Since electric bikes haven’t been around for that long, it’s still quite problematic to define them in the context of law and traffic regulation. That’s why following the general guidelines and, more importantly, using your common sense and remaining somewhat “humble” on the road is very important. Let’s see what the state of Washington thinks about electric bikes.
How does the state of Washington declares what an electric bike is.
Washington declares that electric bikes are bicycles with a motor - they have two or three pedals, and the motor remains under 750W when it comes to power. There is also a detailed categorization of electric bikes:
- class 1 bikes provide motor assistance when you pedal, but they can only reach about 20 miles per hour
- class 2 bikes assist whenever you need them, and the maximum speed they can reach remains 20 miles per hour
- class 3 bikes work like bikes in class 1, but their speed is slightly higher and the maximum is about 28 miles per hour, which is why these bikes need a speedometer
How powerful can my bike be? Unfortunately, the maximum power your motor can have is about 750W, and you are not allowed to do any modifications regarding the speed or the power.
Do I need a license or insurance? In the state of Washington, there are no licenses or registrations that you would have to worry about in any way. Electric bikes do not require special documentation.
Do I need to wear a helmet? Helmets are only required for those that are under the age of 16. However, you might want to wear them no matter the regulations, simply for your safety.
Are there age restrictions to look out for? Yes, but only for electric bikes of class 3 - you have to be over 16 to operate them. However, you can ride as a passenger no matter your age.
Can I ride on the road? In Washington, you can ride on roadways, but you have limited and controlled access to most bike lanes, paths, and highways. When it comes to sidewalks, there is a strict rule against class 3 bikes, although class 1 and class 2 bikes might be trouble as well, depending on the local authorities.
Can I modify my bike? You can change the looks of your bike and repair it when needed, but it’s not allowed to make it more powerful than the previously mentioned speed and power limit.
Do bike riders need to obey all the traffic signs? Yes, both for your safety and the safety of others. You should follow the exact rules that motorists do - signal your turns, stop at red lights, ride on the right side. However, you shouldn’t act as if you have a motorized vehicle for speed and stunts.
Make sure to find out whether you fall into the categories mentioned above, and then obey the simple rules. Always make sure to visit your county’s local police stations for more updated info.