Are Electric Bicycles Legal?

Electric bicycles have certainly seen a steady growth since they were first introduced in the United States in 1999. This is due to the fact that they are a simple form of transportation that provides riders with the same benefits of traditional bicycles such as the ability to exercise while traveling to various destinations. Bicycles in general are an extremely cost effective form of transportation. Unlike motorcycles they do not require the expenses of licensing, insurance or even gasoline.

Electronic bicycles have the added advantage of providing the rider with a power-assisted boost when climbing steep hills, battling the wind, and when the need to avoid fatigue occurs. If riders experience ailments such as exercise induced asthma, arthritis, or injuries to their knees and legs electric bicycles provide the chance to take part in biking instead of sitting on the sideline or driving an automobile. There are obviously a plethora of benefits to riding an electric bicycle however specific laws do apply.

E-bike Laws in the US

In the United States electric bicycle laws vary from state to state which may be confusing to people that travel around the country or even cross state lines. That being said it is typically a smart idea to follow the federal law concerning electric bicycles. On that note, in 2001 congress passed bill 107-319, the one and only federal law concerning the use of electric based bicycles. The law defines an electric bicycle, otherwise known as an ebike, as a form of transportation that is based on the following factors.

  • Electric bicycles must contain pedals that are connected to a crank. The crank must be connected to a drive train in order for the rider to have the ability to power the bike without the assistance of a motor. In essence the rider must have the option of operating the bike one hundred-percent based on his or her own pedal power. If the bike should happen to contain foot pegs instead of pedals it is considered a motorized vehicle. In this case the bike is required to be both licensed and insured.
  • Another factor that determines if a bike is an electric bicycle or a motorized vehicle is the maximum speed regarding how quickly an ebike has the ability to propel its rider without the use of pedals. For example, the top speed it will go without the added assistance of human power. Electric bicycle motors must be no larger than 750 watts, and be limited to a maximum output of twenty miles per hour. Please note that your state figures may vary from the federal law. While some states allow for larger electric engines with greater mile per hour output, some local laws actually reduce the federal figures. It is highly suggested to check state laws prior to purchasing an electric bicycle in order to guarantee that you are in compliance.

In addition to the federal law there are other electric bicycle riding compliance issue to consider. The use of bicycle helmets is at the forefront of this matter, and the answer varies from state to state. Helmet requirements are yet another situation where riders need to check with their local and state laws. For example, in California all electric bicycle riders are required to wear a standard bicycle helmet, although non-electric bicycle riders are not required to wear a helmet once they reach eighteen years of age. On that note, the minimum age to ride an electric bicycle in California is sixteen, so you will not see children riding ebikes around the neighborhood in that state.


In conclusion electric bicycles are an excellent form of transportation that provides riders with the benefits of a standard bicycle with the added bonus of powered assistance when needed. Many electric bicycle owners find that riding is far more than an excellent way to get out there and exercise. It is a fun hobby, and even a lifestyle. The industry continues to grow and as they become even more popular it will be interesting to see how the electric bicycle laws evolve. Until that time, follow the laws that are already in place, and most of all enjoy the ride.

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