France does not look kindly upon e-bike owners that hot rod their wheels. The country has just introduced a law that could see “offenders” slapped with a maximum fine of €30,000 (US$34,000), and up to a year in jail. And they could have their driving license suspended for up to three years.
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There are no caveats or loopholes, either — do anything to tune your e-bike for more speed or power and you could feel the wrath of the new law, known as French statutory provision L317-1. The rules also apply to importers, distributors and dealers.
As Electrek notes, E-bike speeds are subject to regulation throughout the EU, but the top speed limit for standard e-bike power in France is 25 km/h (15.5mph), which is relatively slow, even compared to pedal bikes (speed pedelecs, meanwhile, count as a special class of bike and are permitted up to 45 km/h).
It’s no surprise, then, that riders are modifying their wheels, either by changing display settings or making modifications to hardware such as speed sensors. Typically, e-bikes will come with two settings for European and US markets. As US regulations permit speeds up to 32 km/h, it’s not unusual for European riders to tweak their settings for extra power.
E-bikes are popular in France, but riders don’t always use helmets, and obviously, higher-speed crashes are more dangerous. E-bikes and scooters (which France has also cracked down on) have proven to be a hazard for pedestrians — an issue officials are trying to curb ahead of municipal elections in cities such as Paris.
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It’s unlikely that such harsh punishments will be imposed to the full extent of the law — particularly since the law will prove challenging to enforce — but they’re certainly designed to discourage hot rodding, and suggest that France won’t be afraid to make an example of individuals to show they mean business.