Understanding Electric Bicycle Laws By State: The Ultimate Guide
January 13, 2023
Ebikes are here to stay, and thrive! While this is music to our tires, we also know that, because of this acceptance, there are different forms of classification and categorization that riders need to abide by on a state-by-state basis. Each state recognizes ebikes in their own way and the ebike regulations that go with it.
Thirty-six states define ebikes within the three standard classes, while other states place them in a non-tiered category. In order to better understand what this means, we have put together this guide that will help illuminate how these ebike laws will affect you and your riding experience. Before we talk about electric bicycles laws by state, let’s dive into Federal laws first as an overview then do a more indepth look.
Federal laws surrounding electric bikes have more to do with federal lands than it does the states. This includes National Parks, Bureau of Land Management, and National Forests. The Forest Service and the National Parks Services prohibit the use of ebikes on trails and any natural surfaces. Their rule of thumb is, wherever motorized vehicles are prohibited, so are electric bicycles. As for the BLM, ebikes are allowed on trails limited to bicycles and non-motorized travel only if a BLM Manager has issued a written decision authorizing the use of an ebike in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. This means if you ever plan to ride your ebike on certain trails or through national parks, you’ll need to confirm regulations. When it comes to age limit there is no Federal law that specifies a required age. This is deferred to state legislation and depends entirely on the state. Most states that recognize the three class system require riders to be at least 16 years of age. In this regard, we recommend consulting with local regulations to confirm the safe and legal age for riding different class ebikes.
Ebike Class Categories
Below are the three classes that are used in most states. While the three class categories are commonly used to define ebikes, it is still best practice to contact your local or state authorities to find out more about which classes can be used and where.
This is an electric 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.
This is an ebike equipped with a motor that provides assistance by using both PAS and throttle, and can reach top speeds of 20 mph.
This is an ebike equipped with a motor that provides assistance by using both PAS and throttle, and can reach top speeds of 28 mph.
State Laws For Ebikes
Let’s talk about electric bicycles laws by state. While 36 states recognize the three-class system regarding ebikes, each is permitted to set their own regulations accordingly. This means there are some nuances to each of them. Let’s look at four of Aventon’s most populated states to see how laws on electric bikes differ in this regard.
California recognizes an electric bike as a bicycle that is equipped with pedals and a 750W motor or less. California requires anyone who operates an ebike to be at least 16 years of age. In California it is also mandatory to wear when riding an ebike, and prohibits the transportation of passengers. That means two people cannot be on the same bicycle that is not meant for that kind of use. California also permits the use of electric bikes in the bike lanes only if it is authorized by local authorities or ordinances. California exempts all ebike classes from motor vehicle financial responsibility, such as driver’s license, registration fees, and license plate requirements.
Similar to California, Florida uses the three class system and recognizes ebikes as bicycles. This means that riders, and owners of an ebike are exempt from financial responsibilities such as driver’s license, registration, title certificates and other motor vehicle related fees. Electric bicycles are allowed, but not limited to, streets, highways, roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes, and multi use paths. Children under the age of 16 are required by law to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, including an electric bike, on a public roadway or bike path. It’s also recommended that children have adult supervision while riding an electric bike, as they may not have the same level of judgment, experience, or physical ability as adults.
In Texas, the same rules apply to both bicycles and ebikes. Electric bicycles are regulated like bicycles. In addition, Texas also recognizes the three class system. The minimum riding age for an ebike is 15 for all classes and a person under 15 can ride as a passenger, only if the ebike is designed to carry more than one person. The state department or local authority with jurisdiction can implement certain restrictions, such dedicated mountain bike trails. Electric bicycles generally may not be restricted in places where bicycles are allowed to operate. When in doubt, check for local rules and regulations.
New York, similarly to the above states, recognize ebikes in the three-class system and allows the use of ebikes on certain streets and highways. Electric bicycle regulations in the state allow them to be operated on highways with a speed limit of 30 mph or less, and on sidewalks except when authorized by local law or ordinances. Certain municipalities can further regulate the time, place and manner of operation. While there is no age limit for the uses of electric bicycles in New York, children under the age of 14 are required by law to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, including an electric bike, on a public roadway or bike path. Similarly to Florida, it’s recommended that children have adult supervision while riding an electric bike, as they may not have the same level of judgment, experience, or physical ability as adults.
Other States Using The Three-Class System:
The following 32 states also use the three-class system when it comes to ebike classification. However, similarly to the four states above, the laws may differ slightly depending on the county or city you live in. To ensure you continue to ride safely out there on the road, contact local or state authorities to learn more about the electric bike rules surrounding ebike legislation near you.
