State Legislative Scan
There has been a steady stream of legislative action at statehouses regarding e-bikes since 2015. State legislation has focused on three dynamics:
- Revising older state laws that classify e-bikes as mopeds and scooters and may include burdensome licensure, registration or equipment requirements.
- Creating three-tier classification systems for e-bikes depending on their speed capabilities.
- Refining more recent e-bike laws that could benefit from further clarification and detail.
The District of Columbia (D.C.) and 44 states in some manner define an electric bicycle:
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. All these states have different laws regarding the operation of electric bicycles. In the remaining states, electric bicycles lack a specific definition and may be included within another vehicle class such as “moped” or “motorized bicycle.”
In Mississippi, there is no clear designation for an electric bicycle, but an attorney general opinion indicates that an electric bicycle would be considered a bicycle. While Kentucky also lacks a definition for e-bikes, the Department of Transportation passed an administrative regulation in 2015 that brought e-bikes within the scope of the state’s bicycle regulations.
Three-Tiered E-Bike Classification System
Twenty-six states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming) have created a three-tiered e-bike classification system intended to differentiate between models with varying speed capabilities. These states have almost identical defining language for e-bikes, as well as similar safety and operation requirements.
New Jersey and West Virginia both established a two-tiered classification system. In New Jersey’s case, the definition only includes the first two tiers of classification. The legislature then modified its “motorized bicycles” definition by stating that such device is one that operates in excess of 20 MPH with a maximum motor-powered speed of 28 MPH. This would generally meet the definition of a “class three” e-bike. In West Virginia, the law provides for “class one” and “class three” e-bikes, but not the “class two” classification e-bike that can be propelled solely by a motor up to 20 MPH.
- Class 1 electric bicycle: 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.
- Class 2 electric bicycle: 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.
- Class 3 electric bicycle: 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 is equipped with a speedometer.
Any device outside of these definitions is not considered a low-speed electric bicycle that would be regulated as a bicycle.
At least 25 states and D.C. have some sort of helmet requirement for e-bike riders and passengers. These often apply to riders under a certain age.
- Connecticut has the strictest requirement, requiring operators and passengers for all classes of e-bikes to wear protective headgear.
- Florida, Maine and Maryland require any e-bike operator or passenger under 16 years of age to wear a helmet, while New Jersey requires any e-bike operator or passenger under 17 to wear a helmet and New York requires any e-bike operator or passenger under 14 to wear a helmet. Moreover, Delaware requires any e-bike operator or passenger under 18 to wear a helmet.
- California, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia require the operator and all passengers of class three electric bicycles, regardless of age, to wear protective headgear.
- Arkansas requires operators and passengers of a class three e-bike under age 21 to wear protective headgear.
- Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah require helmets for those under age 18 operating or riding on a class three e-bike. Additionally, in South Dakota, any passenger on a class three e-bike, regardless of age, must wear a helmet.
However, 25 states do not have helmet requirements for any class of e-bike. Of which, at least eight, including Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming, have enacted specific e-bike laws without such requirements.
Twenty-two states and D.C. have helmet laws that apply to all bicyclists, including e-bike riders, under a certain age, ranging from under 12 to 18 years of age.
- Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee and D.C. require riders under age 16 to wear a helmet.
- In California, Delaware and New Mexico, riders under 18 must wear a helmet.
- In New Jersey, riders under 17 must wear a helmet. In West Virginia, riders under 15 must wear a helmet and, in New York, riders under 14 must wear a helmet. In Louisiana and Pennsylvania, riders under 12 must wear a helmet.