There are a lot of laws out there, considering transportation and personal vehicles. Many of them are a little confusing, but some of them are downright impossible to find.
Electric bikes, for example, are a current hot topic without much information.
Are electric bikes legal in the USA?
There is no Federal law banning the use of electric bikes on public roads. However, the regulation of electric bikes often falls on states and local authorities. Before you buy an electric bike, check your state’s Vehicle Code to see if they are allowed on state roads or not.
What Exactly is an “Electric Bike”?
Many consider electric bikes the “new way to move around”.
They are affordable, eco-friendly, and are remarkably easy to maintain compared to cars and motorcycles.
However, the confusion lies over their legal status, even as record numbers of Americans continue to buy them. Much of this confusion stems from the official definition of these bikes by state and federal legislation.
Some laws define electric bikes as “Mopeds,” “Motorized bicycle,” “Motorcycle,” or “Bicycle.” Because of the difference in the description of what an e-bike is, laws regulating their use vary across regions.
Many prospective e-bike buyers describe scouring through the State Vehicle Code for electric bike laws as a daunting task.
To save you the stress, we have compiled a quick list covering the legal status of e-bikes across all states in the USA:
In Alabama, electric bicycles are road legal and can be used for daily commuting. However, you will need a Class M Driver’s License before you can ride an e-bike on state roads. Minors who do not have a Class M Driver’s License (because of age constraints) must apply for a restricted license.
Anyone who intends to ride an e-bike in Alabama must be at least 14 years.
Electric bikes are legal in the state of Alaska. To ride one, you will need to be at least 14 years of age and must have a level M2 driving permit. You can ride e-bikes on sidewalks, bike paths, and roadways unless signs forbid doing so.
In Arizona, electric bikes are legal and are regulated in the same manner as standard bicycles. No registration is required, but you will need a license to exceed 25 mph on an e-bike.
Before you can operate an e-bike in Arkansas, you must have a Motorized Bicycle Permit from the State Police Department. In addition, you cannot use electric bikes on state highways or city sidewalks.
According to the California Department of Transportation, electric bikes can be everywhere within the state. However, the state places several restrictions on its use.
Colorado law allows e-bikes on roadways, bike paths, and sidewalks. However, you can only use your bike’s motor when you are on a public road. You cannot use it on bike paths or pedestrian paths except by permission of local authorities.
The state of Connecticut considers electric bikes legal road vehicles. However, your e-bike must meet certain requirements before the state approves it for road use.
Your bike must have a minimum seat height of 26 inches and a motor of 750W or less. It must not exceed 20 mph and must have a working brake system.
You need not register or get a license to operate an electric bike in Delaware. Also, you may ride an electric bike on any path except stated otherwise by local authorities.
Florida recognizes electric bikes but classifies them as “Electric Helper-Motor Bicycles.” Electric bikes must not exceed speeds of 20 mph when in use.
The State of Georgia permits the use of electric bikes but grant local authorities the power to restrict where electric bikes may be used.
Hawaii legalized e-bike use early this year. Prior to this time, electric bikes were illegal in this state.
Idaho passed a law this year legalizing electric bikes in the state. Electric bikes are subject to the same regulations as human-propelled bikes.
There is no restriction on where e-bikes can go. You can use them on all public roads, sidewalks, and paths unless local authorities forbid it.
Illinois allows the use of electric bikes and applies traditional bikes’ regulations to them. However, your e-bike must feature fully operable pedals and an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts for it to be road legal.
Indiana transportation law allows people to own and use electric bikes within the state. E-bikes have the same status as traditional bikes.
Electric bikes are as street-legal as traditional human-powered bicycles. You may use them on roadways, bike paths, and bike lanes. However, the maximum speed of a motor-powered electric bike must not exceed 20 mph.
You are free to use your electric bike while riding on Kansas’ city roads. However, you cannot ride an e-bike on the county highways and interstate roads. No special registration/license is required to operate an e-bike in this state.
The State of Kentucky defines electric bikes as “mopeds,” and an e-bike must not exceed 30 mph.
