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If you have just tuned in to the e-bike craze, you should think of this new bicycle design as an innovation that is here to stay.

Backed by a number of pro-e-bike groups, California Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 1096, which regulates electric bicycles in our state, and the bill became law on Jan. 1, 2016.

A traditional bike with muscle

Not to be confused with a moped, an electric bicycle is basically a traditional bike equipped with motor-assisted power when needed. It handles just like a regular bike, and the power allows you to climb hills more easily and travel longer distances without becoming as tired as you would by using pedal power alone.

What the law says

A.B. 1096 updates some of the older laws in California, stating, for example, that electric bikes will not fall under the same regulations as mopeds. The rules of the road that apply to traditional bicycles apply to e-bikes, as well. The legislation also separates e-bikes into classes. Lower speed e-bikes that can go up to 20 miles per hour are differentiated from those that have more powerful motors and reach speeds of up to 28 mph. You may ride a lower speed e-bike on bicycle paths, but not the faster e-bikes.

Many choices

There are several kinds of e-bikes—commuters, beach cruisers, cargo, touring or mountain models—so you need to think about how you are going to use this kind of transportation and how much power you actually need for the purpose intended. If you commute to work, for instance, a 250-watt motor should be fine, but if you live in a hilly area, you might need a 500-watt motor. Cargo e-bikes have very heavy motors and are capable of taking you and your toddler or bag of groceries up steep hills with ease.

Safety first

A reputable dealer can help you choose the best e-bike for your needs, and you will want to treat your new purchase with the respect it deserves, especially when you are first becoming used to riding it. Keep in mind that drivers do not see cyclists as well as they do cars and trucks, but remember that the new law is on your side. Be cautious, stay alert, steer clear of accidents and enjoy your new e-bike.