throttles are allowed in many states and have been allowed here on new ebikes for many years until recent changes to the law with no problems whatsoever. If it ain’t broke why fix it?

As for the motor industry. They’re an incredibly powerful lobby that has a long history of doing everything within their power to make cycling as unappealing as possible. Motorcycle and motor scooter manufacturers especially will almost certainly see the massive growth in ebikes as a big threat to their industry especially now that London is beginning at long last to get some half decent cycling infrastructure.
 

flecc

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Have a speed limit and a weight limit, by all means, but why impose an arbitrary restriction which doesn’t improve safety and compromises the utility of the product, especially for disabled riders?
As I've already explained, going on motor alone isn't cycling, it's motoring. Your bike becomes a very low powered motorcycle and then liable for all the bureacracy that motorcycles have. It's the pedalling that differentiates it as a bicycle, without pedalling it's not a bicycle.

Bicycles have never been suitable for many disabled people, so why should pedelecs be? There is already a 15.5 mph pedelec class for them which also allows 1000 watts rating, extra power which they would often need. That's the L1e-A class, which because of the greater power does have to be registered.

And by the way, there are no weight limits on pedelecs.

In the US throttles are allowed in many states and have been allowed here on new ebikes for many years until recent changes to the law with no problems whatsoever.
We have never had a law stating throttles were legal. The law simply omitted to mention them so designers and suppliers took advantage of that.

As for the motor industry. They’re an incredibly powerful lobby that has a long history of doing everything within their power to make cycling as unappealing as possible.
This isn't true, far from it. BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, VW, Toyota, Honda and Peugeot have all made/sold bicycles and sometimes e-bikes. Peugeot and Toyota were originally bike makers before they made cars and both are still major bike manufacturers, Peugeot being a famous name in cycle racing and their bikes often competing in the Tour de France and even winning it.

Motorcycle and motor scooter manufacturers especially will almost certainly see the massive growth in ebikes as a big threat to their industry
This is certainly partly true, some moped makers and suppliers vigorously oppose changes in pedelec law, arguing against power increases and throttles. I think the powers that be are capable of seeing that as the protectionism it is.

In summary though, the law isn't going to change so you might as well just accept it. It suits all the other countries in Europe who are happy with it and it's spreading. As well as the UK, many outside the EU and as far away as Australia, China and Japan are now using or introducing it and it's rapidly becoming a world standard.

The USA is a very poor example to quote, you certainly wouldn't want many of their state laws on e-bikes, or the total ban that still exists in one state and until this last year, two states. E-bike across many state lines there and you can get arrested and e-bike confiscated, their laws are so variable.
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GLJoe

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Basically it's the assist word that counts, the rider is the primary means of propulsion at all times.
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Ok, thanks for the clarification.
But to continue this train of thought - is your definition above the actual wording of any rulings etc? because if if is, wouldn't 'primary means of propulsion' mean that theoretically, the human needs to be inputting >=50% of the power, therefore things like 300% assist levels aren't really allowed ? They'd have to be capped at 100% max ??
 

flecc

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Oct 25, 2006
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Ok, thanks for the clarification.
But to continue this train of thought - is your definition above the actual wording of any rulings etc? because if if is, wouldn't 'primary means of propulsion' mean that theoretically, the human needs to be inputting >=50% of the power, therefore things like 300% assist levels aren't really allowed ? They'd have to be capped at 100% max ??
I take your point, but the ruling was only one of precedence, not level. In other words the pedals must be both capable of propelling the bike and necessary for power to be applied. It couldn't be ruled any other way, considering this wording of the exemption from being motor vehicles that pedelecs enjoy:

(h) pedal cycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of less than or equal to 250 W, where the output of the motor is cut off when the cyclist stops pedalling and is otherwise progressively reduced and finally cut off before the vehicle speed reaches 25 km/h;

The word auxiliary defines the motor as supplementary, not a primary power source, while the mention of pedal assistance allows the pedal input to be the lesser in quantity.
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shemozzle999

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Sep 28, 2009
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The law is complete nonsense, in my opinion. The cadence sensor on my ebike is such that I can waggle my legs around putting in virtually zero effort and the motor will give full power. As such, it does not and should not make any difference whatsoever whether my legs are moving or not.

