Whether you're an experienced e-bike enthusiast or a newbie, every rider should know their state's local and U.S. e-bike laws and regulations.
Electric bikes are growing in popularity as a funny way to explore the outdoors and an eco-friendly alternative to travel around. Electric bikes are popular for leisure, fitness and commuting. Folding e-bikes like HiPeak BONA & ELIAS are the best choice for connecting public transport and urban commuting.
People across the country continue to discover the benefits of electric bikes, either to enhance their daily activities or as an opportunity to explore new territories. Public lands groups also acknowledge the benefits of e-bikes and are expanding their use to riders in national parks, forests and wilderness areas. Before you get on your HiPeak e-bike, it's important to know the current regulations in your state, and other state you plan to ride in.
Below are the three categories used by most states. While these three categories are commonly used to define e-bikes, it is still best practice to contact your local or state authority to find out more about which categories can be used and where.
- Class 1: When an e-bike has a top speed of 20 mph and the electric motor only works by pedaling (pedal assist), it is considered Level 1.
- Class 2: If the electric bicycle is equipped with a throttle-driven motor, it falls into category 2. This motor must stop assisting when the e-bike reaches 20 miles per hour.
- Class 3: The third category of an e-bike is a bike with a motor that should stop assisting when the e-bike reaches 28 miles per hour. Class 3 e-bikes are also called smart e-bikes. Class 3 is the most restricted classification, and some states impose additional safety restrictions on riders riding Class 3 bikes. It's an electric bike equipped with an electric motor, assisted by the use of PAS and throttle, and can reach a top speed of 28 mph.
According to the three-level classification standard, HiPeak’s latest two folding electric bicycles, Bona and Elias, are equipped with a throttle and a 48V 750W motor, and the maximum speed is 15.5 miles per hour. Therefore, the bike should belong to the second-level electric bicycle.
State Laws for Electric Bikes
Let’s talk about the electric bicycle laws in each state. While 36 states recognize a three-tier system for e-bikes, each state can develop its regulations accordingly. That means there are some nuances between them. Let's look at the two states with the most HiPeak use and see how the laws regarding e-bikes differ in this regard.
California recognizes an e-bike as a bicycle with pedals and a motor of 750 watts or less. California requires anyone riding an e-bike to be at least 16 years old. In California, helmets are mandatory when riding e-bikes and transporting passengers is prohibited. This means that two people cannot sit on the same e-bike. California also allows e-bikes to be used on bike lanes if authorized by local authorities or by ordinance. California waives all e-bike categories from motor vehicle financial obligations, such as driver's licenses, registration fees, and license plate requirements.
New York also recognizes e-bikes in a three-tier system and allows them on certain streets and highways. The state's e-bike regulations allow them to ride on highways with a speed limit of 30 mph or less, and on sidewalks unless authorized by local law or ordinance. Certain municipalities may further regulate when, where and how operations will be performed. While there is no age limit for using e-bikes in New York, children under the age of 14 are required by law to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle (including e-bikes) on public roads or bike lanes. It is recommended that children have adult supervision when riding an electric bicycle, as they may not have the same judgment, experience, or physical ability as an adult.
Countries that do not use the hierarchical taxonomy
While most of the 50 states similarly recognize e-bikes, 14 of those states classify e-bikes using a unique definition that differs from the three-tier system. For example, in states such as Massachusetts, a license and registration are required to operate an e-bike. In other states, such as South Carolina, e-bikes are considered "motor vehicles" and are subject to all traffic laws. If you live in one of the states below, please contact local or state authorities to learn more about electric vehicle laws around you so you can continue riding safely.
Which States Enforce Electric Bike Registration?
Most states that define e-bikes as vehicles or the same as mopeds will require riders to meet specific registration requirements for that state. States that currently require e-bike registration are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Tennessee.
Which states require a driver's license to ride an e-bike?
In states where e-bikes are classified as mopeds or scooters, they generally require licensing and registration. Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Wisconsin and North Dakota currently require a permit to ride e-bikes. States that use a three-tier classification system generally exempt e-bikes from registration, licensing, or insurance requirements.
Do I need insurance to ride an electric bike?
A handful of states, including West Virginia, North Dakota, and New Mexico, require e-bike insurance. However, most of these states do not require e-bike insurance. While driver insurance is rarely required, you may want to add your e-bike to your home and contents insurance to protect against theft or damage.
What are the rules for using electric bikes in national forests, BLM lands, and national parks?
In 2019, several agencies expanded access to electric bikes on public lands; these include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), The National Park Service (NPS), The Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation. From 29 August 2019, all e-bikes up to 750 watts (Class 1 and 2) are now allowed on federal land and national parks.
Electric bikes advance the NPS' Healthy People in Healthy Parks goals and are recognized as a positive way to expand access to national parks. They are also seen as a beneficial way to reduce congestion and vehicle emissions in national parks.
In general, e-bikes in national parks and public lands can now be used where conventional bikes are allowed. Traditional and electric bikes are still prohibited in wilderness areas within national parks under federal regulations.
All HiPeak folding e-bikes comply with the above rules in terms of motor maximum power and speed, so rest assured when purchasing any HiPeak bike.
Other security considerations
If your state doesn't have current e-bike regulations, it's worth adopting a three-tier system for general e-bike safety. Helmets are strongly recommended for riders of all ages, even if your state does not require them by law.
Riders of both e-bikes and conventional bikes should make themselves conspicuous, especially if they plan to use busy roads. Keep in mind that e-bikes are still relatively new, so other motorists may not be used to sharing the road with an e-bike and may have difficulty judging how fast you are going.
We strongly recommend that you wear a reflective vest and use flashers and taillights when riding at night. Brightly colored clothing can also help you be more visible to other motorists during the day.
Whenever using an e-bike on the road, obey local road rules such as coming to a complete stop at stop signs, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, and using hand signals when turning.
Knowing the legality of e-bikes and all e-bike rules in your area can help protect yourself and others. This promotes e-bike safety best practices so you can enjoy your ride! Also, it's important to remember that rules and regulations are subject to change in each state. If you still have any questions or are unsure about something, please contact your local e-bike regulations.