Electric Bikes Law FAQS

March 22, 2012

March, 2012

Read our complete story on Ebike Legality here.

What is the federal law when it comes to electric bikes?

In the USA, Congress has defined an electric bicycle as any bicycle or tricycle with fully operable pedals, an electric motor not exceeding 750 W of power and a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour. An electric bike or trike that meets these limitations is regarded as a bicycle [8] by Public Law 107-319.[9] This Law defines electric bicycles only for the purpose of Consumer Product Safety. It is a safety criteria that manufacturers should use in building electric bicycles, which helps protect manufacturers from the threat of lawsuits from within states that attempt to legislate more stringent safety requirements.

Federal law was designed to keep manufacturers from designing high speed high power e-bikes without extreme liability issues. However its very easy to build a bike that is beyond federal law. You will be lawbreaker…but chances of you getting caught are slim. In the minds of many build yourself e-bikes, legal means not getting stopped and questioned by the police. Your e-bike must look normal enough to pass that test.


What is the legality of home built fast electric bikes?

Home built electric bikes exist in a gray zone legally.  “It’s an ebike if you can ride past a cop and not get pulled over” is what one famous ebike builder said.

Almost all of the high performance e-bikes on the planet right now that can hit speeds of over 30mph are designed in peoples’ garages.  (read our 10 fastest ebike story).


Do you need a driver’s license, insurance and registration to ride an e-bike?

No, e-bikes in most jurisdictions count as bicycles.

Can you park on the sidewalks?

Yes you can…same as a bicycle

Can you take on subway?

If you can take a bicycle on the subway than more than likely you can take your e-bike. It’s best if your e-bike looks like a bicycle in cases like this.

Can you get a DUI on an electric bike?

You can, but the same as a dui on a bicyle it will not have the severe consequences a DUI would have in a car or motorcycle . Basically the same as a dui on a bicycle. Most states consider bikes and motorized vehicles differently for the purposes of DUI statutes. (read our complete story on DUI on an electric bike)

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


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