The U.S. E-bike Class system

Class 1, 2, 3, or Moped - Where & how you can ride

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Many states & the ebike industry define e-bikes using a three-class system, defined largely by the type of electric motor control (pedal assist or throttle) and top assisted speed (20 or 28 mph). These limits control the maximum speed at which the motor will provide assistance to the rider. They are for safety on lanes and paths that are shared with non motorized bicycles, and in some cases. with pedestrians. A cyclist may still ride the bike faster under their own pedal power, subject to other local speed limits.

 

This legislation has been adopted in almost 30 other states and gives e-bike riders consistency with similar rights and duties to that of traditional bike riders on most public roadways, including bike lanes and multi use paths.

Check People For Bikes spreadsheet comparing state electric bicycle laws to learn about how your state may vary.

In some parks e-bikes may be subject to motorized vehicle restrictions on non-motorized and natural surface paths and trails, particularly mountain bike trails. Check with your city or park authority as these regulations may vary and be in flux.  

 

Class 1 E-Bike - Pedal Assist - 20 mph assistance limit

  • What it is: Bicycle equipped with a motor wattage of 750 Watts or less that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20mph.

  • Where you can ride it: Class 1 e-bikes can be ridden wherever bikes are allowed, including bike lanes and multi-use paths.  Check locally for rules on non-motorized, natural surface trails.

  • What is required: Class 1 e-bikes do not require a license to operate. They have the same rights and duties as a traditional bike rider.

Class 2 E-Bike - Throttle assist - 20 mph assistance limit

  • What it is: Bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor (usually in addition to pedal assist) with wattage of 750 Watts or less, that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20mph. 

  • Where you can ride it: Class 2 e-bikes can generally be ridden wherever Class 1 bikes are allowed, including bike lanes and multi-use paths. Check locally for rules on non-motorized, natural surface trails.

  • What is required: Class 2 e-bikes do not require a license to operate. They have the same rights and duties as a traditional bike rider.

Class 3 E-Bike - Pedal Assist - 28 mph assistance limit

  • What it is: Bicycle equipped with a motor wattage of 750 Watts or less that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28mph.

  • Where you can ride it: Class 3 e-bikes are prohibited on some bike paths. Always check locally before riding. Check locally for rules on non-motorized, natural surface trails.

  • What is required: Class 3 e-bikes do not require a license to operate in most areas. Always check locally before riding.

Mopeds & other out of class electric vehicles - over 28 mph

  • If an e-bike supports pedal assisted or throttle speeds over 28 MPH it is considered a moped or motorcycle subject to all motor vehicle rules and generally not allowed on bike paths.

What about e-trikes & quads?

Where do electric tricycles and quadricycles fit into this scheme? It is a bit confusing since a BIcycle sounds like a two wheel vehicle. In California, at least, the Vehicle Code is explicit in including all human powered wheeled vehicles regardless of number of  wheels and explicitly includes electric bikes in that definition:

DIVISION 1. WORDS AND PHRASES DEFINED Section 231. "A bicycle is a device upon which a person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power, except as provided in Section 312.5, through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels. A person riding a bicycle is subject to the provisions of this code specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5. An electric bicycle is a bicycle."

 

Section 312.5 which further clarifies the definition of an electric bicycle by reference to the three classes, makes no further reference to the number of wheels.

 

This is good news to anyone with disabilities or otherwise who needs that third wheel for stability, meaning that subsidy programs and bike path permissions that reference the ebike Class 1, 2 & 3 system explicitly include trikes and quads. 

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California version of the Ebike class chart