E-bikes gaining traction in New Mexico, facing new regulations

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s a new trend gaining speed on Albuquerque’s trails, sidewalks, and roadways – electric bicycles.

“An E-bike is pretty much like a regular bike, only you feel a little bit stronger than you really are,” said Susan Gautsch, owner of Free to Roam E-Biking in Nob Hill.

E-bikes include all the same features as traditional bicycles but with an added electric motor. Gautsch says the motor is only meant to enhance the bike’s power – riders still have to pedal the bike to move it. She says the motor allows riders to go faster and farther without exerting as much energy, something she says makes E-bikes more practical for the average person.

“You’re getting rid of the common barriers that people have to riding, which is the hills, the headwinds and being sweaty when you when you get there,” she said. “People started realizing I can do this to commute to work, I can go grocery shopping, I can get three, four bags of groceries on the back, I can drop off the kids and pick up the kids on the back of the bike.”

Gautsch says E-bikes have been popular for decades – especially in Europe – but she first noticed them gaining popularity in New Mexico in early 2022. She suspects surging gas prices was one of the driving factors, but she believes many New Mexicans are learning E-bikes can easily replace short car trips.

“There are people who are riding from Ventana ranch all the way over to Tramway and Central, and it’s doable,” she said.

E-bikes are gradually facing more regulations. The U.S. Forest Service banned E-bikes on non-motorized trails in 2022 (that includes the majority of trails in the Sandia Mountains). New Mexico state lawmakers approved a new class system for E-bikes during the 2023 legislative session.

Gautsch says those classes are based on each type of bike’s top speed, but she believes future regulations should be focused on speed limits.

“In the same way we don’t tell a Porsche that can go 200 miles an hour that you can’t drive on residential streets, they can just stick with the same speed limit as everybody else, and that same thing is true with the bikes,” she said. “To put the speed limit just right out there, whether you’re on an E-bike, a trike, or something that some combo thereof, that you’re you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of, I think is just really a smart move for the city to do.”