Many countries like USA, Canada, UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and Switzerland have enacted laws about an electric vehicle to regulate the safe use of e-bicycles. In the United States and Canada, federal regulations govern manufacturers’ standards for electric bicycles.
However, all countries have not similar laws regarding motor vehicles. Some countries enact only national regulations. Some have complicated municipal laws, provinces and state laws. But the very first thing everyone should know about electric bicycles is that they are staying for years. Although they are simple as regular bicycles but have a controller, a battery, and a motor. The motors are fixed to increase the speed per hour. That is why each country has some laws to ensure the safety of riders.
All people who are interested in purchasing an electric bicycle have questions about the legal limits of their use. And those who have already bought this vehicle feels doubt that either they are free to ride or not. To check the efficacy and fairness of motor vehicle laws, we will give a brief understanding of what these laws are actually saying.
1 – US Federal Bicycle Laws
Moreover, this interesting information regarding laws is helpful in choosing the perfect electric bike according to needs. As the number of e-bikes increased, the US Government passed the first federal law bill in 2001. According to this law, 107-319, all bicycles having pedals, 20 miles per hour speed, and less than 750-watt motors are exempted from the authorized definition of electric motor vehicle.
In United States Federal law, all low-speed e-bikes are similar to a bicycle. So, these Laws apply to fast speed motor vehicles just for the sake of safety. One more thing, exemption from the motor vehicle definition doesn’t mean such e-bikes are exempted from other laws of the state, federal, and traffic. It seems laws are made for manufacturers to give them a legal framework about the sale of fast and low-speed e-bikes. In this Federal Law Act, high-speed electric bikes must be regulated by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
1.1 – US State Bicycle Laws
As discussed above, some countries have complicated state and federal laws. The United States has the same scenario. Its federal laws are fixed for selling low or high-speed electric bicycles, but States laws are confusing in 30 states. To have an electric bike is really a nice feeling. But to ride it on a road has some irritating regulations. So, before purchasing an electric bicycle, you should check the motor vehicle statutes of your own state. Yes, it’s compulsory, because you must have to obey the strict traffic laws. For more understanding about laws, you can visit Wikipedia. But keep in mind “you can’t rely on any online source for such legal discussion” LOL. A Wiki can be a starting point not have an in-depth data on laws.
2 – DC E-bike Laws
There is no distinction between e-bikes classes and no proper definition of an electric bike in DC. In addition, it doesn’t categorize scooters and considers an e-bike as a motorized bicycle with a mounted post seat (saddle). Or a vehicle having two or three wheels with a 16-inch diameter. Moreover, this bicycle must be equipped with operable pedals and motor to propel the device at 20mph speed. According to the District Department of Transportation in DC, no motorized bicycle is allowed on the sidewalk or in the bike lanes. According to the poor definition of PMD, you are not allowed to use personal mobility device if;
- You don’t have a registered vehicle
- You are under 16
- Going above 10 miles per hour speed
- On the sidewalk within the CBD (Central Business District)
- Have some package or another thing in hand (you don’t use both your hands to control the handlebar)
- You are wearing headphones, headset, and earphone on the sidewalk and roadway. Hearing aid devices are allowed to wear.
A class 3 electric bike doesn’t come under the definition of a motorized bicycle in the DC as these bikes are too fast. If DDOT considers such bikes as motor-driven cycles then the rider must have insurance, helmet, registration. And they can’t go on trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes. The class 3 bike registration fee is half as compared to the car.
As the number of bikes is increasing in DC, the legislative bodies of DC and other cities are considering to make some changes in regulations for motorized bikes. They are drafting such rules that allow the pedal-assisted e-bikes on sidewalks, trails, and other prohibited areas. The National Institute of Transportation and Communities has published a new report on electric-bikes in North America. If you are interested to learn more, you can read it in detail.
3 – NYC Bicycle Laws
Six days every week, 50,000 delivery workers on bicycles sweep through the New York Streets. Majority of workers use e-bikes for their job. Until now, e-bikes were illegal to use in the city even the riders paid stiff fines for it. Now e-bike laws are on the way to bring a piece of good news for delivery workers. Unfortunately, not for all, as this new law is only for “pedal assist” bikes with speed not more than 20 miles per hour. Throttle bikes are still banned with a speed of 28 miles per hour.
