As per RCW 46.04.169, an electric-assist bicycle (e-bike) is a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, (seat), fully operational pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor. The e-bike’s electric motor isn’t allowed to have a power output of more than 1,000 watts. It must be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on flat ground. It must also be “incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel it beyond 20 miles per hour.”
Now that we have Lime E-Bikes in Spokane, people may be tempted to ride them while drinking.
In accordance with RCW 46.61.710, a person may not ride an e-bike on a sidewalk or controlled limited access highway. Users are allowed to ride them in most places where bicycles are allowed. A driver’s license, insurance and license plates aren’t required for a person to operate an e-bike.
Washington is Easy on E-bikers
The various states have their own laws in connection with bicycling and alcohol. In most states, it’s against the law for a person riding a bike to ride it on a public road or right-of-way while under the influence of alcohol. It’s not against the law in the State of Washington though. That’s because an e-bike isn’t a motor vehicle under RCW 46.04.320. The statute that defines motor vehicles is antiquated. It pivots on internal combustion engines and trolleys. Given that fact, a police officer in the State of Washington simply doesn’t have the authority to arrest a person for riding a bicycle when that rider is as drunk as a skunk or as high as a kite.
Should a police officer encounter an intoxicated or high bicyclist, here’s what Washington law allows him or her to do. RCW 46.61.790 gives a police officer the authority to stop a bicyclist who is believed to be drunk, high or both. The officer can then inquire with the bicyclist as to whether he or she would like to be voluntarily transported someplace, or whether the bicyclist would like to have somebody else who isn’t under the influence escort the bicyclist someplace. If the bicyclist refuses help, the law permits him or her to leave the scene without any consequences, but if the officer believes that the bicyclist is a threat to public safety, the bicycle can be impounded. The bicyclist can then sober up someplace. After that, the bike can be claimed without the necessity of paying an impound fee
RCW 46.61.790 specifically states that no suit or action may be commenced or prosecuted against the law enforcement officer, agency, State of Washington or any political subdivision thereof for any act resulting from the refusal of the bicycle rider to accept assistance. That part of the statute makes sense.
Do not drive intoxicated.
Regardless of the fact that it isn’t against the law to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both, Spokane police can still ticket you for other offenses. When on a roadway, a bicyclist has the same obligations as a motorist. Don’t stretch your luck too far when riding under the influence. In fact, we would never recommend you ride any scooter or bicycle if you’re under the influence of anything.
The laws may change. Electric bikes are brand new and the laws will be catching up with them.