Although it’s always best to consult your local authorities and a nearby police station for the latest updates on electric bike laws, you can always check out the general info provided online. Electric bikes can be a gray area in law, so make sure to be cautious.
How does the state of California declares what an electric bike is.
The state of California actually classifies electric bicycles as conventional bicycles. They should not exceed 720W when it comes to motor power, and their max speed should be about 28 mph. In some way, they need to have an “emergency brake”, which is the ability to disregard motor function and stop the bike mechanically.
This state also creates a three-class categorization:
- class 1 bikes use electric assist and can reach up to 20 miles per hour
- class 2 bikes provide electric power regardless of your pedaling, but the maximum speed remains the same, 20 miles per hour
- class 3 bikes provide power up to 28 miles per hour continuously
When you find out what category your bike falls in, you can easily observe and understand the key points that explain the California electric bike laws.
How powerful can my bike be? Your bike’s motor should not go over 750 Watts. You cannot modify the bike to reach higher numbers.
Do I need a license or insurance? No, no need to license the bike. If you are over 16, you don’t need to license your bike - not even register it.
Do I need to wear a helmet? If you are under 18, you must wear a helmet. Also, if you operate an electric bicycle of class three, you also need to have a safety helmet.
Are there age restrictions to look out for? Absolutely! You need to be over 16 to ride a bike that rides over 28 miles per hour.
Can I ride on the road? You can, but you absolutely must ride on the far right - if you block the way to other motorized vehicles, you can be discouraged from driving by a local police officer. When it comes to trails, you can’t use class 3 bikes anywhere near trails, bike trails, equestrians, hikers…
Can I modify my bike? Not over the limits of power and speed that are allowed. You’re also not allowed to modify the bike to transport other people at the same time.
Do I ride in the same direction as traffic? Yes, and you should always be on the far right.Do bike riders need to obey all the traffic signs? Absolutely - this ensures everyone’s safety on the road.
Obeying the rules is very important when it comes to the law, but common sense is even more relevant when it comes to gray areas. Make sure to discuss the details with local authorities - better safe than sorry.