Electric bicycle laws
Many countries have enacted electric bicycle laws to regulate the use of electric bicycles. Countries such as the United States and Canada have federal regulations governing the safety requirements and standards of manufacture. Other countries like the signatories of the European Union have agreed to wider-ranging legislation covering use and safety of their term EPAC (electric pedal-assisted cycles).
However, confusion remains regarding the various laws involving electric bicycles. This stems from the fact that while some countries have national regulations, the legality of road use is left to states and provinces, and then complicated further by municipal laws and restrictions. Furthermore, there is a range of classifications and terms describing them – "power-assisted bicycle" (Canada) or "power-assisted cycle" (United Kingdom) or "electric pedal-assisted cycles" (European Union) or simply "electric bicycles" – and as such in some cases have varying laws according to their respective classifications in some places.
- 1 Australia
- 2 Canada
- 3 China
- 4 Europe
- 5 Hong Kong
- 6 India
- 7 Israel
- 8 Japan
- 9 New Zealand
- 10 Philippines
- 11 United States
- 11.1 Federal Laws and Regulations Pertaining to the Sale of Electric Bicycles
- 11.2 State requirements for use
- 11.2.1 Comparison of state rules and regulations
- 11.2.2 Alabama
- 11.2.3 Arizona
- 11.2.4 Arkansas
- 11.2.5 California
- 11.2.6 Colorado
- 11.2.7 Connecticut
- 11.2.8 District of Columbia
- 11.2.9 Florida
- 11.2.10 Georgia
- 11.2.11 Hawaii
- 11.2.12 Illinois
- 11.2.13 Indiana
- 11.2.14 Iowa
- 11.2.15 Kentucky
- 11.2.16 Louisiana
- 11.2.17 Maryland
- 11.2.18 Massachusetts
- 11.2.19 Michigan
- 11.2.20 Minnesota
- 11.2.21 Mississippi
- 11.2.22 Missouri
- 11.2.23 Montana
- 11.2.24 Nebraska
- 11.2.25 Nevada
- 11.2.26 New Jersey
- 11.2.27 New York
- 11.2.28 Ohio
- 11.2.29 Oregon
- 11.2.30 Pennsylvania
- 11.2.31 Tennessee
- 11.2.32 Texas
- 11.2.33 Utah
- 11.2.34 Vermont
- 11.2.35 Virginia
- 11.2.36 Washington
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Advocacy and peer support resources
In Australia the e-bike is defined by the Australian Vehicle Standards as a bicycle that has an auxiliary motor with a maximum power output not exceeding 200 W without consideration for speed limits or pedal sensors. Each state is responsible for deciding how to treat such a vehicle and currently all states agree that such a vehicle does not require licensing or registration. Various groups are lobbying for an increase in this low limit to encourage more widespread use of e-bikes to assist in mobility, health benefits and to reduce congestion, pollution and road danger. Some states have their own rules such as no riding under electric power on bike paths and through built up areas so riders should view the state laws regarding their use. There is no licence and no registration required for e-bike usage.
Since 30 May 2012, Australia has an additional new e-bike category using the European Union model of a pedelec as per the CE EN15194 standard. This means the e-bike can have a motor of 250W of continuous rated power which can only be activated by pedalling (if above 6 km/h) and must cut out over 25 km/h - if so it is classed as a normal bicycle. The state of Victoria is the first to amend their local road rules, see below.
The ADRs contain the following definitions for bicycles and mopeds:
- 4.2. Two-Wheeled and Three-Wheeled Vehicles
- 4.2.1. PEDAL CYCLE (AA)
A vehicle designed to be propelled through a mechanism solely by human power.
- 4.2.2. POWER-ASSISTED PEDAL CYCLE (AB)
A pedal cycle to which is attached one or more auxiliary propulsion motors having a combined maximum power output not exceeding 200 watts.
- 4.2.3. MOPED - 2 Wheels (LA)
A 2-wheeled motor vehicle, not being a power-assisted pedal cycle, with an engine cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 ml and a ‘Maximum Motor Cycle Speed‘ not exceeding 50 km/h; or a 2-wheeled motor vehicle with a power source other than a piston engine and a ‘Maximum Motor Cycle Speed‘ not exceeding 50 km/h.
(Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule – Definitions and Vehicle Categories 2005 Compilation 3 19 September 2007).
There are no ADRs applicable to AA or AB category vehicles. There are ADRs for lighting, braking, noise, controls and dimensions for LA category vehicles, mostly referencing the equivalent UN ECE Regulations. An approval is required to supply to the market any road vehicle to which ADRs apply and an import approval is required to import any road vehicle into Australia.
New South Wales
In New South Wales, motor assisted pedal cycles with electric engines only does not need to be registered if the maximum engine output is less than 250 watts. Riders of cycles exempt from registration must follow the same rules as for cycles without motors, and vehicles requiring registration (mopeds) are treated as motorcycles.
However, as of October 2014 all petrol powered cycles are banned.
A bicycle, which is designed to be propelled by human power using pedals, may have an electric or petrol powered motor attached provided the motor's maximum power output does not exceed 200 watts.
As of 18 September 2012, the Victorian road rules have changed to enable a pedelec to be used as a bicycle in Victoria. The change will allow more options of power assisted pedal cycles under bicycle laws.
A pedelec is defined as meeting EU standard EN15194, has a motor of no more than 250w of continuous rated power and which is only to be activated by pedalling, when travelling at speeds of between 6kph and 25kph.
In Queensland, the situation is similar to Victoria. There are 2 types of legal motorised bicycle. For the first type, the electric motor must not be capable of generating more than 200 watts of power. For the second type, known as a 'pedalec', the vehicle must comply with the European Standard for Power Assisted Pedal Cycles (EN15194).
The pedals on a motorised bicycle must be the primary source of power for the vehicle. If the motor is the primary source of power then the device cannot be classed as a motorised bicycle. For example, a device where the rider can twist a throttle and complete a journey using motor power only without using the pedals, would not be classed as a motorised bicycle.
Motorised bicycles can be ridded on all roads and paths, except where bicycles are specifically excluded. Riders do not need to have a driver licence to ride a motorised bicycle.
Eight provinces of Canada allow electric power assisted bicycles. In all eight provinces, e-bikes are limited to 500 W output, and cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph) on motor power alone on level ground. In Alberta prior to July 1, 2009, the limits were 750 W and 35 km/h (22 mph), but presently match federal legislation. Age restrictions vary in Canada. All require an approved helmet. Regulations may or may not require an interlock to prevent use of power when the rider is not pedaling. Some versions (e.g., if capable of operating without pedaling) of e-bikes require drivers' licenses in some provinces and have age restrictions. Vehicle licenses and liability insurance are not required. Generally, they are considered vehicles (like motorcycles and pedal cycles), so are subject to the same rules of the road as regular bicycles. In some cases, regulatory requirements have been complicated by lobbying in respect of the Segway PT.
Bicycles assisted by a gasoline motor or other fuel are regulated differently from e-bikes. These are classified as motorcycles, regardless of the power output of the motor and maximum attainable speed.
Note that in Canada, the term "assist bicycle" is the technical term for an e-bike and "power-assisted bicycle" is used in the Canadian Federal Legislation, but is carefully defined to only apply to electric motor assist, and specifically excludes internal combustion engines (though this is not the case in the United States).
Since 2000, Canada's Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) have defined Power Assisted bicycles (PABs) as a separate category, and which require no license to operate. PABs are currently defined as a two- or three-wheeled bicycle equipped with handlebars and operable pedals, an attached electric motor of 500W or less, and a maximum speed capability of 32 km/h from the motor over level ground. Other requirements include a permanently affixed label from the manufacturer in a conspicuous location stating the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle under the statutory requirements in force at the time of manufacture. All power-assisted bicycles must utilize an electric motor for assisted propulsion.
