With electric bikes on the rise, it is more crucial than ever to be aware of the laws pertaining to them. Laws regarding electric bikes vary depending on which region of the globe you live in and many of these laws are just beginning to take shape. Several nation-states around the world have yet to adopt legislation regarding these types of bikes. It wasn’t even until recently that ebikes were allowed within New York City, and their laws continue to evolve.
You may be wondering, what goes into the decision for a country to adopt specific electric bike legislation? It would make much more sense for all countries to follow similar regulations and laws. Yet, this is not the case. This is due to an abundance of different reasons. Most importantly, various cultures and countries have different opinions regarding bicycles. For example, in the United States, bicycles are often viewed as a way to exercise. Yet, in Europe, bicycles are generally viewed more as a mode of transportation from point A to point B.
Below is a chart breaking down some of the basic federal laws for ebikes in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Further down in the article, one can find more information on each area as well additional countries, states, territories, provinces, and cities.
While this article covers many ebike laws around the world, there are even more countries that this article does not include. The movement around electric bikes is relatively new. Due to this, many countries have no set regulations or legislation pertaining to them.
Pedal Assist Allowed
> 28 mph
Yes (up to 20 mph)
200W - 250W
¹ Class 4 ebikes in the United States are classified as an electric motorcycle or moped and thus require corresponding documentation, registration, and insurance.
² While pedal assist would technically be legal on a class 4 ebike, bikes classified in this class generally do not come with pedal assist and are throttle only.
In the U.S. market, bikes are built as a class 2 federally regulated ebike. This allows our bikes to have a 750W motor with a top speed allowance of 20 mph. Furthermore, it allows for not only pedal assist but also a throttle function. Class 2 ebikes do not need to be registered, insured, or licensed unless specified by a state or local government.
Canada does not have a class system in place for electric bikes. Instead, all ebikes in Canada cannot exceed 500W or 32 km/h. In Canada, ebikes are allowed to have pedal assist as well as a throttle function. Federally, ebikes in Canada do not need to be licensed unless specifically stated by a local municipality. Rad Power Bikes operates in Canada and offers the all of their models with a 500W motor, pedal assist, and a throttle function.
In the EU market, ebikes are L1e-A classes of ebikes. In Europe, there are two classes of ebikes available, L1e-A and L1e-B. L1e-A does require registration and insurance for the bike. Yet, unlike L1e-B, L1e-A allows for not only pedal assist but a throttle function as well.
The United States of America
Similarly to Canada, electric bicycles are beginning to gain a lot of popularity in the states. More people are beginning to realize that bicycles were not just invented for recreational or exercising purposes. While they are a great outlet for exercise and fun, their primary function has always been to get from point A to point B. With commutes getting longer and longer, people are being drawn towards electric bicycles as a vehicle alternative.
While there has been a three class system in place in the United States since 2016, not all states have adopted the plan. Legislation across the U.S. pertaining to ebikes has been scattered because there are no set federal regulations. The federal government is allowing each state or local government to set up their own laws regarding electric bicycles.
For the past few years, PeopleForBikes, a national bike advocacy group, has been lobbying for more transparency regarding ebike laws across the U.S. With the help of various states across the nation and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, the new three class system was implemented in 2016. While only a fraction of the states have implemented this system, there is hope in the future that many more states will follow suit.
To check which states allow ebikes and which states may not, take a look at an ARTICLE from PeopleForBikes which outlines all the regulations set forth by each state. This article also outlines different cycling laws that cyclists in each state should follow and if helmets are required for riders in that state.
All electric bike riders in the U.S. should be familiar with cycling laws in their area. All cyclists need to abide by the same rules unless stated by that specific municipality. If you ever are unsure of ebike laws in your city or state, contact your local law enforcement agency for clarification. Many federal, state, and local bicycle trails vary in which bikes are allowed on those specific trails. If you are curious as to whether your ebike is allowed on a specific trail, reach out to the body that regulates that trail for more information!
While Canadian electric bike market saturation may not be as high as it is in Asia or Europe, it is a growing market. More and more people are ditching their cars and replacing them with electric bikes. There is one main difference between bikes in Canada and the United States. In the U.S., motors can go up to 750W whereas in Canada they are regulated at 500W.
However, the two motors still operate at relatively the same speed (750W = 20 mph, 500W = 32 km/h which is roughly 19.8 mph). The decrease in wattage does not result in a huge difference in rider feel, and a benefit of the 500W motor is increased range vs the 750W model.