States Not Using Tiered Categorization
While a majority of the 50 states recognize ebikes in a similar way, fourteen of them use unique definitions to classify ebikes different from the three-class system. In states like Massachusetts, for example, require license and registration in order to operate an ebike. In other states, like South Carolina, ebikes are considered “motorized vehicles'' and are subject to all traffic laws. If you live in one of these states below, contact local or state authorities to find out more surrounding ebike laws so that you can continue to ride safely.
In Alaska, ebikes are categorized as “motor-driven cycles”. This means it is necessary to have a license in order to operate one. However, the state does not currently require registration or insurance. The age limit is 14 and are prohibited on public sidewalks and bike trails.
In Delaware, the laws and rules regarding traditional bicycles also apply to ebikes. This means ebikes are allowed on paths and sidewalks. In addition, there is a max speed of 20 mph and a motor under 750W. While there is no age requirement in this state, we recommend parents or guardians to use their best judgment if allowing minors to operate them, since electric bicycles have powerful motors, can reach high top speeds, and generally weigh more than traditional bicycles.
In Hawaii, electric bikes are considered "low-speed electric bikes" whose assisted top speed cannot exceed 20 mph on paved surfaces. All ebike owners are required to register and pay a fee of $30 at any city hall satellite locations or the state business registration units in Honolulu. You must also be at least 18 years old to register. Anyone 15 years of age or older can operate an ebike as long as it is registered to a family member.
The state of Kansas prohibits ebikes on interstates and county highways but allows the use of them on city streets and bike paths.
In Kentucky, the same rules of the road apply to both traditional bicycles and electric bicycles. This means it is acceptable to ride on sidewalks and other pathways.
In Massachusetts, ebikes are considered "motorized bicycles" and only recognizes Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes. Since there is a motor attached to the bike, all riders must have a license and registration for the bike. Ebikes are not allowed to be ridden on public sidewalks and bike paths.
Montana recognizes ebikes as bicycles with a motor attached. They are legal to use on bike paths and roadways so long as they do not exceed a speed of 20 mph.
In Nebraska, ebikes are allowed on bike paths and sidewalks. There is also no minimum age required to use an electric bike, however we recommend parents and guardians to use their best discretion when it comes to the use of ebikes because of the powerful motor, top speed 20 mph and 28mph, and weight.
In New Mexico, ebikes are considered "mopeds", meaning riders are required to have license and insurance, and are not allowed on public sidewalks in New Mexico. The use of ebikes on bike paths is not determined at a state level and is subject to city or county ordinances. Riders are encouraged to contact their local governments for information regarding ebike usage on designated bike paths.
In North Carolina, it is legal to ride an ebike on all bike paths, bike lanes, sidewalks, and roadways and public highways with a speed limit of less than 25 mph. All ebikes are expected to yield to pedestrians and traditional bicycles.
In Oregon, electric bikes cannot exceed a speed limit of more than 20mph. This means that only up to Class II are they allowed on flat surfaces, meaning you can switch between the usage of pedal assist or throttle. They are also prohibited to have an output that is more than 1,000W.
In Pennsylvania, ebikes are operable on streets only if they meet the following conditions:
- The rider is at least 16 years of age.
- Includes operable pedals.
- Weighs no more than 100 pounds.
- Has no more than three wheels.
- Has a motor that does not exceed 750W.
- Does not exceed a top speed of 20 mph.
In Rhode Island, similarly to Hawaii and Massachusetts, all ebike riders are required to have a valid driver’s license to ride on public roads. The ebike cannot exceed a top speed of 25 mph from the output of the motor.
In South Carolina, ebikes lack certain categorization, and are therefore considered “motorized vehicles'' and are subject to similar traffic laws. If the ebike has an output of 750W or less, they are exempt form the definition of “moped” and are not subject to the same requirements, meaning riders do not need to have a driver’s license and the bike does not have to be registered. For further information, consult your local authority or agency to see whether ebikes are allowed on bike paths and other roadways.
In Washington, D.C. an electric bike is subject to the same laws for traditional bicycles. They are defined as a “motorized vehicle” as long as it has a maximum speed of 20mph and can be operated by pedals and motor.
The “Move Over” Law
What is the "Move Over" law? It’s a new law that has recently gone into effect for 2023. It requires drivers to slow down and move over and create a 3-foot buffer when approaching cyclists. Among the 34 states that have passed this law, California has made a big push to promote the safety of bikers statewide. Double-check to see how this new law applies to you by consulting with your local legislations!
A Final State-ment
Understanding ebike legality and all the rules for electric bikes in your area can help protect yourself and others. This can promote ebike safety best practices and keep you riding happy! Hopefully you have all the information you need to go out there and have as much fun as you possibly can on your ebike, while still abiding by your electric bicycle laws by state. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that rules and regulations per state are subject to change. Visit People for Bikes for the latest information. Should you have any more questions, or are unsure of something, contact your local authorities on ebike regulations. We hope you have the ride of your life!