A power-assisted bicycle may be imported and exported freely within Canada without the same restrictions placed on auto-mobiles or a moped. Under federal law, power-assisted bicycles may be restricted from operation on some roads, lanes, paths, or thoroughfares by the local municipality.
Bicycle-style PABs are permitted on National Capital Commission's (NCC) Capital Pathway network, but scooter-style PABs are prohibited. All PABs (bicycle- and scooter-style) are permitted on dedicated NCC bike lanes. All PABs are prohibited in Gatineau Park's natural surface trails.
Provincial requirements for use
Alberta identifies e-bikes as "power bicycles" and is consistent with the federal definition of "power-assisted bicycle" in MVSR CRC, c 1038 s 2. Motor output must not exceed 500 W (0.671 hp) and e-bikes cannot travel faster than 32 km/h (20 mph). Fully operable pedals are required. No driver's license, vehicle insurance, or vehicle registration is required. Operators must be 12 years of age or older. All operators are required to wear a motorcycle helmet meeting the standards set in AR 122/2009 s 112(2). A passenger is permitted only if the e-bike is equipped with a seat designated for that passenger.
An e-bike is identified as a "motor assisted cycle" (MAC) in British Columbia, which differs from electric mopeds and scooters, which are "limited-speed motorcycles." Motor assisted cycles must: have an electric motor of no more than 500 W; have fully operable pedals; not be capable of propelling the device at a speed greater than 32 km/hr [19.9 mph]. The engine must disengage when (a) the operator stops pedaling, (b) an accelerator controller is released, OR (c) a brake is applied. A driver's license, vehicle registration, and insurance are all not required. A bike helmet must be worn.
E-bikes in British Columbia must comply with all standards outlined in Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation, BC Reg 151/2002.
Ontario is one of the last provinces in Canada to move toward legalizing power-assisted bicycles (PABs) for use on roads, even though they have been federally defined and legal in Canada since early 2001. In November 2005, "Bill 169" received royal assent allowing the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to place any vehicle on road. On October 4, 2006, the Minister of Transportation for Ontario Donna Cansfield announced the Pilot Project allowing PABs which meet the federal standards definition for operation on road. PAB riders must follow the rules and regulations of a regular bicycles, wear an approved bicycle helmet and be at least 16 years or older. There are still a number of legal considerations for operating any bicycle in Ontario.
On October 5, 2009, Ontario brought in new safety requirements for electric bikes. E-bikes, which can reach a speed of 32 kilometres per hour, are allowed to share the road with cars, pedestrians and other traffic throughout the province. The new rules limit the maximum weight of an e-bike to 120 kilograms, require a maximum braking distance of nine metres and prohibit any modifications to the bike's motor that would create speeds greater than 32 kilometres per hour. Also, riders must be at least 16 years of age, wear approved bicycle or motorcycle helmets and follow the same traffic laws as bicyclists. Municipalities will be able to decide where e-bikes may be used on their streets, bike lanes and trails. E-bikes will not be permitted on 400-series highways, expressways or other areas where bicycles are not allowed. Riding an e-bike under the age of 16 or riding an e-bike without an approved helmet carries fines ranging from $60 to $500. For all other traffic offences, e-bike riders will be subject to the same penalties as cyclists.
In Manitoba Electric Bikes can be classified as a scooter or a moped/mobility vehicle depending on the power of the engine used and its top speed. If the engine on the Electric Bike is less than 50cc and it cannot exceed 50 km per hour the rider is not required to have a motorcycle licence or any specific training. Electric Bikes can be driven by anyone with a Class 5 driver's licence in any stage of the graduated licensing process. A Class 5 Learners Licence requires one to be age 16 (parents consent if under 18) and a visit to a licensing office to pass a vision test and a written knowledge test about the rules of the road and traffic signs.
To be allowed on the road it needs wheel rims larger than 9 inches, have a headlight for night, a seat at least 27 inches off the ground.
New Brunswick’s Policy on Electric Motor Driven Cycles and Electric Bicycles
The Registrar will permit an electric motor driven cycle to be registered if it meets Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) as a Limited Speed Motorcycle, or Scooter as is done with gas powered motor driven cycles. If the vehicle was manufactured after 1988 it will bear a compliance label stating that it meets these standards. The operator will be subject to all the requirements placed on operators of motor driven cycles.
If the vehicle is able to powered by human force and has a motor 500W or less, and the motor is not capable of assisting when the vehicle is traveling at a speed greater than 32 km/h then it can be considered a bicycle and all the requirements placed on bicyclists are applicable.
It is important to note that if a vehicle has an electric motor greater than 500 watts and is capable of powering the vehicle when traveling at a speed greater than 32 km/h and it does not have a CMVSS compliance label it cannot be registered unless the owner can prove, by having the vehicle certified by an engineer, that it is safe for operation on NB highways. Also, not all vehicles are suitable for operation on NB highways and it could be that the vehicle in question may not be a motor driven cycle or a bicycle and cannot be operated on the highway at all.
Power Assisted Bicycle Label:
Manufacturers of e-bikes must permanently affix a label, in a conspicuous location, stating in both official languages that the vehicle is a power-assisted bicycle as defined in the regulations under the federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Homemade e-bikes will not have this label.
NOTE 1: The previous version of the policy had a section on it needing to "look like a bike" or a "bike style frame" but never defined what those were. That has been dropped and is no longer part of the new policy.
NOTE 2: The top speed of the bike if propelled by human power is the posted speed limit, but the motor is only allowed to get you up to and keep you at 32 km/hr. If the posted limit is under 32 then the posted limit is the limit allowed.
NOTE 3: There is no maximum weight limit.
NOTE 4: Ebikes are allowed to use cargo trailers/kid trailers.
NOTE 5: There is no minimum age set.
NOTE 6: DUI - If you have a DUI conviction the restrictions of the DUI override the ebike policy definition of an ebike as a bicycle and put it into the motor vehicle category.
In Nova Scotia power-assisted bicycles are classified similarly to standard pedal bicycles. The Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act defines a power-assisted bicycle as a bicycle with an electric motor of 500 watts or less, with two wheels (one of which is at least 350 mm) or four wheels (two of which are at least 350mm). PABs are permitted on the road in the province of Nova Scotia as long as you wear an approved bicycle helmet with the chinstrap engaged. They do not have to meet the conditions defined within the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations for a motorcycle (they are not classed as "motor vehicles"), but they do have to comply with federal regulations that define Power Assisted Bicycles.
Prince Edward Island
Are treated as Mopeds and will need to pass inspection as a moped.
In Quebec power-assisted bicycles are often classified similarly to standard pedal bicycles. They do not have to meet the conditions defined within the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (they are not classed as "motor vehicles"), but they do have to comply with federal regulations that define Power Assisted Bicycles. The Quebec Highway Safety Code defines a power-assisted bicycle as a bicycle with an electric motor. PABs are permitted on the road in the province of Quebec, but riders have to be 14 and over to ride the electric bicycle and if they're under the age of 18, must have a moped or scooter license.
Power assisted bicycles are classified in two categories in Saskatchewan. An electric assist bicycle is a 2 or 3-wheeled bicycle that uses pedals and a motor at the same time only. A power cycle uses either pedals and motor or motor only. Both must have engines with 500 watt power or less, and must not be able exceed 32 km/h (20 mph), i.e., electric motor cuts out at this speed or cycle is unable to go this fast on a level surface. The power cycle has to meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) for a power-assisted bicycle. The power cycle requires at least a learner's driving licence (class 7), and all of the other classes 1-5 may operate these also. The electric assist bicycle does not require a licence. Helmets are required for both. Both are treated as bicycles regarding rules of the road. Gas powered or assisted bicycles are classified as motorcycles regardless of engine size or if using pedals plus motor. Stickers identifying the bicycle's compliance with the Federal classification may be required for power cycles by some cities or municipalities.