You do not need a license or special registration to operate an e-bike in Kentucky.
Louisiana law allows for the use of electric bikes on state roads. However, before the state can approve an electric bike for use, it must have manually operable pedals, a helper motor, or both. The motor must have a rating of 50cc or below and must have a top speed of 25 mph or lower. An automatic transmission is also mandatory.
The state of Maine allows individuals to use electric bikes on their state routes. However, per federal laws, the e-bike must have operable pedals, a 750W-capacity motor, and must not exceed the 20 mph limit.
An important feature that determines whether an e-bike is road-legal is the presence of front and taillights. Your e-bike must have white front lights and red taillight visible from 500 feet in both directions.
Electric bikes are legal in the state of Maryland. But they must meet Federal law requirements before approval for road use.
Massachusetts law gives permission to use electric bikes within the state. You do not have to register the e-bike before you can use it on state roads. Once your e-bike meets Federal law requirements, you are free to use it.
E-bikes may be used on all public roads except state highways. Also, electric bikes may use bicycle lanes but are prohibited from using recreational bicycle paths.
A 2018 Michigan statute legalized the use of electric bikes in the state. The requirements in the statute are like that of the Federal law.
E-bikes are not legally allowed on mountain bike trails and hiking trails, which are categorized as “Non-motorized trails.” However, local authorities have a tendency to both enforce and overlook this rule.
Under Minnesota law, an e-bike is street-legal if it has pedals, a motor, and cannot exceed 20 mph. Every bicycle laws apply to e-bikes in the state.
The State of Mississippi does not have any specific laws for electric bikes.
Electric bikes are legal in Missouri, but they are described as “mopeds.” They differ significantly from traditional bicycles. For example, to operate an e-bike in Missouri, you will need a license.
Also, for your bike to be road-legal, it must be equipped with headlamps and rear reflectors. You must use headlamps and rear reflectors 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.
Brakes, too, are required of your electric bike.
In Montana, e-bike use is restricted to bike paths and sidewalks. They are subject to bicycle laws, although the state has three different interpretations of what makes up an electric bike.
Nebraska law allows the use of electric bikes within its borders. The state does not require special licensing or registration for you to ride an e-bike. However, riders must wear helmets at all times.
Electric bikes are road legal in the state of Nevada. They can only be used on roads where the posted speed limit is lower than the speed of the device. In addition, electric ones have to be ridden far to the right, and riders must obey all road laws and rules. There is not much more on the books about electric bikes in Nevada; they are mostly treated as bicycles, other than having a cap on speed.
In New Hampshire, you can use Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on bicycle paths except where rules specifically forbid their use. The state requires no license or registration, but riders must be at least 14 years old.
You may ride electric bicycles on roadways in New Jersey. However, the state requires registration and a valid driver’s license to ride an e-bike.
Regardless of age, riders must wear a helmet and yield to pedestrian traffic at all times.
New Mexico has no law that specifically addresses the status of electric bikes. Presently, e-bikes are treated the same way as traditional bikes and are regulated under the same laws.
Like regular bikes, electric bikes do not require registration, and riders don’t need a license. The only difference is that helmets are required for riders under the age of 18 for electric bikes.
Electric bicycles are illegal in New York State. You are not allowed to register an e-bike. Neither can you ride one on any street, highway, sidewalk, or any area that allows public motor traffic.
It is legal to ride electric bikes in North Carolina. However, you must not exceed 25 mph. No law restricts the movement of e-bikes in NC, and you are allowed to use them on sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike paths.
However, operators of electric bikes must yield the right-of-way to pedestrian and human-powered devices.
North Dakota allows people to use electric bikes for daily commuting. Certain regulations exist, though. Electric bikes cannot be registered, and riders under the age of 18 must use a helmet. The maximum allowed speed for e-bikes is 30 mph.
Ohio’s law on electric bikes is influenced by the three e-bike classifications (Class I, Class II, Class III).