3.1 – Fine for Throttle E-bike
For Throttle bike, there is a heavy fine in New York. A delivery man Yidi Zhu, was stopped and issued a ticket of $500. And his bike was seized as a penalty. He said,
“I had to go to court to get the bike back, so I lost four or five days of work”.
There are chances, but not sure, the throttle bikes will get legal approval from higher authorities. As in a conference, Brooklyn’s borough president, Eric Adams, said
“The motorized bikes the delivery personnel use is something that we should find a way to incorporate into the system,”
4 – California E-bike Laws
Jerry Brown (California Governor) has signed a bill on an electric bike that clarifies all points and gives a clear image of regulations throughout the United States. Because current laws are more confusing. According to California law, all electric bikes will follow the rules of conventional bicycles. And there will be three categories of electric bikes.
- Class 1 electric bicycle
- Class 2 electric bicycle
- Class 3 electric bicycle
4.1 – Specifications of Class 1 electric bicycle:
- 9 pedal assist levels
- Maximum speed 20 miles per hour
4.2 – Specifications of Class 2 electric bicycle:
- Motor for propelling the bicycle
- Maximum speed 20 miles per hour
4.3 – Specifications of Class 3 electric bicycle:
- Maximum Speed 28 miles per hour
- The helmet is necessary for this level riding
- The age of the rider must be 17 and under. Class 3 e-bikes are illegal for 16 and underage riders.
Infographic People representation for Bikes in the new California law.
This new law has been applied since January 1, 2016.
5 – Canada Bicycle Laws
The rules and regulations for electric bikes fall in the grey area. Here are some questions that must be answered properly to minimize the confusion among pedestrians and motorists. Is it a bike or a motorcycle? Shall it be driven on the road or on the sidewalks? Like all countries, Canada has specific laws for e-bike riders.
5.1 Federal Laws Highlights
- Operable Pedals
- 500 Watt or less electric motor
- Maximum speed 32 km/hr.
- No license
- No vehicle registration
5.2 – What the Ontario Ministry of Transportation says about e-bikes?
E-bikes seem similar to motorcycles, scooters, and traditional bicycle. At first glance, it is hard to differentiate it from other electrical devices. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has set some features of e-bikes.
- Steering handlebars
- Working pedals
- An electric motor, not more than 500 Watts
- 32 km/h maximum speed
- 120 kg maximum weight
- Minimum wheel width is 35mm/350mm
- Can’t ride if you are intoxicated
- Must have ID CARD to show your age proof
- A permanent label from the manufacturer in both English and French stating that your e-bike conforms to the federal definition of a power-assisted bicycle.
“Any modification for the purpose of more speed and power is illegal”
5.2.1 – Road Rules for E-bike in Ontario
Road rules are one of the contested issues, especially with e-bikes. As all age people love to ride on their electric bicycle. Even they drive it on bike paths, on roads, off roads, and another place they like the most. No driving license is required, but your age should be 16 years. Good bike condition and helmet are necessary if you are in Ontario.
For more detailed information about road rules for an electric bike. Here are the comments of Michael Vaughan of The Globe and Mail.
“The Province of Ontario permits e-bikes to be operated like bicycles and, while riders don’t need a license or insurance, they must wear helmets and these so-called bikes must be equipped with pedals. Since electric bikes are classified as bicycles, they don’t have the same braking and lighting, as licensed motorcycles and scooters.”
Moreover, an e-bike rider can use highways and residential roads where all traditional bike riders go. The Ministry of Transportation has also mentioned some roads where you can’t go with your e-bike e.g. 400-series highways, municipal roads, major highways of the province, sidewalks, bike trails, and other e-bike prohibited areas. And you will have to pay $250 as fine for going through a recreational park with an e-bike.
5.3 – British Columbia
In British Columbia, E-bikes are known as “motor assisted cycles”. Regulations for e-bike are same as in the federal.
- Operable pedals
- 500 Watt or less battery
- Maximum speed 32 km/h
- Minimum age 16 years
- Must have a helmet
The motor must stop working when:
- You don’t use pedals
- An Accelerator controller releases
- You push a brake
5.4 – Alberta
The e-bikes are power bicycles in Alberta. This province stipulates a few rules for bike rides.
- 12 year or more age
- Must wear helmet
- A passenger can sit only if a bike has a passenger seat.