In China, e-bikes currently come under the same classification as bicycles and hence don't require a driver's license to operate. Previously it was required that users registered their bike in order to be recovered if stolen, although this has recently been abolished. Due to a recent rise in electric-bicycle-related accidents, caused mostly by inexperienced riders who ride on the wrong side of the road, run red lights, don't use headlights at night etc., the Chinese government plans to change the legal status of illegal bicycles so that vehicles with an unladen weight of 20 kg (44 lb) or more and a top speed of 30 km/h (19 mph) or more will require a motorcycle license to operate, while vehicles lighter than 20 kg (44 lb) and slower than 30 km/h can be ridden unlicensed. In the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen, e-bikes, like all motorcycles, are banned from certain downtown districts. There are also bans in place in small areas of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing. Bans of "Scooter-Style Electric Bikes" (SSEB) were however cancelled and in Shenzhen e-bikes may be seen on the streets nowadays (2010–11).
Electric powered bicycles slower than 20 km/h without pedaling are legally recognized as a non-mechanically operated vehicle in China. According to "TECHNOLOGY WATCH", this should help promote its widespread use. Electric bicycles were banned in some areas of Beijing from August 2002 to January 2006 due to concerns over environmental, safety and city image issues. Beijing has re-allowed use of approved electric bicycles as of January 4, 2006. Some cities in China still ban electric bikes.
European Union definition
European Union directive 2002/24/EC exempts vehicles with the following definition from type approval: "Cycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 km/h (16 mph) or if the cyclist stops pedaling." This is the de facto definition of an electrically assisted pedal cycle in the EU. As with all EU directives, individual member countries of the EU are left to implement the requirements in national legislation.
European product safety standard EN 15194 was published in 2009. The aim of EN 15194 is "to provide a standard for the assessment of electrically powered cycles of a type which are excluded from type approval by Directive 2002/24/EC".
A bicycle can have a 250 W electric motor providing the top speed is limited to 25 km/h. Also the motor can only assist, rather than replace pedalling. 250-1000 W electric motors can be used, with proper insurance.
In Norway, e-bikes are classified as ordinary bicycles, according to the Vehicle Regulation (kjøretøyforskriften) § 4-1, 5g. Hence, e-bikes are not registered in the Vehicle Registry, and there is no demand for a license to drive them. Still, there are constraints on the bicycle construction. The maximum nominal motor power output can be no more than 250 watts and the maximum performance speed of the vehicle when the engine is running is 25 km per hour (15 mph). A function that reduces motor power when vehicle speed exceeds 25 km per hour is mandatory. However, if the motor is not running, the e-bike, or any other bike, answer only to the constraints of the ordinary speed limits.
Being member of European Economic Area (EEA), Norway implemented the European Union directive 2002/24/EC. This directive defined legal ebikes for all EU and EEA countries to cycle "with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25 km/h or if the cyclist stops pedaling." The definition became part of Norwegian vehicle legislation in 2003. A more detailed specification will become effective when the new European ebike product safety standard EN 15194 is published in 2009.
In Sweden, e-bikes are classified as ordinary bicycles as long as the maximum nominal motor power output isn't more than 250 watts and the maximum performance speed of the vehicle when the engine is running is 25 km per hour according to the Swedish Vehicle Regulation (Trafikverket).
Switzerland (not in EU) has led the way on speed e-bikes in Europe, liberalizing standards and allowing for an easier process of obtaining a license to use 45 km/h ebikes as an alternative to the common 25 km/h pedelecs found in the EU.
European Union definition is applicable
The tighter restrictions of the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle Regulations 1983 (including a 200kg weight limit on solo bicycles) were removed on 6th April 2015 by the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Amendment) Regulations 2015."Information Sheet" (PDF)."The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles (Amendment) Regulations 2015" (PDF).
Riders must be at least 14 years of age, but no driving licence is required.
Electric bicycles are not allowed in any public area, meaning an area where there is full or partial public access. Any kind of pedal assist, electric bike, scooter, moped or vehicle which has any form of propulsion, whether in full or as assist, other than human power, must be approved as either a car, motorcycle, van, truck, bus or similar. This makes tilt-controlled two-wheel personal vehicles, and pedelecs illegal in all practical ways, as they cannot be registered as a motor cycle.
Hong Kong has independent traffic laws from mainland China. Electric bikes are considered motorcycles in Hong Kong, and therefore need type approval from the Transport Department, just as automobiles. All electric bikes available in Hong Kong fail to meet the type approval requirement, and the Transport Department has never granted any type approval for an electric bike, making all electric bikes effectively illegal in Hong Kong. Even if they got type approval, the driver would need a motorcycle driving license to ride. As a side note, Hong Kong doesn't have a moped vehicle class (and therefore no moped driving license), and mopeds are considered motorcycles too.
Indian law requires that all electric vehicles have ARAI approval. Vehicles with below 250W and speed less than 25 km/h, do not require certification. Whereas more powerful vehicles need to go through a full testing process following CMVR rules. This can take time and cost money and has been holding up the EV market in India for some time now.
In Israel, persons above 14 years old are allowed to use pedal-assisted bicycle with power of up to 250W and speed limit of 25 km/hour. The bicycle must satisfy the European Standard EN15194 and be approved by the Standards Institution of Israel. No license or insurance is required. Other motorized bicycles are considered to be motorcycles and should be licensed and insure as such. The maximum weight of the e-bike itself cannot exceed 30 kg.
The Israeli Ministry of Transportation is reviewing some options, currently between the US, Canada and the EU legislation, the EU is most favored but the legislation has not yet to be finally determined.[clarification needed]
Israeli authorities passed legislation, as of December 2009, that allows electric bicycles to be legal for street use in the country under the following criteria:
- The maximum power of the electric engine isn't higher than 250W.
- The electric motor is activated by the rider's pedalling effort and it has to cut out completely when the rider stops pedalling.
- The electric motor power decreases with the advance of the bicycle speed and it must cut out completely whenever the bicycle reaches a speed of 25 km/h.
- The electric bicycle has to comply with the European standard — BSEN 15194.
Electric-assisted bicycles are treated as human-powered bicycles, while bicycles capable of propulsion by electric power alone face additional registration and regulatory requirements as mopeds. Requirements include electric power generation by a motor that cannot be easily modified, along with a power assist mechanism that operates safely and smoothly. In December 2008, The assist ratio was updated as follow:
- Under 10 km/h; 2
- 10–24 km/h; 2-(Running speed - 10) / 7
- Over 24 km/h; 0
In New Zealand, the regulations read: "AB (Power-assisted pedal cycle) A pedal cycle to which is attached one or more auxiliary propulsion motors having a combined maximum power output not exceeding 300 watts." This is explained by NZTA as "A power-assisted cycle is a cycle that has a motor of up to 300 watts. The law treats these as ordinary cycles rather than motorcycles. This means that it is not necessary to register or license them. Note that the phrase "maximum power output" that is found in the regulation (but omitted in the explanation) may create confusion because some e-bike motor manufacturers advertise and print on the motor their "maximum input power" because that number is larger (typically motors run at about 80% efficiency ) thus give the impression the buyer is getting a more powerful motor. This can cause misunderstandings with law enforcement officers who do not necessarily understand the difference, and when stopping a rider on an e-bike in a traffic stop, look at the number on the motor to determine if the e-bike is legal or not.
Vehicles with an electric power and power of less than 300W are classified as "not a motor vehicle". Such electric bicycles must comply with the same rules as bicycles. You must wear a helmet even on a scooter or bike under 300W. If the power is over 300W or a combustion engine is used it is a "low powered vehicle" and the moped rules apply. Specifically, a drivers license and registration are required.
In the Philippines, the Land Transportation Office issued Memorandum Circular 721-2006 stating that registration is not needed for electric bicycles (i.e. electric motor assisted bicycles with working pedals), and even extended the exemption to "bicycle-like" vehicles.