Ohio does not require a special license for the use of e-bikes. If you can ride a standard bike with minimal difficulty, then you can ride a Class 1 or Class 2 e-bike. Operators of Class 3 e-bikes must be at least 16 years of age and wear a helmet.
Electric bikes are legal in the state of Oklahoma. State law requires that riders must be aged 16 or above. Registration is not required, but it is mandatory that you have a license. There is no specific license needed as any class of license will do.
Under Oregon law, electric bikes are a legal means of transportation. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) classifies e-bikes as “bicycles,” and laws applicable to cyclers apply to e-bike riders.
For example, per the helmet law for regular bicycles, which states that riders 16 and over do not have to wear helmets, e-bike riders are also exempt from having to wear helmets if they so choose.
In addition, riders must be 16 years of age or older and are not required to have a license, registration, or insurance.
Electric bikes are described as “Electric-Assist bicycles” by the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code and can be ridden on Pennsylvania roadways.
Electric bikes are legal in the state of Rhode Island, but you will need a valid driver’s license to operate one. Also, you must be at least sixteen years of age.
Due to the age requirement, helmets are not legally required to be worn, and the bikes can be ridden anywhere traditional bikes are ridden.
Under current South Carolina laws, e-bikes lack a clear definition. E-bikes must follow traffic rules but do not require registration or licensing.
South Dakota law regulates e-bikes like regular bicycles. Therefore, you don’t need to register your electric bike or have a license before using it.
More importantly, electric bikes can go everywhere that regular bikes can go, including roads, bike paths, and sidewalks. However, e-bike riders must yield to pedestrians and vehicles.
In Tennessee, electric bikes are legal and have the same status as regular bikes. However, e-bikes must meet certain provisions before they are approved for use. First, they have to meet applicable equipment and manufacturing requirements for electric bicycles established by state and federal law.
In addition, class III bicycles must be equipped with a speedometer that displays the electric bicycle’s speed in miles per hour. It is a criminal offense to modify an electric bicycle to change its speed capability.
Electric bikes can be found all over Texas, so they are legal. However, the law restricts the speed of e-bikes to 20 mph and the weight to 100 lbs.
Unlike regular bikes, helmets are required for riders under the age of eighteen. However, they are allowed on all roads (except sidewalks) like regular bikes.
Utah allows electric bikes to be ridden on all public roads. The same law that applies to standard bikes applies to e-bikes. This means e-bikes do not have to be registered, licensed, or insured. Helmets are compulsory for riders under the age of eighteen.
While Vermont law does not define electric bikes, you should ride them according to traditional bicycle laws. E-bikes may be ridden on roadways, bike lanes, and bike paths. You may not ride them on sidewalks, interstates, and turnpikes.
Electric bikes are street-legal in Virginia. The state treats e-bikes as traditional bikes. They can be ridden on roadways, bike lanes, and bike paths but are not allowed on sidewalks.
The state of Washington allows electric bikes on roadways, limited access highways, bike lanes, bike paths, and multipurpose paths. However, state law allows local jurisdictions to restrict where e-bikes are allowed on.
No licenses are required, and neither do electric bikes have to be registered before use. Helmets, however, are compulsory for riders aged 16 or below.
West Virginia laws define “electric bikes” and “mopeds” similarly so they might as well be in the same group. E-bikes are not illegal but are subject to the same rules applicable to “mopeds.”
You can ride electric bikes in Wisconsin, but you must have a valid driver’s license, operator license, or instructional permit. No law restricts the use of e-bikes on public roads. However, you can only use bike paths and pedestrian paths if the motor is not in use. The e-bikes are prohibited on sidewalks.
The state of Wyoming recognizes electric bikes as bicycles and allows e-bike riders freedom to enjoy the same paths and trails as other bicycle riders.
In this article, we have tried to be as comprehensive and factual as possible.
However, we are not lawyers, and this list is merely a guide and does not represent professional legal advice.
If you intend to buy an electric bike, contact your state’s Department of Transportation to ask for the current law on the use of e-bikes in the state.
Have fun riding your e-bikes, and remember to stay safe!