Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Matt
Every state in the United States has specific electric bike laws.
Knowing what these laws dictate in your location, is, therefore, crucial to avoid inadvertently breaking the law as you enjoy your electric bike.
In this guide, I will explain all the relevant electric bikes laws, rules, and regulations you need to know, with a focus on the United States. Many US states have adopted the PeopleForBikes electric bike model law which is great for standardization. A few US states use a different set of rules which I will cover as well.
Disclaimer: Please note that while I have taken a lot of care to make this simplified electric bike law guide as accurate as possible using trustworthy sources, it is not meant to be legal advice. I recommend that you take it as a general guide to help you understand electric bike legalese in simple language.
Electric bike definition and classification
Electric bikes are defined as motor-equipped bicycles with saddles and operational pedals. The motor on the electric bike should not exceed 750 watts of electrical power. My understanding of this definition is that electric bikes should essentially be seen as bicycles first but with the additional enhancement of a power-restricted motor.
The general guidelines for electric bike classification recognize three classes of e-bikes:
- Class 1 electric bikes
- Class 2 electric bikes
- Class 3 electric bikes
A majority of state-level e-bike laws reference these classes to determine where you can ride your electric bike and other requirements if any. This three-class e-bike classification is pretty much the standard in the USA.
In brief, a class 1 electric bike according to state electric bike laws is a basic model that provides pedal assistance up to 20 mph when you are still riding. A class 2 bike can propel the bike on motor power alone and also provides pedal assistance up to 20 mph. Lastly, a class 3 bike provides pedal assistance only when you pedal and has a higher top speed of 28 mph.
The classification of bikes above has been adopted in a majority of US states. Previously, electric bikes were either undefined and unclassified or wrongly defined as motor vehicles, mopeds, or light motorbikes. This meant you needed a motorcycle license or vehicle license in some states to ride your electric bike.
State-Level Electric Bike Laws and Regulations
Many states in the United States have only just recently adopted electric bike laws modeled around the PeopleForBikes model e-bike laws. At least 39 states, by the time of writing this, had these laws in place. I have included the map from the PeopleForBikes website below showing the current status of adoption for these laws in all US states.
Since most local governments used the same template to draft their electric bike laws and regulations, you will find a lot of similarities in most clauses from one place to another. However, I have gathered from reading each state’s laws that there are slight differences in wording, interpretation of the model PeopleForBikes laws, and customization to fit local traffic laws.
Electric Bike Laws Per State
Here are the standard e-bike laws from state to state in the United States for your reference.
|State||Electric Bike Classes||Minimum age||Helmet Required?||Speedometer Required|
|Vermont||Recognizes three classes||16||Helmet required under 18 (Class 3 e-bike)||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Missouri||Recognizes three classes||16||All Class 3 bike riders and passengers must wear helmets||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|Minnesota||Recognizes three classes||15||Riders under 21 on Class 3 e-bikes must wear helmets||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|Iowa||Recognizes three classes||16||All Class 3 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Kansas||Recognizes three classes||16. Persons under 16 can ride as a passenger.||Under 16 riders and passengers must wear helmets||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|North Dakota||Recognizes three classes||Helmet for under 18.||All riders and operators of Class 3 e-bikes must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Delaware||Recognizes three classes||16||Under 14 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|Idaho||Recognizes three classes||No||Under 18 e-bike riders must wear helmets (Class 3)||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Utah||Recognizes three classes||“16||All e-bike riders must wear helmets (Class 3)||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|Virginia||Recognizes three classes||All riders must wear e-bike helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Florida||Recognizes three classes||14 and below needs supervision||Passengers under 18 on Class 3 e-bikes must wear helmets||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|Wisconsin||Recognizes three classes||14 and below needs supervision||Under 16 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Wyoming||Recognizes three classes||No||Under 15 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Texas||Recognizes three classes||16||Under 17 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Mississippi||Recognizes three classes||No||Under 18 e-bike riders must wear helmets (Class 3)||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Alabama||Recognizes three classes||16 for class 3||Helmet required under 18 (Class 3 e-bike)||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Illinois||Recognizes three classes||16||All Class 3 bike riders and passengers must wear helmets||Speedometer requirements not outlined.|
|Louisiana||Recognizes three classes||16||Riders under 21 on Class 3 e-bikes must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Nevada||Recognizes three classes||16||All Class 3 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|Massachusetts||Recognizes three classes||12 for class 3||Under 16 riders and passengers must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|New York||Recognizes Class 1 and 2. Class 3 is allowed in New York City but does not align with industry standards.||No||All riders and operators of Class 3 e-bikes must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|New Hampshire||Recognizes three classes||16||Under 14 e-bike riders must wear helmets||Class 3 e-bikes: speedometer required.|
|California||Recognizes three classes||No||Under 18 e-bike riders must wear helmets (Class 3)||Required for class 3|
|Maryland||Recognizes three classes||16||All e-bike riders must wear helmets (Class 3)||Required for class 3|
|South Dakota||Recognizes three classes||16||All riders must wear e-bike helmets||Required for class 3|
Other standard state-level electric bike rules and regulations
The following rules and regulations are common across the 39 states in the United States that have adopted the model PeopleForBikes electric bike laws.