Federal Laws and Regulations Pertaining to the Sale of Electric Bicycles
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act states that electric bicycles and tricycles meeting the definition of low-speed electric bicycles will be considered consumer products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has regulatory authority to assure, through guidelines and standards, that the public will be protected from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of electric bicycles.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "low speed electric bicycle" as a two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp). The Act authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect people who ride low-speed electric vehicles by issuing necessary safety regulations. The rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, and vary.
In conformance with legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress defining this category of electric-power bicycle (15 U.S.C. 2085(b)), CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles (to include two- and three-wheel vehicles) are exempt from classification as motor vehicles providing they have fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750W (1 hp), and a top motor-powered speed of less than 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) when operated by a rider weighing 170 pounds. An electric bike remaining within these specifications is subject to the CPSC consumer product regulations for a bicycle. Commercially manufactured e-bikes exceeding these power and speed limits are regulated by the federal DOT and NHTSA as motor vehicles, and must meet additional safety requirements. The legislation enacting this amendment to the CPSC is also known as HR 727. The text of HR 727 includes the statement: "This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements." (Note that this refers to consumer product regulations enacted under the Consumer Product Safety Act. Preemption of more stringent state consumer product regulations does not limit State authority to regulate the use of electric bicycles, or bicycles in general, under state vehicle codes.)
State requirements for use
While Federal law governs consumer product regulations for "low speed electric bicycles," as with motor vehicles and bicycles, regulation of how these products are used on public streets is subject to state vehicle codes. There is significant variation from state to state, as summarized below.
Comparison of state rules and regulations
- Identity: How exactly does legislation identify the electric bicycle?
- Type: How does the law define vehicle type?
- Max Speed: Maximum speed when powered solely by the motor.
- Max Power: Maximum motor power, or engine size, permitted.
- Helmet: Is usage of a helmet mandatory?
- Minimum Age: Operator's minimum age.
- License: Is a license or endorsement required?
|State||Identity||Type||Max speed (mph)||Max power||Helmet||Min age||License|
|Alabama||Motor-driven cycle||Motorcycle||None||150 cc||Motorcycle helmet required||14||Yes, M class |
|Alaska||Motor-driven cycle||Motorcycle||None||50 cc||14||Yes, M class|
|Arizona||Motorized electric bicycle or tricycle||Bicycle||20||48 cc||No||None||No|
|Arkansas||Motorized bicycle||Bicycle||None||50 cc||Yes||10||Yes|
|California||Motorized Bicycle||Bicycle||28||750 W||Class dependent||Class dependent||No|
|Colorado||Electrical assisted bicycle||Bicycle||20||750 W||No||None||No|
|Connecticut||Bicycle with helper motor||30||2.0 bhp (1.5 kW) and <50 cc||yes||15||yes|
|Delaware||Bicycle||Bicycle||20||<750 watts||Under 16|
|District of Columbia||Motorized bicycle||20|
|Georgia||Electric bicycle||Bicycle||20||1,000 W||Under 16||no|
|Idaho||Motorized Electric Bicycle||Bicycle||30||< 2 brake hp||No||16||Yes, class D & liability Ins.|
|Illinois||Low‑speed bicycle||Bicycle (625 ILCS 5/11‑1516)||20||None||No||16||No|
|Iowa||Electric Bicycle||Bicycle||20, unless pedaling||<750 watts||No||None||No|
|Kansas||Electric with Pedal||Bicycle||1000 Watts||No|
|Kentucky||Motorized bicycle||Moped||30||2.0 brake hp or 50 cc||no||16||yes|
|Maine||Motorized bicycle or tricycle||25||1.5 break hp||yes|
|Maryland||Electric bicycle||20||500 watts||yes||no|
|Massachusetts||Motorized bicycle||25||50 cc||Yes||16||Yes|
|Michigan||Moped||30||100 cc||Motorcycle helmet required||16||Yes|
|Mississippi||Bicycle with a motor attached||Bicycle||None||None||No||None||No|
|30||2.0 bhp and <=50cc||No|
|Nebraska||Moped ||Motorized Bicycle with Pedals ||30 ||50cc or 2 bhp, whichever is less ||Yes ||Yes |
|Nevada||Electric Bicycle (NRS 482.0287)||Bicycle||20 (motor only on the flat with 170LB rider, undefined if pedal assist is allowed to go faster)||750W (it is undefined as to whether this is input or output power, but in the USA, motors are rated on output power at the shaft)||No||none (use caution here because of "reckless endangerment" laws)||no (not a "motor vehicle")|
|New Hampshire||Low-Speed Electric Bicycle||Bicycle||20||750 watts||Required Under 16||14||no|
|Ohio||Motorized bicycle||Bicycle||20||1 bhp (750 W) or 50cc||No|
|Oregon||Electric assisted bicycle||Bicycle||20||1000 W||Under 16||16||No|
|Pennsylvania||Pedalcycle with electric assist||Bicycle||20||750 W||No||16||No|
|Texas||Electric bicycle||Bicycle||20(without pedaling)||None||No||None||No|
|Utah||Electric bicycle||Bicycle||20||750Watt||No||8 (accompanied by parent/guardian), 14 (unaccompanied)||No|
|Vermont||Motor-driven cycle||Motor-driven cycle||30 on the flat||None||No||16||Driver's license only|
|Washington||electric-assisted bicycle||electric-assisted bicycle||20 pedal+power combined||1,000 W||No state requirement, must follow local bicycle helmet laws||16||No|
|State||Identity||Type||Max speed (mph)||Max power||Helmet||Min age||License|
Every bicycle with a motor attached is defined as a motor-driven cycle. The operation of a motor-driven cycle requires a class M driver license. Restricted class M driver licenses are available for those as young as 14 years of age.
Under Arizona law, motorized electric bicycles and tricycles meeting the definition under the applicable statute are not subject to title, licensing, insurance, or registration requirements, and may be used upon any roadway authorized for use by conventional bicycles, including use in bike lanes integrated with motor vehicle roadways. Unless specifically prohibited, electric bicycles may be operated on multi-use trails designated for hiking, biking, equestrian, or other non-motorized usage, and upon paths designated for the exclusive use of bicycles. No operator's license is required, but anyone operating a bicycle on Arizona roads must carry proof of identity. A "motorized electric bicycle or tricycle" is legally defined as a bicycle or tricycle that is equipped with a helper motor that may be self-propelled, which is operated at speeds of less than twenty miles per hour. Electric bicycles operated at speeds of twenty miles an hour or more, but less than twenty-five miles per hour may be registered for legal use on the roadways as mopeds, and above twenty-five miles per hour as a registered moped with an 'M' endorsement on the operator's driving license. However, mopeds in Arizona are prohibited from using bike lanes on motor vehicle roadways. The Arizona statute governing motorized electric bicycles does not prohibit local jurisdictions from adopting an ordinance that further regulates or prohibits the operation of motorized electric bicycles or tricycles.
Arkansas does not define E-bikes. The following definition describes a combustion engine. E-bikes being electric do not have a cylinder capacity and thus this law is not technically applicable. The state defines a "Motorized bicycle" as "a bicycle with an automatic transmission and a motor of less than 50cc." Riders require either a certificate to operate a motorized bicycle, a motorcycle license, a motor-driven cycle license, or a license of class A, B, C or D. Certificates cannot be issued to riders under 10 years of age.
Electric Bicycles are defined by the California Vehicle Code.
New legislation became effective January 2016. The current regulations define an “electric bicycle”: a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, separated into three classes: A “class 1 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour. (2) A “class 2 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour. A “class 3 electric bicycle,” or “speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, (no throttle) and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and equipped with a speedometer. Local government ordinances are allowed to permit or ban any class of electric bicycles on dedicated bicycle paths and trails, with Class 1 & 2 permitted, and Class 3 banned, by default. Beginning January 1, 2017, manufacturers and distributors of electric bicycles will be required to apply a label that is permanently affixed, in a prominent location, to each electric bicycle, indicating its class. Should a user "tamper with or modify" an electric bicycle, changing the speed capability, they must replace the label indicating the classification.
