Electric Bike Laws: Know Them Before Riding


Should We Have Electric Bike Laws?

Electric bike laws have been established to protect people against any harm, either if they are walking on a street or riding a bicycle.

Some people might think that an electric bike is just a bicycle and that adding laws is harsh and unfair.

Nowadays, electric bikes are becoming faster, efficient and affordable, which is attracting more people and therefore, an increase potential of accidents.

The quality, speed and some of the newer features have changed the game in recent years. Some of these bikes can get to the same speed as entry-level scooters or gas-powered bikes.

Understanding the laws around using an e-Bike will make sure you stay on the right side of safety.


3 Reasons to Have Electric Bike Laws

We have identified some important reasons that support the decision to make the roads safer.

 

1.    Increased number of accidents

You may think that riding an e-Bike is simple. Just start pedaling, get the motor running and all good.

e-bikes max speed on streets 25km/h photo by Logan Weaver
Photo by Logan Weaver

Yeah, all the above sounds about right, but the contributing factor to the increased number of accidents is the overconfidence when reaching really high speeds.

Having the ability to take off easier than usual and reach the speed in less time, makes people to feel they can overtake slower cyclist and exposing themselves to cars when changing lanes.

You have done it, haven’t you?

In addition to the above, an electric bicycle is way heavier than a standard one, which leads to more distance needed to get to a full stop.

Do the math if you have to stop all of the sudden.

So, why having a license is potentially important? Well, in case of an accident you could be liable for any harm caused to thirds parties.

As you may know, an accident insurance comes into play to cover you and other third parties involved in it.

We don’t think a license help you to avoid a bad traffic situation though, but still will give a bit of reassurance, to the local regulators, that you know how to ride a powered bicycle.

 

2.    e-Bikes are not overpowered

When it comes to selecting an e-Bike, most people want the most powerful one they can find, however, sometimes it is not realistic to ride and manipulate a 1000-watt electric bike motor on most roads.

In fact, many of these bikes might outpace some smaller motor vehicles and it could reduce the need for people to actually buy a car.

This is what maybe we want in the future if commuting is for a urban setting.

Eventually, people are start to take bigger risks and also overloading them when moving from one point to the other.

 

3.    Holds people accountable

The final aspect relates to the previous points and the main reason for these laws is to hold people accountable.

In many countries, including the US, kids and young adults could joyride with these bikes.

Electric Bike Laws modified convensional bicycle

If they are governed, the individual could have a license and be held accountable if caught by a speed camera or involved in an accident.

Lastly, you know there is a lot of alternatives to convert a conventional bicycle into electric (read our guide to find the most suitable kit for your bike).

Unfortunately most people are not aware of what they could have (in terms of maximum motor power) and are led to buying the wrong kits.

Many of these e-bike conversion kits can reach speeds of almost 50 mph (74km/h); so you need to have some skill.

It is frequent to see users being pulled over by police when spotting a converted bicycle because it could be quite obvious (high speed, unsafe parts, etc).


E-Bike Laws in AU, U.S. and U.K.

We know there is so many regulations and differences in every country but for now, these are the main rules for Australia, United States and United Kingdom.

 

Australia (NSW, VIC, QLD)

The Australian Vehicle Standards define an electric bike as any unit which has an auxiliary motor and that its power output does not exceed 250-watts.

Each State and Territory is responsible for enforcing these laws and there are currently no licensing requirements that meets these Standards.

As per the CE EN15194 standard, the Australian government has added an additional category for the e-Bike industry.

Long story short, this allows users to have a motor of 250-watts continuous power that can only be activated when peddling faster than 6km/h. Unfortunately for some, it must cut off when it goes faster than 25km/h.

Keep in mind that you should consider looking at the laws of every State to make sure you adhere to them.

We have already mentioned some rules in our e-Scooters Vs e-Bikes article, but here is a summary of that for four of the States:

  • In Victoria, a user has to have a valid license to operate it on the streets. Check here VicRoads.
  • Queensland is more relaxed and requires users to be at least 16 years old and use the pedal system to activate the motor. A throttle feature can be used if the pedaling is used first.
  • In New South Wales e-bikes have to have the main requirements plus not exceed 35kg of total weight.

 

Read More: Electric Scooters Vs Electric Bike: What is Best?

 

Electric bike laws California (U.S.)

When looking at the laws in the United States, we have found that they are a little less strict.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act has defined electric bikes as:

  • Bicycle or tricycle vehicle that is operated by pedals and a motor.
  • should not exceed 15 mph and,
  • the motor should not produce more than 750-watts of power.

Any e-bike exceeding these specifications will be considered a motorcycle, therefore braking the law.

Much like in Australia, the laws that governs the specs and features of an e-bike are determined State by State.

Depending on where you live in, you might have fewer or more requirements to ride these around.

Whilst doing the research, we also found that in certain States you can even reach speeds of 30 mph. But some others like Alabama for example, will require a license to ride one of these e-bicycles.

Even entry-level ones can be defined as motorcycles by certain State laws.

In contrast, California has placed its standard under the CA State AB1096, which requires that any motorized bicycle is under 750w of motor power and it is within one of these three (3) classifications:

  • C1: provides assistance up to 20 mph.
  • C2: has a throttle feature and cuts off the assistance at 20 mph.
  • C3: provides assistance up to 28 mph and cuts off at that speed.

Anything beyond that assisted level will be out of the classification and therefore, will require a proper license to be operated.

All in all, if you want further advice, we recommend to visit or phone your local county police department or the Department of Motor Vehicles to find out more about the governing laws and make sure that your bicycle adheres to the regulations.

 

The European Union e-Cycle regulation

The European Union governs the definitions and some of the rules regarding electric bikes across Europe.

Nevertheless, each country has individual laws that might be slightly more forgiving than some of the overall E.U. requirements.

The E.U. directive 2002/24/EC defines an electric bike as a pedal-assisted bicycle with an auxiliary motor that can:

  • produce a maximum power output of 250-watts.
  • the power output will incrementally reduce as the bike improves in speed and,
  • it should cut out when the bike reaches a maximum speed of 15.1 mph (again, 25 km/h) and when the cyclist stops pedaling.

While each E.U country will have its own rules and regulations, the one thing that almost every one of them has in common is the maximum power output.

When looking at the bulk of these e-cycle rules, we have noted that the output is 250-watts.

 

The United Kingdom Anomaly

We cannot leave out the United Kingdom as e-bikes are extremely popular in this country.

The U.K. has almost the same laws as the European Union but they do have a weight limit of 30kg. They also specify that riders must be at least 14 years old to ride these electric bikes.

This is somehow good news for manufacturer that want to produce more electric dirt bikes for kids, which are becoming popular for its extreme fun.

 

Read More: Electric Dirt Bike For Kids: Are They Any Good?

 


Electric Bike Laws Wrap-Up

It is clear that there are plenty of e-cycle regulations governing in every country and some of them have a slight different requirement.

Nonetheless, we can conclude that a common factor is the top speed where the motor should could off (25km/h – 15 mph).

Our perspective is that having laws to control not only users but also manufacturers, will keep most people safe when operating them on open spaces.

We recommend to familiarize yourself with any regulations in your country and State to ensure you don’t get hit with any fines.

All in all, we believe that these electric bike laws should be equal in all countries, therefore people can have access to models that are more appealing by the looks and by the need.


 

Paul T

Hi all! I'm Paul, founder and driver of Electric Bike Advisor (EBA). Learning from scratch by repairing and putting together my standard bicycle, I thought it was time to know more about the electric world. Enjoy reading my most honest point of view through our reviews, and learning from our guides, which are researched by professionals in the industry.