Even as little as five years ago, most cyclists never imagined owning their own ebike. Ebikes were mostly popular as a rental service, and the majority of people did not have an ebike of their own sitting in their garage. Now that ebikes are booming in popularity, many riders wonder where they can safely take their electric road bike.
The truth is, there is no single answer to the question. It depends on the rules and regulations in your area, safety concerns, and the type of ebike you own. You always need to do a little research before taking your bike somewhere new to ensure you can safely and legally ride in that area.
Below, we’ll break down some common questions surrounding riding electric bikes.
Do I Need A License Or Registration To Ride An Ebike?
No. Most states and regions do not require ebike riders to obtain a specific license for riding a bike and – in most cases – you do not need a driver’s license to operate an ebike.
However, some cities – such as Los Angeles – may require you to register bicycles like you would register a car. This includes ebikes. While rules are not always strictly enforced, you may end up getting a ticket for an unregistered bike in some areas.
Always check local guidelines to see if you need to register your ebike.
Can I Ride My Ebike In The Bike Lane?
Possibly. It comes down to both local law and the type of ebike you ride.
Ebikes are roughly broken down into three classes:
- Class 1 Ebikes: Ebikes that go up to 20 miles per hour and with motors that only work when the rider is pedaling.
- Class 2: Ebikes that go up to 20 miles per hour and have motors that work even when the rider is not pedaling.
- Class 3: Ebikes that go up to 28 miles per hour and have a speedometer. They may or may not have a throttle, depending on your region.
In most areas, Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes are able to ride on both roads and bike lanes. Most areas also permit Class 3 ebikes in these areas, but they tend to be subject to slightly stricter regulations. Again, always check local guidelines.
What About Bike Trails?
The answer to this question is unclear as it is dependent on a variety of factors. Every city has its own rules regarding ebikes on trails, and restrictions may also vary depending on the class of ebike. Also, trails and state parks may have their own rules regarding ebike use, unrelated to state and local law.
In most cases, ebike use is discouraged on multi-use trails where you may encounter pedestrians. Bike trails may or may not allow ebikes, but narrow trails are more likely to prohibit ebike use as there is often not adequate room to pass.
Oftentimes, trails will allow use of Class 1 and Class 2 ebikes, but not Class 3 ebikes.
As always, the best way to know for sure is look up both local regulations in your area and any rules specific to a particular park or trail.
A Final Note: Ebike Courtesy and Safety
If you find an area where you are allowed to ride your ebike, make sure you keep common courtesy and basic safety in mind. Ebikes can go much faster than traditional bicycles and even keep pace with traffic in some areas. This can cause issues for drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists if ebike riders are not careful.
First, always wear a helmet when riding an ebike and use these hand signals when stopping and turning:
- Left Turn: Fully extend your left arm out to the side.
Right Turn: Fully extend your right arm out to the side
- NOTE: Some states do not allow this type of signal for safety purposes. If that is the case, extend your left arm to the side and turn your arm upward to make a 90-degree angle
- Stop/Slowing Down: Extend your left arm out and bend it downward to a 90-degree angle
Be courteous when you need to pass traditional bicycles, which tends to happen frequently on an ebike. Verbally alert a rider you intend to pass or use a horn or bell to get their attention. Never pass in an area where you cannot leave at least three feet of space between yourself and the cyclist.
The Bottom Line
Ebikes have slightly more regulations regarding where you can safely ride. As laws vary a lot from place to place, always check local regulations before taking your ebike on an outing.
Ready to get riding? Our step-through bikes, road bikes, and commuter bikes combine classic design with modern technology to give you a smooth, safe ride every time. Plus, for every bike we sell, we send a bike to a student in Zimbabwe.
If you’re interested in investing in an ebike, browse our collection here and please feel free to reach out with any questions.