If you’ve not jumped on an eBike, what are you waiting for? Over the past few years, the eBike industry has seen amazing growth across the United States and the world. Known by a variety of names, such as electric bicycles, eRiders, and eCycles, these new vehicles have captured the attention of young and old. Local governments promptly got in the act when they realized they needed a way to define an eBike and thus eBike classifications were born.
In most cases, the law doesn’t consider an eBike to
be a fully motorized vehicle. After all, your feet are making the
pedals go around — at least part of the time. Therefore, the legal
restrictions surrounding eBikes are fairly low. Many
states use a standardized eBike classification system, defined
by speed and motor function, to help craft their electric bike
1: The motor
on these pedal-assist eBikes only kicks in when you pedal and stops
assisting when you reach 20 mph.
2: These eBikes have a pedal-assist mode, but
the motor can also propel the bike without pedaling. The top speed for both
modes is 20 mph. This is often called a “low-speed throttle-assisted electric
3:These eBikes feature
an electric powered pedal assist. But you only benefit from the assistance once
you’ve reached speeds of 28 mph. For this reason, it’s often called “speed
pedal-assisted electric bicycle.”
Depending on the city or state you’re in – and the eBike
classification – you might run into other requirements: permit requirements,
lane restrictions, etc. That’s why you should always check with your local laws
Federally, eBikes don’t fall under much scrutiny. The
Consumer Product Safety Commission has widely left any regulation of electric
bicycles to individual states. A 2002
law defined an eBike as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle
that has an electric motor of less than 1 HP that’s capable of reaching less
than 20 mph.
Interestingly enough, the federal description of electric
bikes only notes a maximum speed that the eBike can reach on its
own. It doesn’t place a limit on how fast the eBike can travel under
combined human and motor power. Since most eBikes do combine human
and motor power, the federal law doesn’t regulate how fast a rider can go.
One significant federal shift in electric bike policy came
last year when the National Park
Service announced that eBikes would be permitted in national
parks. The newly approved policy allows eBikes anywhere that
traditional bicycles can go in the parks, including park roads, hardened
or paved trails and any areas that are marked accessible to off-road motor
vehicles. However, this policy only permits pedal-assist (Classes 1 and 3)
States typically place stricter rules on how fast
an eBike can travel and who can ride eBikes. Many states
consider electric bikes a subtype of a motorized vehicle and place age
restrictions on riders or enforce helmet laws.
Thirteen states use the three electric bicycle classifications
to regulate riders. These restrictions vary based on the type of bike and the
individual state law. For example, one state may require
all eBike riders and passengers to wear a helmet,
whereas another will only require those under 21 to wear a helmet. Riders
should fully understand the different classes of eBikes to make
sure they’re within their state and local municipalities’ rules at all
New York has had a troubled history with eBikes. In a state with
the most populous – and in many eyes, most cutting edge – you would
expect up-to-the-minute legislation. However, a handout
for Bikes shows New York’s laws to be the strictest among the 50 states,
causing many people to believe that eBikes are illegal. New York law
does allow pedal-assist bikes but prohibits throttle-only bikes, treating them
as motor scooters.
Furthermore, New York state law requires eBike riders to
register their bikes the same way they would register any other motor vehicle,
but there’s no system in place for registration. So, while it’s legal to
purchase and own an eBike in New York, it’s illegal to ride one since
it cannot be registered properly. Confusing, right?
Fortunately, change is in the air — Governor
Cuomo has promised to include eBike
laws in his 2021 state budget. Hopefully, more practical
guidelines can help bring New York City an eBike revolution.
While New York is an extreme case of state regulation, most states
are much more supportive. For example, California has been very welcoming
to eBike riders. This state focuses its legislation on the age of
riders and protective headgear. In
California, all eBike classifications are legal, but riders of
Class 3 eBikes must be over the age of 16, and all Class 3
cyclists must wear helmets at all times. Riders in other classes must wear
helmets if age 17 or below.
Riding an eBike lets you exchange traditional modes
of transportation for a thrilling and highly beneficial way to travel.
Consumers have already discovered this fact in Europe and Asia and predictions
show Americans following in their footsteps, or pedals as the case may
be. SWAGTRON® is primed and ready to supply the eBike market with a
variety of popular models. Portable commuter bikes like the EB5
PRO and full-size city bikes like the EB12
with removable battery are sure to appeal to urban riders. For
adventurers, SWAGTRON has off-road
models that can handle the toughest of terrain.
If you’re considering an eBike purchase, check the laws
in the area where you will be riding. Most states and federal areas are very
accepting of electric bikes. Several promote their use, so chances are
good you can find a class of eBike that works in your area.