E-bike use dividing Lake Minnetonka communities

Take a drive down Water Street in downtown Excelsior this summer, and you’ll notice plenty of e-bikes on the road. The bikes have become quite popular among middle-school aged children in the area, and police say it's become a problem.

"They’re in and out of traffic, they’re popping wheelies…they’re usually not wearing helmets," said South Lake Police Chief Brian Tholen. "We’re trying to stop them, and I wish we could do more."

While state law requires e-bike riders to be 15 years old, Tholen says his officers have stopped 39 riders for reckless operation since late April, and 26 of those were kids under the age of 15. 

Tholen says some cities are considering ordinances that would crack down on e-bike use, but he believes state lawmakers should go further and classify e-bikes as motor vehicles. He compares them to mopeds which require licenses.

"We don’t want to limit the use of e-bikes," said Chief Tholen. "They’re a great tool, and people like to use them – I get it – but we have to make sure our kids aren’t going to get hurt or killed."

Erik Saltvold, owner and founder of Erik’s Bike Shop, says the problem is not e-bikes themselves but riders who aren’t following the law.

Saltvold says he’s noticed the bikes that are popular among youth in Excelsior are not always within state regulations and are easily manipulated to go faster than permitted.

"The solution here is not banning e-bikes, it's about enforcing the rules that are already in place," said Saltvold. 

Tholen believes parents need to take more responsibility by not allowing children under the age of 15 to ride.

"We’re trying to stop them and I wish we could do more," said Tholen.