Are E-Bikes Street Legal in the USA?

man and woman enjoying a sunset while riding electric bikes

With the growing popularity of electric bikes, many people are considering purchasing an e-bike for their daily transportation needs. Before choosing your next electric bike, it’s crucial to understand the regulations surrounding e-bikes to ensure you stay within the bounds of the law.

In this blog post, we dive into the legal landscape and find out what’s permissible on the streets of the United States.

What is the Definition of an Electric bike?

To establish a solid foundation, let’s start by defining what exactly is an electric bike.

In short, an electric bicycle is a standard bicycle equipped with an electric motor that assists the rider. The motor gets its power from the battery.

E-bikes come in different forms, including those with a pedal-assist system, where the motor only engages when the rider pedals, and those with a throttle, allowing riders to ride the e-bike without pedaling.

To make things easier, e-bikes are divided into classes (class 1, class 2, and class 3). As it turns out from our state-by-state electric bike laws article, most states in the US use this system.

However, there are a dozen of states where they have their own system. But still, the definition of an electric bike is very similar in all of them.

Usually, the electric motor must be less than 750W and it can’t provide speeds more than 20 or 25 mph. Also, the e-bike must have operable pedals.

Where Can I Ride My E-Bike?

The question of where you can ride your eBike depends on the specific laws and regulations in your state or locality.

man riding an electric bike on a rocky terrain

In general, e-bike riders can enjoy many of the same privileges as traditional bicycle riders, such as riding on roads, bike lanes, and shared-use paths.

However, it’s important to note that certain restrictions may apply based on the class of your e-bike.

Can You Ride E-Bikes on Sidewalks?

In most states, Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are allowed wherever traditional bicycles are permitted. In many states, even class 3 ebikes are allowed on sidewalks.

man riding an electric bike on a sidewalk

On the other hand, Class 3 e-bikes, which can reach a top assisted speed of 28 mph, may have additional restrictions.

In some states, it is not allowed to ride e-bikes on the sidewalks but is allowed to ride on bike paths.

Which states forbid riding electric bikes on the sidewalks?

There are some states that clearly say it’s prohibited to ride ebikes on the sidewalks. These states are:

  • Alaska
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey (allowed on bike paths)
  • Oregon (allowed on bike paths)
  • Tennessee (allowed on bike paths)
  • Utah (allowed on bike paths)

Read more: State-by-State E-Bike Laws in the USA

Are E-Bikes Allowed in State Parks?

The allowance of e-bikes in state parks varies from park to park and depends on the specific rules and regulations set by each state.

While some state parks have embraced e-bikes and consider them as an eco-friendly mode of transportation, others have restrictions or outright bans on their use.

It’s important to note that there are often limitations based on the class of the e-bike. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes, which provide pedal assist and have limited top speeds, are typically more widely accepted in state parks. On the other hand, Class 3 e-bikes are mostly forbidden from state parks.

Are E-Bikes Allowed on Bike Trails?

In most states, electric bikes are allowed on bike trails. However, you should always check for the local laws to be sure.

But there are 3 states that have completely prohibited riding electric bikes on bike trails. These states are Alaska, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

are E-Bikes Banned in New York?

Electric bikes are not banned in New York. New York State follows e-bike classes like most other states and New York City reflects the state’s rules.

However, in New York, class 3 e-bikes can only assist riders up to 25mph. Industry-defined class 3 electric bikes, that assist riders up to 28mph are indeed not allowed to operate in New York.

Are E-Bikes Allowed on Mackinac Island?

Electric bikes are not allowed on Mackinac Island. Cars were banned from that island in 1898 and it has been car-free ever since. By not allowing electric bikes on Mackinac Island, they preserve the charm of a car-free island. (source)

However, if you have a mobility disability, you may ride a class 1 electric bike on the island.

Do You Need a Drivers License for E-Bike in the USA?

In most states, you don’t need a license to ride an electric bike. However, there are 2 states in the US where there is a license required to ride an e-bike.

Alaska and Massachusetts are the only states where you need a driver’s license to operate an electric bike.

In addition to that, you need a driver’s license to ride a class 3 e-bike in New Jersey (class 1 and 2 ebikes don’t require a license).

Do I Need to Register My E-Bike?

In most states, electric bikes are not subject to registration. However, there are 2 states, where you have to register your electric bike in order to legally ride with it.

Hawaii and Massachusetts are the only states in the US that require you to register your electric bike.

Additionally, in New Jersey, you have to register only class 3 ebikes. Class 1 and 2 e-bikes can be legally ridden without registration.

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