Are E-Bikes Illegal?

Bicycles have not changed too much in the past century, remaining relatively the same since the early 1900s with the exception of a few technical advances. E-bikes are evidence that our beloved pastime still has the capacity to evolve and adapt.

The e-bike is a great for any rider, offering enhanced speed and power. These electric bikes can make climbing a hill or riding iStock_000019953923_Largeinto the wind so much easier, and therefore more enjoyable for the countless cyclists out there just looking for a relaxing ride.

However, not everyone is such a fan of the technological wonder that is the E-bike. Many, mostly pedestrians, are becoming increasingly aggravated with riders of e-bikes. This is mainly due to the increased speed and power. Many argue that riders are not as capable of controlling their bikes and are causing a number of pedestrian accidents and ‘clipping’ people on sidewalks.

Are E-bikes Illegal?

With so much opposition from non-cyclists, the electric bike’s legality has come into question more than once, and it’s not the easiest question in the world to answer.

According to federal law, an electric bike that has an assisted top speed of 20 mph or less can be sold as a bicycle. That means they don’t require any kind of registration. If the e-bike goes faster than 20 mph, then it has to be registered as a motor vehicle.

Registering an E-bike should be the same as you would do with a motorcycle. However, what should happen and what does happen are often completely different. Registering an e-bike is a paperwork nightmare for a number of reasons, including a lack of clear instruction or regulation and the fact that e-bikes vary in style from pedal assisted bikes to ‘throttle’ bikes that have motors.

Because e-bikes are such a new phenomenon, relatively new anyway, California bicycle law has not yet fully caught up. For now, talk to the Department of Motor Vehicles if you think your e-bike may need to be registered.

Joshua Bonnici is an avid cyclist himself and spends his days advocating for bike safety while fighting for riders injured in bicycle accidents in San Diego and the nearby area.

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