There are a few minor differences in Canada that are not in place in the United States:
Helmets are required across all provinces and territories, unless specifically stated. Information on that is provided below.
Age restrictions vary in each province. For example, in British Columbia, you must be 16 years or older to ride an electric bicycle. However, in Alberta the age requirement is 12 years of age.
In some provinces, ebikes with throttles require licensing.
Specific ebike labeling is required on all ebikes in Canada.
While ebikes are regulated at 500W by federal regulation, each provincial state or territory has the authorization to include their own laws and regulations pertaining to ebikes.
Alberta: Alberta requires electric bicycle riders to be at least 12 years old to operate the bike. Furthermore, if you are under 16 years old, you are not allowed to carry any passengers on an ebike. No license, registration, or insurance is required to operate an ebike.
British Columbia: As stated above, you must be 16 years or older to operate a motor-assisted cycle (MAC) in British Columbia. While you do not need to carry a driver's license, have registration, or insure your electric bike, you are required to follow all bicycle safety laws and regulations.
Electric bike legislation in B.C. dictates that the vehicle must be equipped with a mechanism that either:
Allows the driver to turn the motor on/off
Prevents the motor from turning on or engaging before the ebike attains a speed of 3km/h.
As well as: The motor must disengage when the operator;
Stops pedaling, or,
Releases the accelerator, or,
Applies a brake.
Manitoba: You must be 14 years of age to operate an electric bicycle in Manitoba. Like all areas of Canada, you must abide by the helmet regulations set forth by the Canadian government. The law specifies that a helmet must be properly secured and must fit on the rider’s head. In Manitoba, riders must cycle in a single fashion unless passing another cyclist or turning. Riders must abide by all laws and regulations pertaining to standard bicycles and vehicles. There is also a clause that states that no person shall operateon a sidewalk a bicycle with a rear-wheel diameter of which exceeds 40 mm.
New Brunswick: In New Brunswick, laws pertaining to ebikes are in line with federal law. The one exception is that ebikes are allowed on sidewalks in New Brunswick. In all other areas, ebikes must abide by all laws and regulations pertaining to standard bicycles and vehicles. There is no information regarding an age limit for ebike riders in New Brunswick. If this is an area of concern, reach out to your local law enforcement.
Newfoundland & Northwest Territories: There is no information regarding an age limit for ebike riders in these areas. If this is an area of concern, reach out to your local law enforcement. Riders in Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories must abide by all federal ebike laws and regulations with one exception. Cyclists are not required to wear a helmet when operating a bicycle which includes ebikes.
Nunavut: There is no information regarding an age limit for ebike riders in Nunavut. If this is an area of concern, reach out to your local law enforcement . Riders in Nunavut must abide by all federal ebike laws and regulations with one exception. Cyclists are not required to wear a helmet when operating the bike. Ebike operators must abide by all laws and regulations pertaining to standard bicycles and vehicles.
Nova Scotia: There is no information regarding an age limit for ebike riders in Nova Scotia. If this is an area of concern, reach out to your local law enforcement. In Nova Scotia, cyclists must ride in a single file on all highways except when passing another cyclist. Bicycles are allowed on all roads in Nova Scotia unless there are signs posted, “No bikes or slow-moving vehicles allowed.”
Ontario: Similar to British Columbia, you must be 16 years of age or older to ride an electric bicycle in Ontario. You do not need a driver’s license, vehicle permit, or licence plate to ride an electric bicycle. You do, however, have to abide by the same rules of the road as a standard cyclist. As of 2014, electric bikes are permitted to use bike lanes in the city of Toronto.
Electric bikes are allowed on the same roads and highways as regular bicycles with a few exceptions;
On municipal roads, including sidewalks, where bicycles are banned under municipal by-laws.
On municipal roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails, or bikes lanes where electric bicycles are restricted.
Prince Edward Island: You must be 16 years or older to operate an electric bicycle on Prince Edward Island. In this area, electric bicycles are categorized differently than they are in other areas of Canada. On Prince Edward Island, ebikes are labelled as a Motor Assisted Pedal Bicycle and cannot exceed a power output of 50 cc’s. However, the top speed cannot exceed 32 km/h. As always, ebike riders must abide by the laws and regulations set forth for standard bicycles and vehicles.