Driver's licenses, registration, insurance and license plate requirements do not apply. An electric bicycle is not a motor vehicle. Drinking and driving laws apply. Additional laws or ordinances may apply to the use of electric bicycles by each city or county.
Ebike definition in Colorado follows the HR 727 National Law: 20 mph (30 km/h) e-power and 750 W (1 hp) max, 2 or 3 wheels, pedals that work. Legal low-powered ebikes are allowed on roads and bike lanes, and prohibited from using their motors on bike and pedestrian paths, unless overridden by local ordinance. The city of Boulder is the first to have done so, banning ebikes over 400W from bike lanes. Bicycles and Ebikes are disallowed on certain high speed highways and all Interstates unless signed as "Allowed" in certain rural Interstate stretches where the Interstate is the ONLY means of travel.
Section 14-1 of Connecticut state law classifies electric bicycles as "motor-driven cycles" if they have a seat height of not less than 26 inches and a motor which produces brake horsepower of 5 or less.
Motor-driven cycles may be operated on the roadway without registration, but the operator must have a driver's license. The cycle may not be operated on any sidewalk, limited access highway or turnpike. If the maximum speed of the cycle is less than the speed limit of the road, the cycle must operate in the right hand lane available for traffic or upon a usable shoulder on the right side of the road unless the operator is making a left turn.
District of Columbia
Electric-assist and other "motorized bicycles" do not need to be inspected, do not require a license, and do not require registration. The vehicle must meet all of the following criteria: a post mounted seat for each person it is designed to carry, two or three wheels which contact the ground, fully operative pedals, wheels at least 16 inches in diameter and a motor not capable of propelling the device at more than 20 mph on level ground. The driver does not need a license, but must be at least 16 years old. DC law prohibits motorized bicycles from traveling anywhere on the sidewalk or in the bike lanes. DC Regulation 18-1201.18 provides: "Except as otherwise permitted for a motor vehicle, no person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk or any off-street bikepath or bicycle route within the District. This prohibition shall apply even though the motorized bicycle is being operated solely by human power." So, if cars are prohibited in a particular place, motor-assisted bikes are also prohibited.
Florida DMV Procedure RS-61 II. "(B.) Dirt bikes noted for off road use, motorized bicycles and Go-Peds are not registered." 
Electric Helper-Motor Bicycles
If you are at least 16 years old, a person may ride a bicycle that is propelled by a combination of human power (pedals) and an electric helper-motor that cannot go faster than 20 mph on level ground without a driver license.
Motorized Bicycles and Motorized Scooters
Under Title 23, Chapter 316 of the code, bicycles and motorized bicycles are defined as follows: Bicycle—Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle. Motorized Scooter—Any vehicle not having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels, and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
In addition to the statutory language, there are several judicial rulings on the subject.
Georgia Code 40-1-1 Part 15.5 (15.5) 'Electric assisted bicycle' means a device with two or three wheels which has a saddle and fully operative pedals for human propulsion and also has an electric motor. For such a device to be considered an electric assisted bicycle, it shall meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, as set forth in 49 C.F.R. Section 571, et seq., and shall operate in such a manner that the electric motor disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied. The electric motor in an electric assisted bicycle shall:
(A) Have a power output of not more than 1,000 watts;
(B) Be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 miles per hour on level ground; and
(C) Be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device at or more than 20 miles per hour.
A Federal agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has exclusive jurisdiction over electric bicycles as to consumer product regulations, but this does not change state regulation of the use of electric bicycles on streets and highways.
"Bicycle" means every vehicle "propelled solely by human power" upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any vehicle generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels except a toy bicycle. 
"Moped" means a device upon which a person may ride which is DOT Approved.
Under the statute, mopeds must be registered. To be registered under Hawaii law a moped must bear a certification label from the manufacturer stating that it complies with federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS). A moped must also possess the following equipment approved by the D.O.T. under Chapter 91: approved braking, fuel, and exhaust system components; approved steering system and handlebars; wheel rims; fenders; a guard or protective covering for drive belts, chains and rotating components; seat or saddle; lamps and reflectors; equipment controls; speedometer; retracting support stand; horn; and identification markings.
(625 ILCS 5/11‑1516)
- Sec. 11‑1516. Low‑speed bicycles.
- (a) A person may operate a low‑speed electric bicycle or low‑speed gas bicycle only if the person is at least 16 years of age.
- (b) A person may not operate a low‑speed electric bicycle or low‑speed gas bicycle at a speed greater than 20 miles per hour upon any highway, street, or roadway.
- (c) A person may not operate a low‑speed electric bicycle or low‑speed gas bicycle on a sidewalk.
- (d) Except as otherwise provided in this Section, the provisions of this Article XV that apply to bicycles also apply to low‑speed electric bicycles and low‑speed gas bicycles.
(Source: P.A. 96‑125, eff. 1‑1‑10.)
A motorized pedalcycle requires a driver's license and is limited to 2 horsepower and 30 MPH over a 1-mile stretch.
An ACT to amend the Indiana Code concerning motor vehicles.
In 2006 a bill was passed that changed the definition of a bicycle to include a bicycle that has an electric motor of less than 1 hp (750 watts). The new definition, found in Iowa Code section 321.1(40)c states:
"Bicycle" means either of the following: (1) A device having two wheels and having at least one saddle or seat for the use of a rider which is propelled by human power. (2) A device having two or three wheels with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden, is less than 20 miles per hour.
Electric bicycle fits under the definition of "moped" under Kentucky law. You don't need tag or insurance, but you need a driver's license. "Moped" means either a motorized bicycle whose frame design may include one (1) or more horizontal crossbars supporting a fuel tank so long as it also has pedals, or a motorized bicycle with a step-through type frame which may or may not have pedals rated no more than two (2) brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty (50) cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission not requiring clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged, and capable of a maximum speed of not more than thirty (30) miles per hour Helmets are required.
Louisiana Revised Statute R.S. 32:1(41) defines a motorized bicycle as a pedal bicycle which may be propelled by human power or helper motor, or by both, with a motor rated no more than one and one-half brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and which produces a maximum design speed of no more than twenty-five miles per hour on a flat surface. Motorized bicycles falling within this definition must be registered and titled under Louisiana law. Additionally, a motorized bicycle operated upon Louisiana roadways or highways by a person fifteen years of age or older and producing more than five horsepower must possesses a valid driver's license with a motorcycle endorsement and adhere to laws governing the operation of a motorcycle, including the wearing of approved eye protectors or a windshield and the wearing of a helmet. The statute also states that "Motorized bicycles such as pocket bikes and scooters that do not meet the requirements of this policy shall not be registered."
As R.S. 32:1(41) refers to motorized bicycles using "an automatic transmission" with helper motors rated in horsepower and cylinder capacity, not by watts or volts, the statute arguably does not cover bicycles powered by an electric motor(s), whether self-propelled or pedal-assist designs.
Maryland defines an "electric bicycle" as a vehicle that (1) is designed to be operated by human power with the assistance of an electric motor, (2) is equipped with fully operable pedals, (3) has two or three wheels, (4) has a motor with a rating of 500 watts or less, (5) and is capable of a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour on a level surface when powered by the motor. (Senate Bill 379, approved by the Governor 5/5/2014, Chapter 294.)  This legislation excludes "electric bicycle" from the definition of "moped", "motorized minibike", and "motor vehicle", and removes the titling and insurance requirements required for electric bicycles under prior Maryland law.
