eBike Laws 101|Things you should know

So I've made a variety of videos on the legality of electric
bikes, specifically in New York, because it's been kind
of a contentious topic. I mean, there's been a lot of
laws against electric bikes, and more recently, electric
bikes have become more legal, if you will, so we've kind of been dealing with this topic for over 10 years. I wanted to make this video
just as more of a general legality video in the US specifically. And just to give you a bit
of a primer and some insight as to what the laws are and,
you know, how they work. So I'm just gonna answer maybe some of the more
common questions that come up in relation to legality. But if you have any
other questions yourself, please leave them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them. But I'm also gonna point to some resources that could be very helpful
in understanding the laws in your specific jurisdiction
or in your specific situation, if you wanna ride on a
specific type of trail or that sort of thing.

So the first question is, is it legal to ride an eBike where I live? Now, this is really going to vary, but for the most part in the
US, electric bikes are illegal. And there's a couple of different ways that the laws are defined. Now, one of the most
commonly referenced laws is a federal law but it's actually a consumer product safety law which really regulates the
import of electric bikes. And it States that any bike
that is under 750 Watts and has a top speed unassisted
of 20 miles an hour, it's considered to be a bicycle.

Now it could be a little bit confusing because most people will
interpret this law to say that, okay, this means that as long as my bike meets these regulations,
it's considered a bicycle as the federal consumer
product safety law defines it. But that's not actually the whole truth because they're not actually responsible for regulating the use of electric bikes in specific jurisdictions. That's gonna be up to
specific municipalities, and states, and that sort of thing. It's kinda been a long process for a lot of the different states to introduce electric bike laws and maybe some of them haven't found it to be all that important on
their list of things to do.

As I've learned in New York,
when we've been lobbying for electric bike laws for many years, there's always like thousands of items that these legislators are looking at. And if you're talking about electric bikes maybe they feel like, ah,
this is not that important, and I don't really care about it. I don't know if that's the
case or they feel like, oh, can we actually get this pass? You have to, you know, put
the energy behind this thing and have to decide what's
gonna be most important and what's gonna matter
to their constituents or that sort of stuff. But I don't wanna get too much
into the politics on things.

There seems to be this
kinda model legislation which was introduced in
California many years ago. And it basically defines three
classes of electric bikes. So there's the first
class, which is class one. It states that a bike
that's 20 miles an hour and is pedal assist only. So that means you have to peddle it for it to be able to provide power. Then you have class two, which is 20 miles an
hour, throttle activated. And you have class three which is 28 miles an hour, pedal assist. This legislation seems to be the one that most states are adopting and a large majority of the
states throughout the US have electric bike laws in place which are allowing electric bikes. For the most part the
states that are left, they just really haven't caught up with the current rules
and that sort of thing. So it's anticipated that they will. The big group that seems
to be working on this topic is People for Bikes. Now, People for Bikes, for
those of you that don't know, is a national organization
that really helps to encourage better bike
infrastructure, better bike safety.

And they ended up working
on a national scale in a lot of different topics. And they can help to
distribute grant money in all sorts of different ways to help, you know, further
this bike movement along. So if you wanna learn more
about your specific state, and your specific jurisdiction, I really recommend checking
out some of the resources on People for Bikes website And they're constantly updating this. And it's pretty much every year, there's a new legislative session and there's an opportunity
for new laws to pass. And there's always a push
to encourage better laws around electric bikes. But for the most part,
electric bikes are illegal. And if you wanna have kind of
the most legal electric bike, it's probably gonna be a
class one pedal assist only. That's just gonna be kind
of the safest version. So if there are some places
where there's a regulation against certain types of electric bikes, it's generally not gonna be this one. So it's an important
thing to consider there. Now we mentioned California.

And since we started in New York I really should mention the New York City or New York State laws, just
to bring things up to date because we have covered this topic, and I plan to do some more
coverage on this topic but basically electric bikes are now finally legal in New York State. Probably the most articles
written around electric bike laws have been about New York City. For a long time they've had
laws that made it illegal to have throttle activated bikes. Now throttle activated technically are legal in New York City, and New York State for that matter. Their law specifically
throughout New York State is a little bit different than
the California legislation. And I think there is a push
to get some of that updated and to be clarified. Basically, there was a big
push from delivery riders that have fast throttle activated bikes to find a way to legalize them.

And I think there was some confusion in a way that they implemented this law and they left out some of the
more common electric bikes that are otherwise found in market. So we're hoping that
this legislative session this year in 2021, we can work with the state officials there to kinda update this and,
you know, sort things out. So it's a little bit more clear. Another question that comes up is do I have to wear a helmet? Now, this is gonna vary by state. Certain states have laws specifically that require people to
wear a helmet on bicycles. And naturally that same regulation is gonna carry over to electric bikes. And there are certain
places that have regulations that are more specific
towards electric bikes. For example, New York. So class one and class two bikes, it's not required to wear a helmet, but a class three bike, it
is required to wear a helmet. And that's actually the
same in California as well. So it's important to be mindful of that. I think you'll find a
lot of those regulations on the People for Bikes website as well, but it's generally speaking, for the low speed electric bikes, it's not required to wear a helmet, it's often recommended, but it's, you know, it's important to know what the actual law is.

