As an electric bike rider in the U.S, you need to be aware of the local and state regulations regarding their use. At SDREAM, we want you to be fully informed, so we have put together this overview of US electric bike regulations.
In 2020, Several U.S states made changes to their electric bike classifications. Therefore, it is a good idea to bring yourself up to speed to make sure you stay on the right side of the law. These changes stem from the popularity of electric bikes increasing faster than the rules could previously keep up.
As more people start using electric bikes for recreation and commuting, some U.S states have had to adapt their laws to suit this rapid growth and regulate their use.
Some states have stricter laws than others, and some states are unclear how they regulate electric bikes. Even so, before you ride your electric bike, you need to know the regulations put in place by your state. It is worth noting that commuting and off-road riding may have different rules.
Overview Of Us Bike Regulations
How Do The Different States Define Electric Bikes?
U.S states generally define electric bikes as traditional bikes, mopeds, or scooters. However, there are some states with their own definitions.
Electric bikes come in 3 standard classes. The following states recognize these classes:
However, these 18 states classify electric bikes with their own definitions:
These 11 states currently have not come up with a system for defining electric bikes:
U.S Virgin Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
Differences Between Electric Bike Classifications
Class 1 electric bikes are also referred to as pedelec bikes. These bikes have a top assisted speed of 20 mph. Bikes in class 1 only use their motors when the rider is pedaling to provide assistance.
A class 2 electric bike also has a top speed of 20mph. But this can be while it is being pedaled or while the rider operates a throttle. The throttle allows you to travel without needing to pedal, using the motor power alone.
A class 3 bike works in the same way as a class 1 electric bike, but the assisted speed is limited to 28 mph. Some U.S states impose additional safety restrictions on class 3 electric bike riders.
What Is The Speed Limit For An Electric Bike In the United States?
The U.S federal speed limit for electric bikes is 20mph or less for bikes with a throttle. However, most states stick to the speed limits imposed by the different classes.
Federal law allows electric bikes to travel faster when you combine your pedal power with motor power. But, some areas may have localized speed restrictions.
Even if you are able to ride at high speeds, you need to ensure that you stick to the local speed limits when riding on roads. An example of this is slowing down for school zones with very low speed limits.
What Is The Legal Age That You Can Ride An Electric Bike?
How old you have to be to ride an electric bike depends on which state you are in. Also, age restrictions are often only placed on class 2 and class 3 electric bikes.
Alabama, Alaska, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia have age restrictions on all classes. These states require electric bike riders to be 14 or over. While in other states, riders under this age can still ride electric bikes when supervised by an adult over 18.
There are also 6 states requiring electric bike riders to be 15 years and over, while 15 states have set a minimum age of 16. However, some states have exceptions if the rider is accompanied by an adult.
There are many states without a minimum age requirement, but most of them require riders under either 16 or 18 to wear helmets.
Will I Need A License TO Ride An Electric Bike?
The requirement for needing a license also varies from state to state. Those states where electric bikes are defined as mopeds and scooters require their riders to have a license and registration.
These states include:
States that recognize the three electric bike classes usually don't require registration, licenses, or insurance to be ridden.
E-Bike Definitions & Classifications By State
We have picked out a handful of states and how they define electric bikes. This will give you an overview of what the current electric bike regulations are in the U.S. However, we urge you to do some more in-depth research into your local area to ensure you have all the details.
New York: The state of New York state classifies electric bikes as regular bicycles. But this is only if their electric motor has less than 750w and has fully functional pedals.
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania's definition of an electric bicycle as a "pedalcycle with electric assist." Although, it needs to have a motor with less than 750W to fit into this category. Also, it has to have operable pedals and a maximum speed of 20 mph when using the throttle.
In addition to this, the bike must weigh no more than 100 pounds while the rider follows the correct rules of the road.
Texas: Texas uses the three electric bike classes and regulates them in the same way as traditional bicycles.
Vermont: Electric bikes in Vermont are categorized as "motor-assisted bicycles." They are subject to the same laws as traditional bicycles, but only if they have fully operable pedals. The motor should not exceed 1000w, and its maximum speed should be no more than 20 mph.
Washington: Washington state treats electric bikes just like traditional bicycles. It also uses the 3 electric bike class system.
Wyoming: Wyoming regulates electric bikes like traditional bikes, and the state uses the 3 classes for electric bikes.
South Dakota: In South Dakota has employed the 3 class system used for electric bikes and regulates them just like traditional bicycles.
Oregon: As long as the bike's motor is less than 1000W and its maximum speed is limited to 20mph, Oregon defines an e-bike as an "electric-assisted bicycle."
Rhode Island: Rhode Island's definition of electric bikes is "electric motorized bicycles." They must have fully operable pedals, maximum power of 1491w, and a top speed of 25 mph.
Nevada: Nevada recognizes electric bikes as "electric bicycles." To fit into this category motor has to be under 750w. It should also have a maximum speed of 20 mph and pedals operated by human power.
The fact that you have found this post means you are being responsible and learning where you can ride your electric bike. Of course, this is just a general overview. Still, it is a good illustration of how easily you can get into trouble without knowing the local laws.