Quebec: You must be 14 years or older to operate an electric bicycle in Quebec. Those who are 14 to 17 years are required to have a class 6D license which is the same license required to operate an electric moped or scooter. Those who are 18 or older are not required to have a driver’s license. Ebikes do not need to be registered in Quebec nor do you need the bike to be insured. Ebikes are allowed on all public roadways with an exception to highways. All electric bicyclists in Quebec must abide by the rules that apply to all cyclists, including the highway safety code.
Saskatchewan: All ebike riders must at least 14 years of age to ride in Saskatchewan. Riders are required to follow all the rules under The Traffic Safety Act that apply to a normal vehicle. Riders cannot operate a pedal-assisted electric bicycle where municipalities restrict their use.
Yukon: There is no information regarding an age limit for ebike riders in Yukon. If this is an area of concern, reach out to your local law enforcement. Similar to a few other regions of Canada, helmets are not required in Yukon. Furthermore, you can ride an ebike on the sidewalk as long as the motor is not engaged. All electric bicyclists in Yukon must abide by the rules that apply to all cyclists.
The European Union
While there is some contradiction as to who invented the first human propelled bicycle, there is no doubt it came from Europe. A lot of progress has been made to the bicycle since its invention. Especially since this is an article regarding electric bikes!
There are several countries within Europe. This article will only be covering laws pertaining to members of the European Union.
There are technically four classes of electric bicycles allowed in the EU. However, some of these vehicles will be distinguished as something other than an electric bike. For example, an electric cycle with a speed limit that exceeds 25 km/h and has three wheels instead of two is regarded as class L2e.
The chart below will help distinguish each class type of electric cycle in the European Union.
Pedal assist or throttle?
# of Wheels
2, 3, 4
Pedal assist only
Pedal assist only
Three wheeled mopeds
Pedal assist only
As a general note, registration and insurance are required for all electric cycles. This ensures that the bikes are registered and gives riders the peace of mind that a bike can be traced and located if it is ever stolen.
There has, however, been recent movement within the EU regarding insuring L1e-A class bikes. As of September 2018, member states of the European Union have the authority to exempt new types of electric motor vehicles from compulsory third party motor insurance. The condition is that these member states must provide a national compensation fund that will ensure the compensation of victims in the case of an accident.
While there are set standards across the EU pertaining to ebikes as well as standard bikes in general, member states do have the right to set their own regulations as they see fit in accordance to road traffic laws. Below are some general cycling notes that riders should take note of but be aware of specific road traffic laws pertaining to their own country that may differ.
As a general note, cyclists in the EU;
Cyclists are required to keep to the right of the road, bike lane, or carriageway. In the U.K. and Ireland keep to the left.
Cyclists must give the appropriate hand signals when wishing to make a turn.
Cyclists are required to ride in single file except when passing another cyclist, making a turn, where cycle traffic is heavier than normal, or when the carriageway is wide enough.
Cyclists are required to use cycle lanes when there are those lanes present. Cyclists cannot choose to use motorways or similar roads unless in the absence of a cycling lane. *Various member states in the EU have designated road traffic laws that, when present, ban electric bicycles from using cycling lanes. Inquire with local law enforcement in your country to see if this applies to you.
Cyclists are required to cycle with at least one hand on the handlebar at all times.
Cyclists must not tow, or push objects which inhibit their cycling or endanger other cyclists, pedestrians, or driver.
When pushing or walking a bike on foot, individuals are considered pedestrians and can therefore use the sidewalk.
Helmets are required in all European countries unless specified below;
Helmets are mandatory for;
Cyclists under 16
Cyclists under 18
Cyclists outside urban areas travelling at speeds over 50 km/h
At speeds greater than 20 km/h
Cyclists under 18
All pedal assisted bicycles and for children under 10
Cyclists under 16 and for riders outside urban areas
Cyclists under 15
Cyclists travelling at speeds over 20 km/h
In the land down under, electric bicycles are just beginning to breach the market. Because ebikes are so new to the area, many Australians are wondering what can and can not be done on them.
In Australia, manufacturers are allowed two options. One option is electric bikes are allowed to only have a throttle and no pedal-assist system. With this option, bikes are limited to a 200W output. The other option is to have a 250W bike with a pedal-assist system. If the pedal-assisted bike also has a throttle, the bike is not allowed to exceed 6 km/h by the throttle alone. With the pedal assist activated, speeds are topped out at 25 km/h.