5.5 – Saskatchewan
The Saskatchewan has divided the power-assisted bicycles into two different categories. First is the electric assisted bicycle. It has two or three wheels and a rider uses motor and pedals at the same time. The second is power cycle. For it, a rider can use either motor or pedals. Other rules are as follows;
- 16 years age
- Learner’s driving license for power cycles
- No license for an electric assisted bicycle
- Must wear helmets for both types
5.6 – Manitoba
Manitoba has different legislation from the federal government. In this province, e-bikes are classified as mopeds, scooters or other mobility vehicles on the basis of an engine and top speed. No license is required if e-bike speed doesn’t exceed 50 km/hr. The age of the rider is 16 years in Manitoba and he must be enrolled in class 5. (Class 5 graduated licensing process).
5.7 – Quebec
- A power-assisted bike is allowed
- Rider age must be 14 years
- Scooter or moped license for less than 18 years riders
5.8 – New Brunswick
This province follows federal legislation but demands that wheel rims must be larger than 9″ (22cm) and the seat must be 27″ (68cm). There must be headlight for night travels.
5.9 – Nova Scotia
- Motor power must be 500 Watt or less
- One wheel must 13-inch 35cm for a two wheeled-bike
- Two wheels must be 350cm for four wheeled-bikes
- Must wear an approved helmet w- chinstrap
5.10 – Prince Edward Island
The e-bikes are known as “Motor Assisted Pedal Bicycles” and follow the same rules as mopeds do. There are many rules for e-bikes, but the rider must be 16 years old or more and have proper registration and driving license.
5.11 – Newfoundland and Labrador
Both follow federal laws for all e-bikes.
5.12 – Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut
Federal laws and provincial laws are the same for northern territories.
5.13 – How Local Municipalities Treat E-Bikes
Local bylaws have a strong hold on restricting e-bikes on bike lanes and bike paths. In Toronto, there was a ban on e-bikes on lanes and bicycle paths, but the city has revised the regulations.
“E-bikes which are similar to bicycles (“Pedelecs”) are considered to be bicycles by the municipality of Toronto and may be used on all types of cycling infrastructure. This includes painted bike lanes, Cycle Tracks (separated bicycle lanes) and multi-use trails where regular bicycles are allowed. By its definition in the Toronto Municipal Code, a “pedelec” must weigh less than 40kg and requires pedaling for propulsion.”
If you have any question about e-bike regulation you can contact the municipality.
6 – UK Electric Bicycle Laws
Do I need a license for my electric bike? What should be the legal output power for my e-bike? These are common questions in the UK before buying an electric bicycle. As you can see fewer cycle riders in the UK as compared to other countries. Both NOGs and municipalities are struggling to increase the use of biking for shorter distances in urban areas. As everything is moving forward in the sense of mobility, it has become important to keep everyone safe on the roads. Here are some aspects which every rider must keep in mind while biking in the UK.
Please remember! We are just giving you some highlights of regulations, don’t consider it an official letter of the UK law.
6.1 – E-bike definition in the UK
An electric bike is called “electrically assisted pedal cycle” in the UK. Your bike must have pedals, an electric motor that stops assisting you on 15.5mph (25 km/h) speed. The maximum output power must be 250 W.
6.2 – UK e-Bike Requirements
For safe cycling, there must be white light on your bicycle. It will keep you straight on your track side by side you will not face any unexpected accident just because of darkness around you. For a quick response on any unusual happening, breaks must be fitted on the bike. In the UK riders enjoy a two-function braking system. They use left hand to press the lever for the back brake and right hand for the front brake. Other requirements include;
- Your age should be more than 14 years
- License required
- Tax on vehicle
- Vehicle insurance mandatory
- Must wear a helmet
6.3 – UK Throttle Dilemma Solved…
The throttle is a type of electric bike that allows full speed riding without any use of pedals. Above mentioned rules are for paddle-assisted bicycles, what should be the rule for throttle? On January 1, 2016, this dilemma has solved. All those throttles are legal which assist the riders without pedals up to 3.7 mph (6 km/h).
6.4 – Interpretations or Misinterpretations
The founder of e-bike retailer “James Fitzgerald says, “according to EU and UK law, there is a 10 percent margin on the maximum speed allowed for the motors to assist the pedals. But nobody knows about that.”