Your electric bike rights and duties
You are granted pretty much the same rights and privileges a person riding a regular bike is granted in your state. At the same time, you are expected to obey the same laws and regulations regular bikers are expected to obey. For example, you can ride your electric bike in the bike lane, and you are also expected to give way to pedestrians and animals.
You are exempted from licenses and other motor-vehicle requirements
Your state does not require you to obtain a license, registration certificate, license plates, insurance, and other things like motor vehicle drivers. In keeping with the principle that electric bikes are not motor vehicles, many states have adopted this rule except for a few that require a biking license for all bikers.
Manufacturers must label electric bikes
By law, electric bike manufacturers are expected to affix clear labels on their electric bikes. The information to be included in the label includes the top-assisted speed, the wattage of the motor, and the electric bike class. You can show the authorities these labels so they can confirm that your electric bike is legal.
It is illegal to modify your electric bike top speed
You might be tempted to modify your electric bike to exceed the restricted 20 mph or 28 mph top speed for class 3 electric bikes. According to laws in most US states, this is not allowed and may land you in trouble if discovered. Of course, some e-bike enthusiasts tune their electric bikes and only use them in private trails where these laws are not enforced.
Compliance with CPSC requirements
As mentioned earlier, electric bikes are classified as consumer products and therefore subject to the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most US states recognize the CPSC safety requirements (16 C.F.R. Part 1512) for electric bikes and have adopted them locally.
Pedal Assistance Operation Requirements
There is a standard requirement on the operation of pedal assistance adopted by a majority of states in the USA. The requirement is that the motor must stop as soon as you stop pedaling or when you apply the brakes. This is slightly different for class 2 electric bikes where the motor can still operate without pedaling with a speed-restricted throttle (up to 20 MPH).
General provisions for electric bike access
According to the model electric bike laws adopted by the 39 US states, electric bikes have the following access rights and limitations:
You are allowed to ride an electric bike in places where regular bicycles are allowed. The terminology used to refer to biking infrastructure varies from state to state so be sure to check what the law says in your state. Examples of places where electric bikes are generally allowed include:
- Bike lanes
- Multi-use paths
- Public and private roads,
- Highways, etc.
Individual states and lower-level authorities like municipalities and traffic departments are allowed to deny access to electric bikes in certain areas for specific reasons. For instance, some local municipalities do not allow electric bikes or any bikes in general on public park paths.
Electric bikes are generally prohibited on non-motorized trails. Depending on your location, such trails can be those with uneven surfaces that are unsafe for all motorized transport.
Age, safety, and speedometer requirements for e-bikes
According to the model laws adopted by at least 39 US states, there is a standard minimum age requirement of 16 years to operate class 3 electric bikes. You can, however, ride on a class 3 electric as a passenger if you are below 16 years old. The minimum age in some states is 14.