Electric bicycles used solely for off-road purposes have no regulations. However, a PACP (Power Assisted Pedal Cycle) that exceeds 250W in power must be classified as a motorbike and registered accordingly. Furthermore, any rider on a PACP with a power output greater than 250W must be licensed and insured. Dealers like Reef offer ebikes with 1,000W motors designed exclusively for the challenging terrains of the outback and surrounding areas. When inside city limits or on roads within Australia, riders must abide by the laws and regulations set forth above.
Australia has several laws that apply to all cyclists, not just electric bicycles. As stated above, all ebike users must abide to regular biking laws.
Some notable bicycle laws in Australia are;
You must always wear a bicycle helmet that has been approved by the government.
You must equip a bell or horn.
Have (at least one) effective brake or braking system on the bike.
Be visible by others at night by means of lights and reflectors.
Have pedals on any bike for means of propulsion. Bikes without pedals are not regarded as bicycles by the Australian government.
In New South Wales, riders 12 years and under are permitted to use the footpath to cycle if they are uncomfortable on a road or bicycle lane.
While there has been backlash regarding bicycles in Australia in the past years, there has been recent improvement. In 2015 and 2016, the city of Sydney went through drastic changes regarding bicyclists in general. In the press, issues were discussed regarding rider safety. The New South Wales government decided that the best way to protect cyclists was to get them off the roads. Not only did they try to get rid of bike lanes all over the city of Sydney, but law enforcement also heavily fined cyclists for small or major any wrongdoings.
The city of Sydney has been opposed to the backlash towards cyclists. The city is currently constructing a 200-kilometer bike network. This will separate cyclists from traffic and pedestrians, encouraging more commuters to bike to work! In the past three years, Sydney has seen a 100% increase in the number of cyclists on the roads. - Via the City of Sydney website.
Asia accounts for the most electric bikes in the world. According to SixthTone, In China alone, there are more than 200 million registered ebikes. The article also added that on average, the country is rolling out nearly 30 million new ebikes each year. There is no question that electric bikes are popular in China. Due to that, legislation around them is always changing.
As of April 15, 2019, ebikes will have newly integrated standards that all manufacturers must abide by after the set date;
The top speed will be raised from 20 km/h to 25 km/h.
Motors cannot exceed 48V or 400W.
The maximum weight of the bike cannot exceed 55 kilograms.
Ebikes will be required to come with foot pedals so that they can be human propelled as well as electrically propelled.
As with any nation, local, state, or provincial laws can override nationwide legislation pertaining to ebikes. This is very much the case in the city of Beijing. Beijing is requiring all electric bike users to have a driver's license as well as registering the bike to the local government. Furthermore, the city is trying to pass legislation that will downgrade the top speed from 25 km/h to 15 km/h. This is roughly slower than the speed at which you can propel a bicycle without a motor.
Japan is another Asian country that is no stranger to electric bicycles. According to the Japanese Bicycle Promotion Unit, out of every 10 bicycles on the road, 6 of those are electric. The regulations in Japan for electric bicycles are different than those in China. In Japan, motors cannot exceed 250W and cannot exceed speeds of 24 km/h. Furthermore, all bikes, including electric and standard bikes, have to be registered.
In Japan, you can only have a pedal assist electric bicycle. If the bike is throttle based, you must register it as a 50 cc engine size or less. Furthermore, you will need to have a driver's license and plates on the bicycle.
In the past, laws in Japan regarding bicycles and ebikes have been fairly lax. It was commonplace to see bikers riding down the sidewalk, against the flow of traffic, or with an umbrella in hand while riding. Recently, Japanese law enforcement has been stricter and more proactive regarding citations to cyclists who are not following the rules of the road.
As a cyclist in Japan, you must follow the same rules of the road that apply to all vehicles. When bike lanes are present, cyclists must abide. Cyclists cannot bike in pedestrian-only areas or lanes. Cyclists cannot ignore stop signs or stoplights and must have operable brakes on the bike. For more information on local bike laws in Japan, contact your local government or law enforcement to make sure you are riding responsibly and safely!
An Ending Note
Electric bicycle use is on the rise. They aren’t going anywhere. As more and more legislation is proposed around the world restricting the use of internal combustion engines, more and more people are purchasing electric bikes. When using an ebike, it is important to be informed about laws and regulations in your area in order to decrease possible citations and increase safety.
Please note, this article is not a definitive or absolute source for ebike laws in your area. Ebike laws are always changing, so please check your local laws before riding to make sure you are riding legally and safely.