A Primer On U.S. Electric Bikes Laws

A Primer On U.S. Electric Bikes Laws

Electric bikes have been steadily growing in popularity over the last decade, which has led to the need for some laws and restrictions across the U.S.

Although it may seem unnecessary to regulate electric bikes, these laws are for the safety of both the rider and others who may be around them.

Even though they are still technically bikes, the fact that some models can ride around 25 mph without pedaling makes them low speed motorbikes in some ways, requiring them to be allowed only on certain roads, and often with a license.

Here are some of the more notable electric bike laws across the U.S.

ELECTRIC BIKES AS DEFINED BY LAW

According to the Consumer Product Safety Act, “a low speed electric bicycle is defined 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).”

CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles. are exempt from classification as actual motor vehicles if 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.

Any bike that exceeds the specifications listed above in regards to power and speed are regulated by the federal DOT and NHTSA as motor vehicles, and must meet additional safety requirements.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STATES

While electric bikes are defined on a federal level, states have their own laws that can vary on a number of different factors. These include

  • ​Identity: How does the state view the bike? (ex:motorized bike, moped, etc.)
  • ​Type: How is the bike’s type defined (ex: motorcycle vs. bicycle)
  • ​Type
  • motorcycle
    ​Max Speed
  • motorcycle
    ​Max Power
  • motorcycle
    ​Helmet: Required or no?
  • motorcycle
    ​Helmet: Required or no?
  • motorcycle
    ​Minimum Age Requirement
  • motorcycle
    ​License: Is a license or endorsement required?

​​​Now, as we said, every state is different. Currently, 37 states have various laws for electric bike usage available, while 13 currently have no legislation listed online. (This does not mean these states lack laws regarding.)

While most every state allows these bikes, New York technically doesn’t as a state, although there have been several efforts on city levels to offer regulation. Momentum is building for just that.

Other states are much more lax, such as Colorado, where there is no minimum age, no license required, and no helmet laws.

Keep in mind that these laws refer to electric bikes that have throttle-only motors available. Pedelecs (pedal-assisted) are not subject to regulations.

A helpful chart for each state can be found here.

CONCLUSION

Electric bike laws are necessary, but the level of cohesion between states leaves much to be desired. Time will tell if restrictions are loosed further, as electric bikes continue to rise in popularity.

Do you have any experience with electric bike laws in your area? Feel free to share the information below. Thanks!

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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