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Electric bikes are a modern twist on the classic bicycle and are a burgeoning option for personal mobility devices. This mode of transportation can let people go farther and longer than they might otherwise be able to do on a traditional bicycle. But as with other forms of transportation, regulations have been enacted across the United States to not only protect cyclists but other motorists and pedestrians. Before buying an eBike, make sure you’re aware of what regulations might exist in your state to avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of the law. Additionally, you should learn more about how ebikes work and how to repair them should the need arise like if your ebikes motor makes a clicking noise. Now you can continue reading to see how different states handle ebike regulations.
An electric bike isn’t a car. But the classification used to define this type of transportation matters. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the specific term “electric bicycle” is used. However, regulations can vary across jurisdictions. In the remaining six states, the transportation method is loosely defined as a “moped” or “motorized bicycle”.
Tip: In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the specific term “electric bicycle” is used
Warning: In the remaining six states, the transportation method is loosely defined as a “moped” or “motorized bicycle”
If you’re riding in the following states you may find that trying to understand what you can and can’t do with an e-bike can be difficult:
Along with defining ebikes, many states rely on a one-, two-, or three-tier classification system which defines how fast you can ride on an electric bike, where you can ride it, and what registrations — if any — you need.
However, in both New Jersey and West Virginia, multiple ebike classes are allowed. In New Jersey, e-bikes that follow classes one and two are allowed. And in West Virginia, class one and three regulated ebikes are permitted.
States that follow a one-tier classification forbid the use of throttle-assist ebikes. And once the bike reaches 20 miles per hour (mph), pedal-assist-based motors must stop providing speed assistance. If you are interested in a class 1 bike, you can check out the Yamaha Wabash.
In a class two state, both throttle-assist and pedal-assist ebikes are permitted. But once you reach 20mph, the motor must stop assisting.
In a class three state, only pedal-assist bikes are allowed, but the maximum speed for motor assistance is raised to 28mph.
In 25 states and Washington D.C., there is some kind of helmet stipulation. In most states, helmet requirements are based on the age of the bike users and can vary depending on whether someone is the rider or the passenger.
Only a handful of states require that all people on an ebike wear a helmet regardless of age, or whether they’re a passenger or rider. Connecticut is the strictest, requiring all people wear helmets regardless of the ebike class.
California, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia require that all motorists regardless of age wear a helmet on a class three ebike. This law includes both the rider and passengers.
The remaining states with helmet laws vary by the age of the rider operating the ebike, and may or may not include the passenger — and can also be dependent upon age.
Unsurprisingly, registration requirements for eBikes also vary between states and U.S. territories. Generally speaking, states with a three-tiered classification system allow for eBikes to be exempt from registration regulations. But all of the 26 three-tiered classification states do require ebikes to post a label that shows which classification it falls under and the maximum speed output. Also remember, even if you buy a used ebike, you must register it if the state requires registration.
Tip: Generally speaking, states with a three-tiered classification system allow for eBikes to be exempt from registration regulations.
In Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, and North Dakota, you need a license to operate an ebike.
In the U.S. 43 states and Washington D.C. that clearly define an ebike, there are specific regulations of where an ebike can operate — especially concerning pedestrian paths. However, local municipalities can create additional guidelines for ebike operations which will supersede the state regulations.
Of the 43 states and D.C. that define e-bikes, some state laws, such as in Arizona, Minnesota, Utah, and Washington, specifically allow e-bike operation on facilities such as bicycle paths or greenways, with the caveat that many carve out exceptions for localities to enact stricter operation regulations on such bike and pedestrian facilities. (NCSL)
Under federal law, an electric bicycle is referred to as a “low-speed electric bicycle,” which is defined as “a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” Significantly, this definition provides a maximum assisted speed that an electric bicycle can travel when being powered only by the motor, but does not provide a maximum assisted speed for when an electric bicycle is being powered by a combination of human and motor power. (People for Bikes)