Before September 20, 2014, Maryland law had classified an electric bicycle as a moped. Mopeds are specifically excluded from the definition of "motor vehicle" per § 11-135 of the Maryland Transportation Code. Mopeds may not be operated sidewalks, trails, roadways with posted speeds in excess of 50 mph, or limited-access highways.
Standard requirements for bicycle lighting, acceptable bicycle parking locations, and prohibitions on wearing earplugs or headsets over both ears apply.
Massachusetts General Laws define three classes of motorized two-wheeled vehicles: Motorcycle, Motorized bicycle, and Motorized scooter. Although the definition of motorized scooter includes two-wheeled vehicles propelled by electric motors with or without human power, motorized scooter specifically excludes anything which falls under the definitions of motorized bicycle and motorcycle. Motorized bicycle is a pedal bicycle which has a helper motor, or a non-pedal bicycle which has a motor, with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and which is capable of a maximum speed of no more than thirty miles per hour. Motorcycle includes any bicycle with a motor or driving wheel attached, with the exception of vehicles that fall under the specific definition of motorized bicycle. Thus, a pedal bicycle with an electric motor or a non-pedal bicycle with an electric motor, automatic transmission, and maximum speed of 30 miles an hour would fall under the definition of motorized bicycle. An electric bicycle that did not meet those restrictions would be either a motorized scooter or motorcycle, depending on specific characteristics.
A motorized bicycle shall not be operated by any person under sixteen years of age, nor at a speed in excess of twenty-five miles per hour, upon any public highway, private way laid out under authority of statute, way dedicated to public use, or way under the control of park commissioners or body having like powers, within the commonwealth. A motorized bicycle shall not be operated on any way by any person not possessing a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit. Every person operating a motorized bicycle upon a way shall have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bicycles have been posted, and shall be subject to the traffic laws and regulations of the commonwealth and the regulations contained in this section, except that the motorized bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way, and the motorized bicycle operator shall signal by either hand his intention to stop or turn. Motorized bicycles may be operated on bicycle lanes adjacent to the various ways, but shall be excluded from off-street recreational bicycle paths. Every person operating a motorized bicycle or riding as a passenger on a motorized bicycle shall wear protective headgear conforming with such minimum standards of construction and performance as the registrar may prescribe, and no person operating a motorized bicycle shall permit any other person to ride a passenger on such motorized bicycle unless such passenger is wearing such protective headgear.
A response to an inquiry made to the Mass DOT/RMV indicates that Massachusetts does recognize the federal low speed electric bicycle Federal Law (15 U.S.C. § 2085) and interprets that to mean these ebikes do not require license or registration. However, some of the materials available on the RMV website do not distinguish between 'Motorized Bicycle' and low power ebikes. One form, Bicycle Conversion to Motorized Bike, does document the exemption of low power ebikes.
(Updated May 29, 2015)
If you are a moped operator, you must follow the same traffic rules as other motor vehicle operators. A moped is defined by law as a motor vehicle with two or three wheels that: •Has an engine that does not exceed 100 cc piston displacement •Does not have a gearshift •Has a top speed of 30 mph or less on a level surface
Vehicles exceeding any of the criteria above must be registered and titled as a motorcycle. Other types of vehicles, such as electric scooters, “pocket rockets” and mini-choppers, may fit the definition of a moped or a motorcycle, but cannot be registered by the Department of State if they lack the equipment required by law to legally drive on public roads.
Electric-assisted bicycles, also referred to as "e-bikes," are a subset of bicycles that are equipped with a small attached motor. To be classified as an "electric-assisted bicycle" in Minnesota, the bicycle must have a saddle and operable pedals, two or three wheels, and an electric motor of up to 1,000 watts, as well as meet certain federal motor vehicle safety standards. The motor must disengage during braking and have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour (whether assisted by human power or not). Minn. Stat. §169.011, subd. 27.
Legislative changes in 2012 significantly altered the classification and regulatory structure for e-bikes. The general effect was to establish electric-assisted bicycles as a subset of bicycles and regulate e-bikes in roughly the same manner as bicycles instead of other motorized devices with two (or three) wheels. Laws 2012, ch. 287, art. 3, §§ 15-17, 21, 23-26, 30, 32-33, and 41. The 2012 Legislature also modified and clarified regulation of e-bikes on bike paths and trails. Laws 2012, ch. 287, art. 4, §§ 1-4, 20.
Following the 2012 change, electric-assisted bicycles are regulated similarly to other bicycles. Most of the same laws apply. Minn. Stat. § §169.011, subd. 27; 169.222.
The bicycle does not need to be registered, and a title is no longer necessary. Minn. Stat. §§ 168.012, subd. 2d;168A.03, subd. 1 clause(11)
A license plate is no longer required to be displayed on the rear. See Minn. Stat. § 169.79, subd. 3. It is not subject to motor vehicle sales tax (the general sales tax would instead be owed on e-bike purchases).
A driver’s license or permit is not required. Unlike a nonpowered bicycle, the minimum operator age is 15 years old. Minn. Stat. § 169.222, subd. 6a.
The device does not need to be insured. See Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subds. 2, 13.
Electric-assisted bicycle operators must follow the same traffic laws as operators of motor vehicles (except those that by their nature would not be relevant). The bicycles may be operated two abreast. Operators must generally ride as close as is practical to the right-hand side of the road (exceptions include when overtaking another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, and to avoid unsafe conditions). The bicycle must be ridden within a single lane. Travel on the shoulder of a road must be in the same direction as the direction of adjacent traffic.
Some prohibitions also apply, such as on: carrying cargo that prevents keeping at least one hand on the handlebars or prevents proper use of brakes, riding no more than two abreast on a roadway or shoulder, and attaching the bicycle to another vehicle. Minn. Stat. § 169.222, subds. 3-5. The vehicles may be operated on a sidewalk except in a business district or when prohibited by a local unit of government, and must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk. Minn. Stat. § 169.223, subd. 3. By default, electric-assisted bicycles are allowed on road shoulders as well as on bicycle trails, bicycle paths, and bicycle lanes.
A local unit of government having jurisdiction over a road or bikeway (including the Department of Natural Resources in the case of state bike trails) is authorized to restrict e-bike use if: the use is not consistent with the safety or general welfare of others; or the restriction is necessary to meet the terms of any legal agreements concerning the land on which a bikeway has been established.
Electric-assisted bicycles can be parked on a sidewalk unless restricted by local government (although they cannot impede normal movement of pedestrians) and can be parked on streets where parking of other motor vehicles is allowed. Minn. Stat. § 169.222, subd. 9.
During nighttime operation, the bicycle must be equipped with a front headlamp, a rear-facing red reflector, and reflectors on the front and rear of pedals, and the bicycle or rider must have reflective surfaces on each side. Minn. Stat. §169.222, subd. 6. An electric-assisted bicycle can be equipped with a front-facing headlamp that emits a flashing white light, a rear-facing lamp that has a flashing red light, or both. The bicycle can carry studded tires designed for traction (such as in snowy or icy conditions).
Helmets are no longer required for e-bike use.
In Opinion No. 2007-00602 of the Attorney General, Jim Hood clarified that a "bicycle with a motor attached" does not satisfy the definition of "motor vehicle" under Section 63-3-103. He stated that it is up to the authority creating the bike lane to determine if a bicycle with a motor attached can be ridden in bike lanes. No specifications about the motor were made.
In Opinion No. 2011-00095 of the Attorney General, Jim Hood stated that an operator's license, helmet, safety insurance, title, registration, and safety inspection are all not required of bicycles with a motor attached.
Electric bicycles appear to be considered as "motorized bicycles" under Missouri law. (307.180 RSMo).
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has this policy for electric bicycle use on the Katy Trail, the state's longest trail partially funded with federal funds:
- All motorized equipment is prohibited except official and emergency vehicles. Electrically assisted pedal-powered bicycles and tricycles (maximum speed of 20 mph) as well as electrically powered-mobility devices for persons with disabilities such as motorized wheelchairs and scooters are allowed.
