E-bikes becoming a thing in the US sparked the need for law regulation. However, I personally, as well as many others, needed clarification on the rules and regulations - despite being informed on the matter.
Even today, every state’s government decides for themselves what they will classify as an e-bike and how e-bikers must act. The general rule I found is that there are three groups of e-bikes, and the bikes are grouped according to their top speed, presence of throttle, and motor power.
Another thing I found is that several states came up with rules so specific that you must research quite a lot to grasp how to drive your e-bike legally.
So, can you ride an electric bike without a license? Let’s see below!
Looking at states’ jurisdictions, I’m pleased to say that, more often than not, you don’t need a license to ride an e-bike; when I say license, I mean any license - a car or motorbike license.
I do have to make a point by saying that while most states and jurisdictions don’t require a license to ride e-bikes - there are some places that do. So before you go on an adventure - you should follow a couple of rules of thumb to stay safe.
As I researched, I found that e-bike laws are drastically different from county to county - but I assure you, it gets easier once you get a grasp of it. The most important thing to remember about riding e-bikes is - you likely do not need a license for it, but you do need to be over 14 or 16.
If you aren’t too sure about the rules in your town or county - give your nearest police station a call to find the legal age limit for electric bikes.
After some fact-finding and fact-checking, I can safely say that most US states use a three-class system to classify our beloved e-bikes. I found the classification system to be fairly simple, and we will discuss it more in-depth below.
When it comes to laws regulating e-bikes, I deduced that it relies heavily on the laws regulating traditional bikes. Keeping that in mind, it can be safe for us to assume that we do not need a driver’s license to ride an e-bike - and that is true for most US territories.
Considering how the law regulation is oriented, I do not find it unusual that e-bikes do not have to be registered. I discovered that local governments regulate where people can ride this type of bike, though.
To add on - the power of e-bikes is regulated, too - the electric-powered bicycles cannot pack more than 750W of power.
The above-mentioned three-class system consists of the following e-bikes classes:
Class 1: Class 1 electric bicycles give cyclists an extra boost of power only when they are pedaling - if they aren’t, the bike cannot run on its own. You can reach top speeds of 20 mph with pedal assistance - and even go over the top if you pedal extra hard.
Class 2: In my opinion, the main difference between Class 1 and Class 2 bikes is the throttle Class 2 bikes are packing. Because of the throttle, these bikes can run without pedal assistance - reaching speeds of up to 20 mph.
Class 3: Class 3 bikes pack the most power and can go faster than other e-bike classes. The motors on a Class-3 bike can provide more power assistance for the biker and reach speeds of up to 28 mph with the use of pedal assistance.
However, most e-bikes we can come across in the US are a combination of the aforementioned categories. Most Aventon e-bikes - a popular choice for many electric bike lovers, are a mix between Class 2 and Class 3, as they can reach a speed of 20mph independently and up to 28 mph with assistance.
Do You Need a License Anywhere to Ride an E-Bike?
Many towns and cities in the US don’t require us e-bikers to have a working driver’s license - but unfortunately, I found that some do. So, if any of you fellow electric bike lovers want to ride down New Island, Mexico, Massachusetts, or Alaska - you will have to pass your driver’s test before you go off.
And that’s not even the end of the story - during my investigation, I found local laws that require us to register our electric rides as mopeds. The personal experience of many e-bikers in these states showed that the registry part isn’t that straightforward, either.
The laws regulate access to paths, trails, and some roadways, meaning that you don’t have usual access to them. However, if you’re fully set on riding your e-bike despite the heavily regulated act, you will just have to be extra careful!
Do You Have to Have a Helmet On When E-Biking?
I have talked in-depth about the law regulation on electric bikes, and it’s heavily based on laws & regulations for good old, traditional bikes. In some states and towns, cyclists must wear a helmet - but it solely depends on where you are.
For example, I found that most states and counties require people to use helmets if they are underage - for example if they are under 18. What surprised me, however, during my research is that some states even require e-bike riders to have a motorcycle helmet on.
I say - no matter how helmet-wearing is regulated law-wise, we e-bikers should never leave home without headgear. Many of our fellow e-cyclists got seriously hurt because they left home unprepared, and most of the time, the injuries could have been avoided by simply wearing head protection.
I advise you to always take everything you need to stay safe and mind others around you - I believe that to be just the right combo to avoid trouble.
Is There a Speed Limit for Riding an E-Bike?
Every one of us e-bike lovers knows that our electric rides run much, much faster than the traditional, pedal-powered variety. Moreover, all of us are guilty of pushing the limits and going as fast as we can sometimes - after all, that is just one of the perks of an electric ride.
On the other hand, I’m certain that a good portion of us doesn’t know about the speed limits for e-bikes. That is why I’m here to discuss the speed limits - for bikers on a Class 1, and Class 2 is 20 mph, and for Class 3 - it’s 28 mph.
For Class-3, the key point to remember is that you can go faster than 28 - provided you’re helping with pedaling.
If you usually don’t drive a car, I have an important note for you: all local speed limits apply to e-bikes, too. Mind the speed signs, especially in school zones. Many e-bikes can easily reach speeds of 30 miles per hour and more, but you can still break the law if you are speeding in school zones!
Can You Ride Your E-Bike on Any Road?
If you want to ride your e-bike in Iowa, Nebraska, or Delaware states, you can ride your e-bike anywhere where regular bikes are allowed - because e-bikes are considered traditional bikes.
So, if you want to ride your e-bike on a trail or bike path, it’s good to know that you can - without breaking the law. I found zero law regulations in Hawaii about places where you can or cannot ride the electric bike - which is good information to remember when riding through Aloha State.
I dove into the e-bike law specifics of each area and state in the country, and I concluded that we could ride our e-bikes on sidewalks in most states, along with the District of Columbia. However, I must make a point by saying that riding on sidewalks applies to Class-1 and Class-2 bikes - riding Class-3 bikes is restricted to bike paths.
I believe that Sunny State decided to mix it up - we e-bikers can ride on sidewalks and bike paths if we use the throttle. If we are fully pedaling - we must stay on the sidewalk.
Luckily, I found that most US states don’t require us e-bikers to have a driver’s license whatsoever. However, I established that there are many laws and regulations regarding electric bikes - and if you cannot find the info online, I advise you to call the nearest police station and check.
Be that as it may - don’t sleep on wearing the helmet when going extra fast on your e-bike. Even if you don’t have to wear the helmet by law, it can protect you when you need it the most.
Now that you know everything about riding an e-bike legally in the US - I believe it’s time for a ride - just mind the local laws!