Have a speed limit and a weight limit, by all means, but why impose an arbitrary restriction which doesn’t improve safety and compromises the utility of the product, especially for disabled riders?

In the US throttles are allowed in many states and have been allowed here on new ebikes for many years until recent changes to the law with no problems whatsoever. If it ain’t broke why fix it?

As for the motor industry. They’re an incredibly powerful lobby that has a long history of doing everything within their power to make cycling as unappealing as possible. Motorcycle and motor scooter manufacturers especially will almost certainly see the massive growth in ebikes as a big threat to their industry especially now that London is beginning at long last to get some half decent cycling infrastructure.
Fortunately the UK government has a similar take on what you have said and hopefully once free of the epac regulations eapc law will apply.
 

GLJoe

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May 21, 2017
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I take your point, but the ruling was only one of precedence, not level.
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The word auxiliary defines the motor as supplementary, not a primary power source, while the mention of pedal assistance allows the pedal input to be the lesser in quantity.
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Fascinating. I think its all just another example of where the law is an ass! It really is a crazy situation all around.
However I'm certainly not going to be one to jump up and down and make a lot of noise. If there's one thing I've learnt, its 'be careful about what you wish for... ' As tighter regs and control will probably backfire!

I'm also still thinking about your comments (from more than one thread now) along the lines of "The problem almost unique to the UK since about 1980 is that many now regard a typical cycling speed as 20 mph".
I think you have a point, and I'm probably one of those people. And I'm not sure what to make of that. I'm still thinking on that one (usually as I'm bombing down the road at >20mph on a non assisted bike, but also then when I'm commuting home on a steep hill, most certainly NEEDING the e-bike assistance! its all so contradictory for my poor little brain .....)
 
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flecc

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I'm also still thinking about your comments (from more than one thread now) along the lines of "The problem almost unique to the UK since about 1980 is that many now regard a typical cycling speed as 20 mph".
Prior to the1960s in Britain we all cycled at moderate speeds like 12 mph and considered 15 mph as getting a move on. Basically that was because the majority of us cycled for all utility purposes, to work, shopping, visiting etc., just like they still do in places like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany et al.

But as we got better off and switched first to scooters and then cars, cycling all but died out here. It didn't restart until the mountain bike was introduced from 1980 on, and that and an increase in club cycling interest defined cycling as being sporting in nature. That and the higher speeds associated have stuck ever since and our cyclists seem to think it obligatory to be head down, helmeted, grim faced and pumping hard to maintain at least 20 mph!

None of that happened in mainland Europe. Their greater war damage meant slower recovery and they never stopped utility cycling, so the sport image bias never occurred and they still amble about, relaxed and bare headed on bikes in the way we once did. Me too!
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Benjahmin

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And me!
I always offer a cheerful,'Hiya!' to passing roadies. Rarely do I get any response, I'm not sure they even see me so tightly are their teeth gritted to maintain their speed. All the blood must be going to their poor tortured legs.

My on the flat speed is 12-14mph and I consider this fine, considering my 5-8mph capability on an unassisted bike. Oh, and pushing it up most the hills hereabouts.
 

flecc

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Fortunately the UK government has a similar take on what you have said and hopefully once free of the epac regulations eapc law will apply.
EAPC and EPAC are identical laws, and without the EU we had a 12 mph assist speed limit and a strict 200 watt limit. The EU rescued us from those.

So be careful what you wish for.
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The problem almost unique to the UK since about 1980 is that many now regard a typical cycling speed as 20 mph, so there's now a mismatch between the law and many cyclist's views.
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Just to add some facts to this assumption.

Strava is used my a decent % of cyclists, and its usually the faster ones.

http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/british-cyclists-fastest-in-world-strava-303384

average speed of cyclists in the UK on strava... 25.61Kph.

So quite a bit less than 20mph... and pretty much 15.5mph on the nose, which is the assistance limit of pedelecs, which all works out very nicely to justify.
 