Electric bicycles are considered as "bicycles" under Montana law as the law defines bicycles in a two part definition where the first part of the definition describes a conventional bicycle propelled solely by human power and the second part of the definition describes a bicycle equipped with an independent power source for propulsion in addition to foot pedals to permit muscular propulsion. (Montana Code 61-8-102).
61-8-102.(2)(b) "Bicycle" means:
(i) a vehicle propelled solely by human power upon which any person may ride and that has two tandem wheels and a seat height of more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is raised to its highest position, except scooters and similar devices; or
(ii) a vehicle equipped with two or three wheels, foot pedals to permit muscular propulsion, and an independent power source providing a maximum of 2 brake horsepower. If a combustion engine is used, the maximum piston or rotor displacement may not exceed 3.05 cubic inches, 50 centimeters, regardless of the number of chambers in the power source. The power source may not be capable of propelling the device, unassisted, at a speed exceeding 30 miles an hour, 48.28 kilometers an hour, on a level surface. The device must be equipped with a power drive system that functions directly or automatically only and does not require clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged.
It should be noted that the definition as written does not define the power of the motor in Watts as is conventionally done for electric bicycles but rather in brake horsepower. Thus for an electric bicycle, motor kit, or electric bicycle motor that is not rated by the manufacture in brake horsepower but rather in Watts a conversion must be made in the units a conversion which is not given in the code of the law and thus the court will have to consider a factor of conversion that is not directly encoded in the law. Industry standard conversion for Watts to horsepower for electric motors is 1 horsepower = 746 watts. Acceptance of that conversion factor from industry, however, as interpretation of the law is subject to the process of the courts since it is not defined specifically in the law.
In addition the specific wording of the law may or may not prohibit the use of a "mid-drive" or "crank-drive" motor set-up where the motor drives the rear wheel of the bicycle through the existing chain drive of a bicycle that has multiple gears depending on several points of interpretation of the law. Specifically the interpretation of the wording, "does not require clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged". A "mid-drive" or "crank-drive" motor set-up on an electric bicycle does indeed allow the operator to change gears in the power drive system between the motor and the rear wheel of the bicycle. Whether or not such a mechanism which allows the operator to change gears satisfies the wording that requires the operator to change gears is a matter of legal interpretation by the courts. Just as "shall issue" and "may issue" (as in laws governing the issuing licenses) in application of the law have two different meanings (in the first case if you meet the requirements they have to give you the license and in the second they don't have to if they decide not to even if you meet the requirements for the license) whether or not "does not require shifting" outlaws electric bicycles where shifting is possible but is not necessarily required is a matter of interpretation. Thus the legality of electric bicycles equipped with a "mid-drive" or "crank-drive" motor set-up in the U.S. state of Montana is not clearly defined.
Nebraska defines a Moped as "a bicycle with fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, an automatic transmission, and a motor with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters which produces no more than two brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the bicycle at a maximum design speed of no more than thirty miles per hour on level ground."
However, under a bill passed February 20, 2015 electric bicycles are explicitly defined.
Bicycle shall mean (1) every device propelled solely by human power, upon which any person may ride, and having two tandem wheels either of which is more than fourteen inches in diameter or (2) a device with two or three wheels, fully operative pedals for propulsion by human power, and an electric motor with a capacity not exceeding seven hundred fifty watts which produces no more than one brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the bicycle at a maximum design speed of no more than twenty miles per hour on level ground.
As of May 19, 2009, Nevada amended its state transportation laws to explicitly permit electric bicycles to use any "trail or pedestrian walkway" intended for use with bicycles and constructed with federal funding, and otherwise generally permits electric bicycles to be operated in cases where a regular bicycle could be. An electric bicycle is defined as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals with an electric motor producing up to 1 gross brake horsepower and up to 750 watts final output, and with a maximum speed of up to 20 miles per hour on flat ground with a 170-pound rider when powered only by that engine.
Under New Jersey law a motorized bicycle is "a pedal bicycle having a helper motor characterized in that either the maximum piston displacement is less than 50 cc, the motor is rated at no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, or it is powered by an electric drive motor and the bicycle is capable of a maximum speed of no more than 25 miles per hour on a flat surface." This would include E-bikes, meaning they must be titled and registered. However, only Mopeds approved by Motor Vehicle Services can be titled and registered.
When last checked, no E-bikes satisfied this requirement, so ebikes cannot be registered in New Jersey. However, NJ Bill A2581, introduced March 22, 2010, would permit the use of low-speed electric bicycles upon the roadways and bicycle paths in NJ, where a low-speed electric bicycle is defined as a two-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor of less than 100 pounds and 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface is less than 20 miles per hour. The bill has been referred to the state's Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee.
New York State (NYS) includes "motor-assisted bicycles" within its list of vehicles which cannot be operated on sidewalks, streets, or highways. A Federal agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has exclusive jurisdiction over electric bicycles as to consumer product regulations.
Despite the illegal status in the state of New York, enforcement of this law varies at the local level. New York City enforces the bike ban with fines and vehicle confiscation for throttle activated electric bikes. However, Tompkins County supports electric bike usage, even providing grant money to fund electric bike share/rental projects.
Several bills have been sponsored to legalize electric bicycles for use on NYS roads, and several have overwhelmingly passed at the committee level, but none of these initiatives has been able to be heard and then passed in the New York State Senate, until 2015. The latest bill S3997, "An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to the definition of electric assisted bicycle. Clarifying the vehicle and traffic law to define electric assisted bicycles; establish that electric assisted bicycles, as defined, are bicycles, not motor vehicles; and establish safety and operational criteria for their use." has passed in the Senate for the first time ever in 2015. The related Assembly bill A233 was not brought to a vote in the assembly even though it had passed with little issue in prior years.
The New York Bicycle Coalition has supported efforts to define electric bicycles in New York State, but has so far been unable to win Legislative passage. New York City has repeatedly drawn media attention for its enforcement of a ban on electric bicycles in certain neighborhoods, with fines of up to $3,000.
The Ohio Revised Code 4511.01  distinguishes motorized bicycles and mopeds from motorcycles or scooters by describing them as "...any vehicle having either two tandem wheels or one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, that is capable of being pedaled and is equipped with a helper motor of not more than fifty cubic centimeters piston displacement that produces no more than one brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of no greater than twenty miles per hour on a level surface." One brake horsepower converts to 0.75 kW, or (rounded) 750W. Thus, a bicycle with an electric helper motor operating under 750W, and not propelling the bicycle over 20 mph, does not qualify to be registered under Ohio state law. Local jurisdictions may have other regulations.
Oregon Law (ORS 801.258]) defines an electric assisted bicycle as an electric motor-driven vehicle equipped with operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the rider, no more than three wheels in contact during travel. In addition, the vehicle must be equipped with an electric motor that is capable of applying a power output of no greater than 1,000 watts, and that is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground.
In general, electric bicycles are considered "bicycles", rather than motor vehicles, for purposes of the code. This implies that all bicycle regulations apply to electric bicycles including operation in bike lanes. Exceptions to this include a restriction of operation on sidewalks and that a license or permit is required if the rider is younger than 17 years of age.
State law defines a motorized pedalcycle as a motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals, a motor rated at no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour. Subchapter J of Publication 45 spells out the vehicle requirements in full.
As of 2008 a standard class C license, proof of insurance, and registration (annual fee: $9.00) are required for operation of any motorized pedalcycle in Pennsylvania. Additionally, there are strict equipment standards that must be met for operation, including: handlebars, brakes, tires/wheels, electrical systems/lighting, mirrors, speedometer, and horns/warning devices.
