There are important distinctions under the law to note, especially if you’re a do-it-yourselfer interested in hacking your electric bike or otherwise modifying it. The basic definition of an electric bicycle in the State of California is one that includes both pedals and an electric propulsion system under 750 watts. Here’s what else you will need to know. Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will provide funds to the California Highway Patrol to develop statewide standards for e-bike safety.
E-bikes or Electric Bikes are for rent or purchase across the state of California and riders may wonder if these machines are classified as bikes or as something closer to a moped or motorcycle.
California lawmakers have worked to define e-bikes and to help give riders a clear idea of the traffic laws they should be following.
Three Classes of E-Bikes in California
(a) An “electric bicycle” is a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.
(1) A “class 1 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
(2) A “class 2 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
(3) A “class 3 electric bicycle,” or “speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and equipped with a speedometer.
(b) A person riding an electric bicycle, as defined in this section, is subject to Article 4 (commencing with Section 21200) of Chapter 1 of Division 11.
(c) On and after January 1, 2017, manufacturers and distributors of electric bicycles shall apply a label that is permanently affixed, in a prominent location, to each electric bicycle. The label shall contain the classification number, top assisted speed, and motor wattage of the electric bicycle, and shall be printed in Arial font in at least 9-point type.
(Added by Stats. 2015, Ch. 568, Sec. 1. (AB 1096) Effective January 1, 2016.)
E-Bike California Traffic laws
AB 1096 grants e-cyclists with the same rights as bicyclists on California roads. Bicyclists have the same rights to the lanes as motorists. Like bicyclists, e-bike riders don’t need a driver’s license or need to obtain a license plate.
E-bike riders must follow the same right-of-way rules that bicyclists must observe. They are subject to speed limits and must yield to pedestrians. All cyclists must still stop for stop signs and red lights as of 2021.
California Age Restrictions for E-Bike Riders
Class 1 and Class 2 electric bikes don’t have any age restrictions. Minors, under the age of 18, must wear a helmet when riding these two classes of bikes.
Class 3 bike riders must be at least 16-years-old. All Class 3 riders must wear a helmet.
Where Can I Ride my E-Bike in California?
Class 1 and Class 2 electric bikes are allowed on Class 1bike paths. These paths are removed from main roads, often running through parks and nature areas.
All three classes of e-bikes are allowed to use bike paths that are marked off by lines along many California streets. These are Class 2 bike lanes.
There are also Class 3 bikeways in California. These lanes are also along roadways. They aren’t marked off with lines but are often indicated by road signs. All three classes of e-bikes are allowed on these lanes. Class 3 lanes fall into two categories. 3A lanes are shared lanes on arterial or parallel streets and 3B lanes are bikeways in residential areas.
There are also Class 4 bikeways. They resemble Class 2 lanes but are also set apart by a space or barrier. These lanes may be protected by a curb, a parking lane, or a sidewalk. Only Class 1 and 2 e-bikes can use these lanes.
California E-Bikes Are Not Mopeds
It’s important to note that E-Bikes and Mopeds are not the same types of vehicles. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles mopeds land in the same category as motorcycles.
Moped riders are required to have an M1 or M2 motorcycle license and mopeds must also have a license plate.
To ride a moped, you must be at least 16-years-old. Riders must always wear a helmet. Mopeds are not allowed on Class 1 and Class 4 bike lanes.