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And me!
I always offer a cheerful,'Hiya!' to passing roadies. Rarely do I get any response, I'm not sure they even see me so tightly are their teeth gritted to maintain their speed. All the blood must be going to their poor tortured legs.
Hey, I ride a road bike!

I average about 14 mph unless it's a particularly hilly ride. I nearly always say hello to other roadies and electric bikers, but out on the road, I rarely get a response from either. Maybe it's my aftershave. i get a lot more smiles and hellos back when I'm on an off-road cycle path, like we have through the town park, which is similar to those seen in LeighPings videos.
 
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flecc

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Just to add some facts to this assumption.

Strava is used my a decent % of cyclists, and its usually the faster ones.

http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/british-cyclists-fastest-in-world-strava-303384

average speed of cyclists in the UK on strava... 25.61Kph.

So quite a bit less than 20mph... and pretty much 15.5mph on the nose, which is the assistance limit of pedelecs, which all works out very nicely to justify.
It's more than an assumption in London where so much of the UK's cycling is. The commuting hordes are often referred to as the peleton and 20 mph and more is a commonplace commuting speed.

The Strava data isn't relevant to this since it's all terrain average. It follows that if the Strava users average is 25.61 kph, their on the flat speeds are far greater and easily 32 kph (20 mph) and more.
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It's more than an assumption in London where so much of the UK's cycling is. The commuting hordes are often referred to as the peleton and 20 mph and more is a commonplace commuting speed.

The Strava data isn't relevant to this since it's all terrain average. It follows that if the Strava users average is 25.61 kph, their on the flat speeds are far greater and easily 32 kph (20 mph) and more.
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Your saying eBikes should allow riders to reach the top speeds that fit cyclists can?.. that isn't the point is it? Isn't the point to enable people to get to their destination as quickly as a fast cyclist? There is a difference.

I've done a lot of testing with eBikes and normal, and I'm a fast rider / commuter.

Top speed on eBike is lower, but importantly the time from a2b is lower, and the ebike time gets faster & faster the more interruptions there are, because there are more accelerations.

The assistance is to get the rider up to the average speed of a decent cyclist, not up to the speed of a motor vehicle.

Strava shows that riders average between 15 & 16mph when you look at all the data and it includes A LOT of commutes.

http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/more-than-270000-commutes-logged-on-strava-during-global-bike-to-work-day-331079
 
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flecc

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Your saying eBikes should allow riders to reach the top speeds that fit cyclists can?..
No I didn't say anything of the sort. I posted about cycling speeds with no mention of e-biking.

You didn't post about e-bike speeds on Strava, just about cycling speeds.

And as I posted they are averages which means those cyclists (not e-bikers) must be doing far higher speeds on the flat, FACT.
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Dewey

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Sep 12, 2016
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until the mountain bike was introduced from 1980 on, and that and an increase in club cycling interest defined cycling as being sporting in nature. That and the higher speeds associated have stuck ever since and our cyclists seem to think it obligatory to be head down, helmeted, grim faced and pumping hard to maintain at least 20 mph.
It's also true in the US cycling is viewed as either a sport or a recreational activity, utility cycling is on the increase in some cities that are slowly building the necessary cycling infrastructure, but the Moar Power DIY crowd who build electric motorcycles that cannot be registered or insured, or commuters riding speed pedelecs to keep up with traffic commuting in from outer suburbs on roads without cycling infrastructure, the presence of these high power ebikes, the difficulty telling them apart from Class 1 & 2 <20mph ebikes, and the controversy over using them off road on MTB trails drives resentment from pedal cyclists and outright hostility from the MTB pedal cyclists. This complicates getting states and cities to legalize riding ebikes on the pavement and leads to stupid second class status in cities like Washington DC where in 2015 the law around collisions with vehicles was changed to move from the the contributory negligence to a comparative negligence standard...but only for pedal cyclists so ebike riders who get hit by cars here are **** out of luck, or where I have to break the law just to safely cross a river on a bridge pavement.
 

anotherkiwi

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At those speeds (25 km/h) wind resistance starts to be come a thing and whether you are on a pedelec or an un-assisted bike the force at play is identical. The best way of having a higher average commute speed, while staying legal assistance wise, is to go bent or get a vélomobile.
 
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