The definition was clearly written with gasoline-powered pedalcycles in mind. The requirement of an automatic transmission is troublesome for those who just want to add an electric-assist motor to a bicycle, for almost all bicycles have transmissions consisting of chains and manually shifted sprockets. The registration form asks for a VIN, making it difficult to register some foreign-made ebikes. The fine for riding an unregistered electric bike is approximately $160.00 per event as of 2007.
On February 4, 2014, SB997 was introduced by Senator Matt Smith, which seeks to amend PA Vehicle Code to include "Pedalcycle with Electric Assist." In a memo addressed to all senate members, Smith said the definition shall include "bicycles equipped with an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts, weighing not more than 100 pounds, are capable of a maximum speed of not more than 20 mph, and have operable pedals."
On October 22, 2014 PA house bill 573 passed into law, which is Act 154, which changes the definition of "pedalcycle" (bicycle) in the PA state vehicle code. "Pedalcycle" is now defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a "pedalcycle" (bicycle) with electric assist( a vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor rated no more than 750 watts and equipped with operational pedals and travels at speeds less than 20 mph). This bill allows the usage of pedal assisted bicycles in PA that follow the adopted state guidelines.
Tennessee has not passed any legislation that specifically defines electric bicycles. The state does regulate 'motorized bicycles'. However, a 'motorized bicycle' under state law is defined as "a vehicle with two (2) or three (3) wheels, an automatic transmission, and a motor with a cylinder capacity not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters (50cc) which produces no more than two (2) brake horsepower and is capable of propelling the vehicle at a maximum design speed of no more than thirty miles per hour (30 mph) on level ground." If the motorized bicycle statute (T.C. 55-8-101) is held by a court not to apply to electric bicycles, this would arguably exempt persons over 16 years of age from the driver's license and mandatory helmet requirements required of operators of motorized bicycles using internal combustion engines.
Under Tennessee law, a 'motorized bicycle' as defined does not have to be registered nor does a certificate of title need to be obtained. An owner may register the vehicle under regulations issued by the Commissioner of Safety. No endorsement is required on a driver license in order to operate a motorized bicycle, thus the motorized bicycle may be operated by anyone with a valid driver license. Goggles, windshields and other special equipment required for motorcycles and motor-driver cycles are not required for operation of a motorized bicycle. However, crash helmets are required regardless of the operator's age. Minors between the ages of 14 and 16 may apply for a restricted license to operate a motorized bicycle, just as they would to operate a motor-driver cycle. For instance, they must take a written test, vision tests and demonstrate their ability to operate the motorized bicycle. The license issued will be restricted to a motorized bicycle only. The license is valid only during daylight hours and within a seven-mile (11 km) radius of the driver's home. Applicants for any type of license less than eighteen (18) years old, must complete a Minor/Teen-age Affidavit and Cancellation form making the parent or legal guardian financially liable for the applicants action.
"Bicycles" and "Electric Bicycles" are legally defined in the Texas Transportation Code Title 7, Chapter 551 entitled "Operation of Bicycles, Mopeds, and Play Vehicles" in Subchapter A, B, C, and D. Under Chapter 541.201 (24), "Electric bicycle" means a bicycle that is (A) designed to be propelled by an electric motor, exclusively or in combination with the application of human power, (B) cannot attain a speed of more than 20 miles per hour without the application of human power, and (C) does not exceed a weight of 100 pounds. The department or a local authority may not prohibit the use of an electric bicycle on a highway that is used primarily by motor vehicles. The department or a local authority may prohibit the use of an electric bicycle on a highway used primarily by pedestrians.
"Medical Exemptions" are also a standard right in the State of Texas for motorcycles & even bicyclists. Through Texas's motorcycle helmet law (bicycle helmet laws from city ordinances), it is only required for those 21 years old or younger to wear a helmet. However, a medical exemption, written by a certified licensed medical physician or licensed chiropractor, which exempts one from wearing a helmet, can be used for bicyclists if helmets are required.
According to Utah Code <http://publicsafety.utah.gov/dld/documents/MotorcyclesandSimilarVehicles9-08.pdf> a motor-driven cycle means:
Electric assisted bicycle – A moped with an electric motor with a power output of not more than 1,000 watts and is not capable of propelling the device at a speed of more than 20 MPH on level ground, or increasing the speed of the device when human power is used.
A driver license is required to operate a motorized bicycle; however a motorcycle endorsement is not.
UPDATE - new laws specifically exclude electric pedal-assisted bicycles as "motorized vehicles" and bicycles are permitted on all state land (but not necessarily on federal lands, Indian Reservations, nor restrictive municipalities, such as in Park City Code 10-1-4.5 2) if the motor is not more than 750 Watts, and the assistance shuts off at 20 mph (Utah Traffic Code 53-3-202-17-a 1). E-bikes sold in Utah are required to have a sticker that details the performance capacity. Children under 14 can operate an electric bicycle if accompanied by a parent/guardian, but children under 8 may not. (Utah code 41-6a-1115.5) No license, registration, or insurance is required by the State but some municipalities may require these measures (Salt Lake City and Provo require registration).
1 Utah Traffic Code https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title41/Chapter6A/41-6a-S102.html?v=C41-6a-S102_2016051020160510 2 Park city, Utah Municipal Code https://parkcity.municipalcodeonline.com/book?type=ordinances#name=10_Motor_Vehicle
"Motor-driven cycle" means any vehicle equipped with two or three wheels, a power source providing up to a maximum of two brake horsepower and having a maximum piston or rotor displacement of 50 cubic centimeters if a combustion engine is used, which will propel the vehicle, unassisted, at a speed not to exceed 30 miles per hour on a level road surface, which does not require clutching or shifting by the operator. The designation is a replacement for "scooter" and "moped;" Vermont doesn’t seem to have laws specifically for e-bikes.
Operators of motor-driven cycles are required to have a valid driver's license but not a motorcycle endorsement.
"Electric power-assisted bicycle" means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider. For the purposes of Chapter 8 of this title, an electric power-assisted bicycle shall be a vehicle when operated on a highway.
Every person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, or an animal or driving an animal on a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter and shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, unless the context of the provision clearly indicates otherwise.
"Electric-assisted bicycle" means a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor. The electric-assisted bicycle's electric motor must have a power output of no more than one thousand watts, be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than twenty miles per hour on level ground, and be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device beyond twenty miles per hour.
Electric-assisted vehicles capable of more than 20 mph under combined human and electric power may qualify as a "moped" if the maximum speed is no higher than 30 mph.
No person may drive either a two-wheeled or a three-wheeled motorcycle, or a motor-driven cycle unless such person has a valid driver's license specially endorsed by the director to enable the holder to drive such vehicles. No driver's license is required for operation of an electric-assisted bicycle if the operator is at least sixteen years of age. Persons under sixteen years of age may not operate an electric-assisted bicycle. Persons operating electric-assisted bicycles shall comply with all laws and regulations related to the use of bicycle helmets.
Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may have access to highways of the state to the same extent as bicycles. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters are prohibited on sidewalks statewide. State law allows electric-assist bicycles on a multipurpose trail or bicycle lane, but allows local jurisdictions to restrict or otherwise limit the access of electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters, and state agencies may regulate the use of motorized foot scooters on facilities and properties under their jurisdiction and control. If a facility is posted to prohibit "motor vehicles," use of an electric-assist bicycle is included in that prohibition. Mopeds "may not be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail."
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Advocacy and peer support resources
- LaFree Electric Bicycles community forum
- Electric Bicycles UK community forum
- Dealers of YASH ebike community forum
- V is for Voltage electric bicycle section
- Endless Sphere Technology Electric Bicycle Community Forum(all types, reviews, etc.)
- UK Electric Bike Forum
- Forum for owners of Panasonic-powered electric bikes
- EVFuture, Portal with interesting information and discussions about electric bikes in India
- Electric Bicycles
- Electric bicycle guide - Laws
- Regulations of E-Bikes in North America, National Institute for Transportation and Communities, August 2014.