It means a motor can assist the rider up to 17.5mph speed.
Another interpretation is from the founders of Volt e-bike “Lyle and James Metcalfe”. They said that they have never heard of this margin.
Peter Eland, the bicycle association technical manager says, “The 10 percent margin was clear in the EU legislation, but it’s questionable in the UK. Some motors cut off at the maximum speed allowed, some before that, but the majority does exceed the tolerance a little.”
The above interpretations show that there must a clearer picture of such laws to assist all riders in the UK.
7 – Europe Bicycle Laws
According to the latest updates regarding e-bikes riders in the European Union, the commission has decided to declare all e-bike riders as illegal who doesn’t have a third party liability insurance. If this point becomes a law, there will be a negative effect on the e-bike riders and investors. The commission has also decided to put low-powered electric bikes under the third party insurance.
In response to the European Commission report, ECF’s Bodor said that “With this text, the European Commission is trying to criminalize millions of current power-assisted bicycle users, almost all of whom have some kind of other insurance and has effectively banned pedelec use without insurance usually reserved for motor vehicles,”
Currently, legal pedal-assisted electric bike in the EU has the following criteria;
- Battery powered 250 Watt Motor
- 25 km/h Speed
The ECF and the cycle industry petitioned the EU Commission to draw a line between a power-assisted electric bike and a motor vehicle. However, the Commission considered motorized vehicles as e-bikes.
In another document from a press release of the Commission, it is mentioned that “evaluation demonstrated that new types of motor vehicles, such as electric bikes (e-bikes), Segways, electric scooters etc, already fall within the scope of the Directive as interpreted by the Court of Justice in its case-law.” And “The use of these new types of electric motor vehicles in traffic has the potential to cause accidents whose victims need to be protected and reimbursed swiftly.”
The most important point is, this deal is not done yet. When commission needs votes from the European Parliament for approval. There are chances of keeping e-bikes safe from this new definition by the commission.
8 – Australia Electric Bike Laws
Every electric bicycle rider violates the laws if he doesn’t use pedal assistance on 200 W maximum output power or use the pedal on 250 Watt. And a legal letter is needed when you go to 6km/h via cruise or throttle. For both means of transportation, the speed must be 25km/h. There are no regulations if you are not on the road.
9 – New Zealand E-bike Laws
To ride on 300 Watt motor-assisted cycle is normal. There is no hard and fast rule for it if you are in New Zealand. Vehicles with more than 300-watt motor come under moped rules. Specifically for such bikes, there must be proper registration and license. A helmet is necessary for all types of bikes.
10 – Russia Electric Bicycle laws
Russian Government gives freedom to bicycle riders as there is no license for the motor-assisted bicycle with 250 Watt output power.
11 – Switzerland Electric Bicycle Laws
There is a process of getting a license for e-bike with 45 km/h speed. Although Switzerland is not in Europe, regulations are similar to the EU.
12 – References:
- Pete, New California Law Brings Clarity to Electric Bike Regulations (OCTOBER 8, 2015) https://electricbikereport.com/new-california-law-electric-bike-regulations/
- Eric Hicks, Is My E-Bike Legal? USA EBIKE Law (April 23, 2013), https://www.electricbike.com/electric-bike-law/
- Morgan Lommele, e-bikes campaigns manager, Clearing up e-bike legislation in the U.S., May 26, 2015, http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/clearing-up-e-bike-legislation-in-the-u.s
- PA Electrics, Electric Bike Specialist, Legislation, Laws and Regulations, Electric Vehicles http://www.paelectrics.com/legislation.html
- Electric-Bikes.com, Electric Bicycles: Legal Issues, http://www.electric-bikes.com/bikes/legal.html
- Wikipedia, Electric bicycle laws, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#United_States
- Electric Bike Action Magazine, Pedal-assisted bicycles and the Law, February 20, 2014, http://www.electricbikeaction.com/e-bike-laws/
- Nick Busca, June 24, 2016, Electric bikes and UK law: what you need to know
- Scotty, Electric bikes and the law, http://dillengerelectricbikes.com.au/blog/electric-bikes-and-the-law.html
- Putting the brakes on e-bikes, APRIL 30, 2018, MICHAEL VAUGHAN https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/technology/putting-the-brakes-on-e-bikes/article4452080/