Over the past couple of years, electric bicycles have become increasingly popular. Their popularity has exploded during the pandemic season. You are likely looking to purchase an electric bike, or you might already own one. Whatever your situation is, it’s vital that you understand your state’s electric bike laws to avoid getting in trouble with authorities. First, there are two types of e-bikes, pedal-assist or muscle-assist and throttle-assist.
A pedal-assist electric bike can be powered by both the muscle power by pedaling and by the electric motor when you engage it. On the other hand, throttle-assist e-bikes are solely powered by the electric motor. At the moment, pedal-assist e-bikes are the most popular. Now, you are likely wondering- What are my State’s electric bicycle laws? Since e-bikes are a relatively new thing, the answer is more complicated than you might imagine.
Recent State Legislative Actions
Since 2015, numerous states have been moving quickly to update their regulations on e-bikes or create new ones. The action that the state legislative houses have taken include:
- Revising outdated legislation that classified e-bikes as scooters and mopeds. This obsolete legislation is a problem of unnecessary complications like the registration, licensure, and equipment requirements for operating electric bikes.
- Developing a three-tier system for classifying e-bikes based on their speed capabilities
- Refining the updated electric bike laws that need more detail and further clarification
Currently, five states don’t define e-bikes in their legislation: North Dakota, Missouri, New Mexico, Alabama, and Massachusetts. The rest (44 states and the District of Columbia) define an electric bike in some manner. However, only 26 of these states have adopted the three-tier classification system, including California, Texas, Idaho, and New York.
Breaking Down the Three-Tier System
- Class 1 e-bike: – This is an electric bicycle with a pedal-assist motor and a maximum speed of 20 mph.
- Class 2 e-bike: – This is an e-bike with a motor that can be utilized exclusively for power and with a top speed of 20 mph.
- Class 3 e-bike: – This is an electric bicycle with a pedal-assist motor and a maximum speed of 28 mph.
Roughly 25 states plus the District of Columbia have some form of helmet requirements for both electric bicycle riders and passengers. The helmet requirement is for riders below a certain age in some states. In California, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia, all Class 3 e-bike riders must wear a helmet.
E-Bike Licensing and Operation
At the moment, it’s only in the six states that have no definition for e-bikes in their legislation that you need a license to operate an electric bike. This is because, in these states, e-bikes are still classified as motorized vehicles. If you live in any other state, all you need to ride an e-bike is an e-bike.
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