The European Parliament voted Tuesday for a clear separation between active and passive transport in a move hailed by the European Cyclists' Federation (ECF), which had been lobbying for such a ruling to keep pedelec bikes from being regulated as motorbikes. That could have led to mandatory insurance, helmets and other regulations that would have increased the cost of owning and opearting a pedelec bike. 
“We need a clear border line between what a bicycle is and what exceeds the definition of a ‘bicycle’,” explained Ceri Woolsgrove, ECF’s Road Safety Officer.
“This is important for clear decisions on the use of infrastructure and facilities for bicycles that authorities have to make on the international, national, regional and local level.”
Under current EU legislation, E-bikes, known officially as electronically power assisted cycles (EPACs) or pedelecs, are limited to 250 watts. They must propel the rider at no more than 25kph so that they can safely share bicycle infrastructure with other users.
In a vote at the European Parliament Tuesday, MEPs have decided to keep the original European Commission proposal: Only pedelecs with a maximum speed of 25 km/h and 250 watts power will remain exempt from motorbike regulation. Europe’s cycling organisations have welcomed the move, seeing it as a clear separation between bicycles and motorbikes
There had been previous calls for pedelecs with unlimited output to be exempt from Type Approval procedures, meaning more powerful machines would not be subject to more rigorous testing. ECF, alongside industry groups, lobbied for legislation to remain the same.
“It’s a good thing that the exemptions to this legislation for electric bicycles remain unchanged,” Woolsgrove adds. 
“The minute you start changing the definition of a bicycle, you’re opening up cycling to a whole range of nasty legislation. It could mean compulsory helmets, insurance, licensing to name but a few of the negative consequences. You don’t want to damage the reputation of cycling, and lose all the wonderful benefits that cyclists’ have.”
ECF supports the huge growth in pedelec use and sales and sees it as an important tool in promoting future sustainable transport. Under current legislation, pedelecs have been a huge success story in Europe, with over 700,000 units sold in 2011. In Germany alone, there are already one million pedelecs in use, with 310,000 sold last year. This is in stark contrast with electric cars, which managed to sell just over 11,500 vehicles in Western Europe last year despite large subsidies.
The Parliament vote still needs be ratified by the European Council, yet after long months of debate, this is generally seen as a formality. Other countries have seen EU legislation as the best way to regulate bicycles, with Australia recently adopting EU style electric bicycle legislation.
“ECF would especially like to the thank Colibi and Coliped for all their hard work during the campaign. Our collaboration was a perfect example of how the industry and user groups can influence government,” says Manfred Neun, ECF President.