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Electric Bike Laws in the U.S.: What You Need to Know Before Riding an E-Bike

by DYUCYCLE USA 09 Aug 2023 0 Comments


In recent years, electric bikes, or e-bikes, have emerged as a popular and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gas-powered vehicles. With the rising prevalence of e-bikes, it is critical to familiarize oneself with the regulations that govern their use in the United States.

This article will examine the legal definitions of electric bikes, their classification, and the various state laws that dictate their speed, safety, minimum age, and licensing requirements.

What is an Electric Bike?

An electric bike is a bicycle outfitted with an electric motor that aids the rider in pedaling. While e-bikes can be pedaled like conventional bicycles, the motor supplies additional power, facilitating more comfortable long-distance cycling or hill climbing.

The federal definition of an e-bike, as provided by the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSC) of 2002, characterizes it as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with an electric motor no more powerful than 750 watts (1 horsepower) and a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour when solely powered by the electric motor.

At the state level, most states have adopted e-bike definitions that align with federal regulations, categorizing e-bikes as bicycles provided they adhere to the specified power, pedaling, and speed criteria.


Electric Bike Laws in the U.S


Classification of e-bikes

The three-class system for e-bikes was first proposed and advocated by the PeopleForBikes Coalition and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA). These organizations collaborated to draft model e-bike legislation for states to adopt. This classification system helps to regulate the various types of e-bikes based on their operational capabilities, providing clarity to consumers, manufacturers, and law enforcement agencies.

  • Class 1: These are pedal-assist e-bikes with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and cuts out at 20 mph.
  • Class 2: These are throttle-on-demand e-bikes that can be powered even without pedaling, up to a speed of 20 mph.
  • Class 3: These are also pedal-assist e-bikes but have a higher speed limit, with assistance cutting out at 28 mph. These e-bikes are also required to have a speedometer.

This model legislation started to gain traction around 2015 when it was first passed in California under Assembly Bill No. 1096 (AB-1096). This law also defined where each class of e-bikes could be ridden, with Class 1 and 2 e-bikes being allowed in the same places as traditional bikes, and Class 3 e-bikes being restricted to roads or bike paths adjacent to a road.

After the success in California, other states began adopting similar legislation, with over half of the states in the U.S. having adopted this three-class system. However, the specifics can vary from state to state, and some states have yet to define e-bikes in their legislation.

Speed Limits

Most states follow the federal classifications for e-bikes, with Class 1 and 2 e-bikes limited to 20 mph and Class 3 e-bikes limited to 28 mph.

However, some states have established their own speed limits for e-bikes, Take California, Class 3 e-bikes are limited to 28 mph on bike paths, but they are restricted to 20 mph on multi-use paths.

While in Illinois, Class 3 e-bikes are limited to 20 mph on bike paths and multi-use paths.

Safety Requirements

Many states have implemented safety requirements for e-bikes, which may include:

  • Helmet use: In some states, like California and New York, helmet use is mandatory for all e-bike riders under 18 years old. In other states, such as Delaware and Maryland, helmet use is required for all e-bike riders, regardless of age.
  • Lighting: Some states, such as Washington and Oregon, require e-bikes to have both front and rear lights for nighttime riding.
  • Reflectors: E-bike riders may be required to use reflectors or reflective clothing in certain states, like Florida and Texas.

Minimum Age

The minimum age for riding an e-bike varies by state and e-bike classification. For example, riders in California must be at least 16 years old to operate a Class 3 e-bike, but there is no minimum age requirement for Class 1 or 2 e-bikes. In Illinois, riders must be at least 16 years old to operate any e-bike.

Licensing and Registration

Most states do not require e-bike riders to obtain special licenses or register their e-bikes. However, some states, like Illinois and New Hampshire, require e-bike riders to have a valid driver's license or learner's permit to operate a Class 3 e-bike.

Some states require e-bike registration, e.g., California, Colorado, and Utah. The registration aims to help recover stolen e-bikes.


Electric Bike Laws in the U.S



E-bike laws in the United States are a patchwork of federal and state regulations, and it is essential to be aware of the specific rules that apply to your area.

Before riding an e-bike, take the time to familiarize yourself with the local laws governing speed limits, safety requirements, minimum age, and licensing. Doing so will help ensure that your e-bike experience is both safe and enjoyable.


Q: How fast can e-bikes go?

A: The federal definition limits low-speed e-bikes to a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph. Some states have created a Class 3 e-bike classification for models that can reach 28 mph when assisted.

Q: Are helmets required for e-bike riders?

A: Some states require helmet use for e-bike riders, especially for higher-speed classes. Others have broader helmet laws for all cyclists under a certain age. Check your state's specific helmet requirements for e-bike riders. Wearing a helmet is always recommended for safety.

Q: Can I ride my e-bike on sidewalks?

A: In general, riding an e-bike on sidewalks may not be allowed or may be restricted to certain areas. It can pose a risk for pedestrians, as e-bikes are usually faster and heavier than traditional bicycles.

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