There is a standard requirement to wear a US-CPSC or American Society for Testing and Materials-complaint bike helmet to ride a class 3 electric bike. Most US states with this requirement have provisions for non-compliance. For instance, in some states, riding a class 3 electric bike may void your insurance claim in case of an accident.
Lastly, there is a standard requirement in the US states that have adopted the model law for all electric bikes to have a speedometer. The speedometer should be able to display the speed of your electric bike in miles per hour at all times. You can be stopped, fined or your electric bike deemed non-compliant if it does not have a working speedometer in states where these laws apply.
US states with unique electric bike laws
As I have mentioned earlier in this guide, some US states have their own set of local electric bike laws. These are laws that are not based on the model PeopleForBikes laws I have covered in the other sections. In this section, I shall explain what the electric bike laws are like in these remaining states.
Electric bike laws in Montana
Montana is one of the outliers with its own set of rules and regulations for electric bikes. Here are some of the things you should know if you own an electric bike in the treasure state.
All electric bikes with a max top speed of 20 mph are generally referred to as electrically assisted bicycles in Montana. At the same time, these bikes are subject to the same rules applied to regular bikes on the road.
This means you can ride your e-bike where regular bikes are allowed and where motorized devices are allowed. There is no helmet or minimum age requirement for electric bike riders in Montana.
In addition, I would advise you to confirm whether you have the right of access to trails and other restricted areas such as national parks from local Montana authorities. For instance, find out from your local Forest Service if you can take your e-bike to the local forest trail.
Electric bike laws in Oregon
In Oregon, all electric bikes with a maximum motor output of 1000 watts are referred to as “electrically assisted bicycles. The bikes should have pedals and pedal assist should not go beyond 20 mph. You also don’t need to have a license or comply with license and insurance requirements. You can ride your e-bike on bike paths in Oregon but not on sidewalks.
Oregon has a minimum age requirement for all electric bike riders of 16 years. There is no state-wide requirement to wear a helmet while riding an electric bike, but I and many others still recommend you wear one. I haven’t come across specific laws on access to trails for e-bikes in Oregon, but it is recommended you check with local authorities in your area.
Electric bike laws in New Mexico
Aptly, electric bikes are referred to as “mopeds” according to New Mexico’s electric bike laws. You are required to comply with traffic, license, insurance, and registration laws applying to vehicles. The minimum age requirement to ride an electric bike in New Mexico is 15 years.
New Mexico has some of the strictest access laws for e-bikes in the country. Generally, the laws prohibit you from riding your electric bike on sidewalks. At the same time, electric bikes are not allowed on non-motorized trails and some bicycle paths. I recommend finding out from your local council or department about access rights for e-bikes in New Mexico’s urban areas.
Electric bike laws in Nebraska
Any electric bike whose motor power is below 750 Watts and has a maximum pedal-assisted speed of 20 mph is referred to as an electric-assisted bicycle in Nebraska. You are, therefore, expected to follow the same rules that apply to bicycles. Also, you are allowed to ride your e-bikes on bike paths and sidewalks. There is no age limit or helmet requirement for electric bikers in Nebraska.
Electric bike laws in Kentucky
According to Kentucky’s electric bike laws, bikes with operable pedals that are human and motor-powered are “bicycles”. This means you can follow normal bicycle laws and regulations in the state if you own a compliant electric bike. Kentucky does not have a helmet or minimum age requirement for electric bikers.
Electric bike laws in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s electric bike laws refer to compliant electric bikes as “pedal cycles with electric assist”. A compliant electric bike in the Keystone State is one with a top speed of 20 mph, motor power below 750 watts, a maximum weight of 100 pounds, and is equipped with working pedals.
The minimum age requirement to ride an electric bike in Pennsylvania is 16 years. There is no state-wide e-bike helmet requirement and you can ride your e-bike wherever bicycles are allowed. The Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks restricts e-bikes to motorized paths only.
Electric bike laws in North Carolina
Electric bikes with a maximum top speed of 20 mph, operable pedals and motor power below 750 watts are referred to as electric-assisted bicycles in North Carolina. The minimum age to ride any electric bike in North Carolina is 16 and there is not state-wide helmet requirement. You can ride your electric bike where regular bikes are allowed including on sidewalks and bike paths in North Carolina.
