Understanding California’s e-bike rules and restrictions

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2023 | Bicycle Accidents, Bicycling |

Electric bicycles or e-bikes are continuously transforming the transportation industry. California’s Vehicle Code describes e-bikes as bicycles with usable pedals and an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts.

Due to its convenience, comfort and cost-effectiveness, it is increasingly becoming an eco-friendly transport of choice among the state’s commuters. However, e-bike regulations are still evolving.

Knowing existing rules and restrictions may guide cyclists on how to safely navigate the roads with other vehicle drivers and protect their rights during a potential crash.

E-bike rules

Per the state’s e-bike laws, manufacturers or distributors must indicate the product’s top assisted speed and motor wattage. It must also have a permanently displayed classification label, which may be any of the following:

  • Class I or low-speed pedal-assisted: Has a motor that provides assistance when the rider pedals and stops assisting at 20 miles per hour
  • Class II or low-speed throttle-assisted: Has a motor that exclusively powers the bike but cannot assist when speed is at 20 miles per hour
  • Class III or speed pedal-assisted: Has a speedometer and a motor that assists when the rider pedals, which stops assisting at 28 miles per hour

Further, the state does not qualify e-bikes as a motor vehicle. They do not need a license, registration and insurance to operate. However, e-bike riders must still comply with specific guidelines.

E-bike restrictions

Since e-bike riders share the road with other drivers, they equally bear a responsibility to keep everyone safe. Thus, they must adhere to the following conditions:

  • There are no age limits for Class I and II e-bikes. However, anyone under 16 cannot operate Class III e-bikes.
  • Helmets are mandatory for all Class III riders and passengers, regardless of age.
  • Class III e-bikes cannot use hiking trails or recreational paths, unless permitted by local authorities.
  • Every e-bike must have protective gear, such as headlights and reflectors.

Compliance with these rules and restrictions can help e-bikers avoid violation fees and deadly risks.

E-bike safety

Out of all the age groups, e-bikes mostly attract teens who like riding the trend. However, insufficient experience makes teens prone to accidents. Thus, parents must take a more proactive approach in guiding their children to have safe e-bike adventures. Unfortunately, some cases still see young riders suffer injuries and deaths despite constant parental warnings. When this happens, families can work with their legal team to fight for their claim and recover the compensation they deserve.