Another important question is can I ride an electric
bike in a bike lane? Now the answer to this
one is generally yes. Generally find that the
class one and class two bikes allow for riding in, you know, most paths and that sort of thing, with the exception of maybe some off-road paths for class two where in those cases you might only find that class one bikes or allowed.

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But for the most part, you
can ride an electric bike inside of a bike lane just as you would a normal non-electric bike. I think it's important
to know and to consider that you have to be mindful of
other riders in the bike lane because it's not always so easy to pass and that sort of thing. And you might find yourself
riding a little bit faster, or accelerating faster. So I just say, just be courteous. We all are, you know, part of
this community of cyclists, or, you know, if you
wanna say it that way. But I think it's important
that we work together so everyone could be
safe and be respectful and we can all enjoy this and
grow this community together.

How about mountain bike trails? I kinda mentioned this before. Can I ride an electric bike
on mountain bike trails? This is also similar
to the other questions. It's gonna vary quite a bit. You know, you're gonna see different laws in different states. You're gonna see different
laws in different mountains, counties, cities, et cetera. The general direction we see this going is that class one electric bikes will generally be allowed
on mountain bike trails. There are certainly many places out there that are still not allowing class one electric mountain bikes, but that's changing every day.

And the way I look at this is it's kind of that nobody
wants to be the first one to say that it's allowed. So there's a lot of look
to larger organizations or larger jurisdictions to define this a little
bit more clearly first. And then it kind of
ends up trickling down. A lot of times, what ends up happening is these smaller municipalities
and jurisdictions borrow the regulations
from larger jurisdictions because they generally
have a lot more resources to look into these things,
and to prepare data, and to prepare the best course forward. And if they say, okay, well,
I borrowed this regulation from this larger organization, you kinda cover yourself a little bit more than saying, okay, you know what, I'm gonna be this trailblazer and say, I'm gonna allow it,
I'm gonna create these rules without, you know, maybe too much data or information behind that.

But there's been loads of studies that really there's not
all that much difference in trail impact and that sort
of thing with electric bikes. And the overall direction, is it going more and
more mountain bike trails are allowing it and there
are several notable ones that seem to be really
leading this charge. And I think that we're gonna continue to see more and more every year provided that there's
no real major issues. I think that we all, again,
as I mentioned before, have a great responsibility
to be respectful and mindful in the trails, especially in relation
to mountain bike trails, you gotta consider that
many of these trails were built by individuals that put their own sweat into this thing, and they really spent
a lot of time doing so.

Many of them maybe might
have certain feelings about electric bikes, this
we have seen in the past. So I think it's important
to be respectful and mindful and come with an open mind
and not to just kind of like demand that, hey, I
demand access to this trail, or I deserve access to this trail. And maybe rather try to be considerate of the work that was put in, and probably be helpful if you can. I've found one of the tactics
that we've used before is to actually participate in some of these trail building days that can quite often happen
on mountain bike trails, and really just try to be helpful. I think that that's a good way just to start a conversation and to, you know, try and start
there instead of just saying you need to allow me, I
think that's a good approach.

And some of you might wanna consider if the trail in your area
might not be giving access to electric bikes currently. Now another topic that's
kinda come up a lot lately is national parks. Now, historically electric
bikes were not allowed on any trails in national parks. However, there has been a lot
of new regulations introduced which has been very positive
for the electric bike space allowing for different
classes of electric bikes. One thing to notice I mentioned before that throttle activated bikes, you're not allowed to use
them on cycling trails.

But for the most part pedal assist is allowed on cycling trails. But there might be certain
places where it's not allowed and that's kind of ever updating. But the big deal is that recently there has been a regulation published that's kind of allowing the use of them. So it's gonna vary a little bit depending on the park
and that sort of thing. But for the most part, we're
moving in that direction, in a positive direction of allowing more and more electric bikes within these national parks, which I think is a great
plus for this community. Another question that
comes up quite a bit is is an electric bike
considered a motor vehicle? And the answer to this
question is not that simple but generally speaking
as mentioned before, because of the law introduced in 2002 for the consumer product safety, it's basically defines an electric bike that meets these regulations as a bicycle.

Therefore not a motor vehicle. It actually specifically
says that electric bicycle is not to be considered a motor vehicle but instead to be considered a bicycle. However, I believe that a
lot of these jurisdictions that are regulating the use at times they can confuse this a little bit or maybe decide that this
doesn't actually apply to their oversight on the use. Yeah, I mean, I guess as
it can be argued either way and it certainly happens
to be argued both ways. But I'm interested to
know like what you think. I mean, I say, no, I
think that a motor vehicle is kind of a whole nother animal. Maybe it could be considered
like a hybrid motor vehicle. I don't know if that
that actual phrase exists but I'd say that's more what it is. But just to say that it's
a motor vehicle would, from my perspective, imply that it's actually
just a motorized vehicle that's solely operated by that motor.

And that's kinda the main difference from my perspective of motor
vehicle and a electric bike. I guess a throttle activated one would be kind of more in that class, but the fact that it still has pedals and most people still peddle them, that kind of shifts a little bit. Well, I hope you guys found
this video to be helpful. If you have any strange legality questions or things that you'd like answered, you know, please list them below and I'll do my best to answer them. As I mentioned, this People for Bikes is an excellent resource for this and they really have a
pretty comprehensive list of all the different states
and that sort of thing throughout the US, what their rules are, and everything like that. And yeah, I look forward
to seeing you guys in a future video and see you soon. (upbeat music).

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