Federal-level electric bike laws and regulations
When I started my journey with electric bikes a few years ago, I was first made aware of federal-level laws and regulations on e-bikes. These laws and regulations have been in existence since 2002. They are, however, not meant to preempt state-level e-bike laws.
Federal regulations define electric bikes as low-speed electric bicycles. The laws identify e-bikes as consumer products.
E-bikes should comply with bicycle safety standards as defined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These regulations are covered in title 16 of federal regulations – 16 C.F.R. Part 1512 to be specific.
It is a requirement for all retailers in the country to ensure they sell electric bikes that comply with the defined safety standards. Nonetheless, you should check that the electric bike you are buying is US CPSC compliant. You can do this by checking the labeling on the e-bike’s frame and documentation.
US National Park Service (NPS) electric bike laws
There are additional electric bike access laws for federal lands such as national parks. An effort led by the US Department of the Interior to standardize these laws across all federal agencies is ongoing. This was captured under Interior Secretarial Order #3376 of 2019.
To date, electric bikes are allowed where regular bicycles are allowed in lands controlled by the US National Park Service. However, the NPS currently prohibits you from riding your e-bike in wilderness areas away from designated trails and hardened roads where vehicles cannot pass.
From first-hand experience, most local NPS parks have their own rules targeting bikers so be sure to ask them when you access the park. I have ridden my electric bike in a couple of NPS forests and was generally left alone save for some guidance on riding etiquette in multi-use paths.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) electric bike laws
Currently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service allows you to ride your electric bike anywhere regular bikes are allowed in their parks. However, be sure to follow additional requirements set by your local FWS management. In most FWS parks, there are designated bike riding trails, speed limits, safety guidelines, and bike riding etiquette you need to observe.
These places normally let you ride but have printed regulations at the gate. My advice is you familiarize yourself with the FWS park’s biking requirements and follow them. They are mostly for your safety and that of other park visitors.
Department of Agriculture – Forest Service electric bike laws
Electric bikes are currently considered motor vehicles in USDA Forest Service trails and grasslands. However, the responsibility to categorize these trails and grasslands for biking activities is left to local land managers.
Local USDA-FS land managers tend to designate specific trails and grasslands for motorized bikes like e-bikes and restrict others. I would suggest you find out from your local USDA-FS land office about their requirements before you ride your electric bike on their land.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) electric bike laws
While all classes of electric bikes are allowed on Bureau of Land Management lands, the general policy is to allow local land managers to restrict access where necessary according to Secretarial Order #3376. This is based on their specific circumstances and other considerations they may have at the local level.
The standard policy in many places is to accord electric bike riders the same access given to regular bike riders. Some local BLM land managers restrict access to electric bikes in areas where there are protected cultural resources. You can find guidance on any restrictions there might be from your local Bureau of Land Management office.
As a person riding an electric bike on public and private roads, your main concern should be on local electric bike laws. For instance, you may want to know if your state permits the use of class 3 bikes on motorways, whether you need a license to ride or insurance, etc. We will focus on this for the rest of the guide.
Do electric bike bans exist in the USA?
Electric bikes are not subject to blanket bans anywhere in the United States. However, some states have location-based bans on motorized forms of transport which include electric bikes. For instance, New Mexico has a blanket ban on electric bikes in designated non-motorized paths.
Where should I ride my electric bike?
Generally, all class 1 and class 2 electric bikes are allowed on any bikes, streets, and all other places where regular bicycles are allowed. However, you may not be allowed to ride your electric bike on all paths, especially multi-use paths, if it is a class 3 electric bike. Find out what the law says in your location before you ride your e-bike to be on the safe side.
Electric bikes existed in a legal vacuum for some time at the state level until recently. Today, every state likely has its own set of laws governing the use of e-bikes as well as their mode of operation. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with these laws to enjoy your ride without breaking the law. Above all, obey all traffic rules and be mindful of other people on the road. Happy e-biking!