With the growing popularity of electric bikes, many more people are getting out and riding than ever before. If you are interested in buying an electric bike but you’re wondering where you are allowed to ride one then this article is for you.
In the United States, you can ride an electric bike on existing bicycle infrastructure in all but 4 states. These are Alaska, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. With some exceptions, you can ride an electric bike anywhere you can ride a regular bike.
Keep reading to find out what these exceptions are and if they affect you.
In Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Alaska you still need a license to ride an ebike. My guess is that will change eventually. New Mexico also requires insurance 🙁
All the other states allow ebikes with no license, registration, or insurance. I won’t go into what each and every state says about their ebike laws, but I will give you some general guidelines based on my experience over the last 3 years.
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How do different states define electric bikes?
Legal electric bikes are split into 3 categories or Classes
- Class 1 – pedal assist – up to 20mph
- Class 2 – pedal assist with a throttle – up 20mph
- Class 3 – pedal assist – up 28 mph
- *The motor can not exceed 750 watts of power
As long as your electric bike fits into one of these three classes, and most do, you are good to go!
Here is a nice map courtesy of People For Bikes that stays updated on the latest laws in your state.
Click on this link to find your current state laws. Click here
Can I ride an electric bike in National Parks?
As of December 2, 2020, you can ride an ebike in National parks! As with everything else, there are some caveats to this.
- First, the local superintendent can designate certain areas only to be opened to certain classes of ebikes. To be on the safe side I would only get a class 1 electric bike if you plan to take it to national parks.
- Second, if you do have a class 2 electric bike with a throttle, you have to pedal the bike. I’m not sure how this would be regulated, but just use pedal assist in national parks.
- Third, electric bikes are still only allowed where regular bikes are allowed and must follow all the same speed and safety measures as regular bikes.
Just be respectful of those around you and enjoy our nation’s beautiful parks from the comfort of your ebike.
For a full list of rules and regulations click here!
Can I ride an electric bike in the bike lane?
In most states, you can ride an electric bike the same way you would ride a regular bike. You can use the bike lane when there is a bike lane and you can use the road when there is not.
One thing I have noticed when commuting on my ebike is that drivers have not caught on to electric bikes yet and don’t realize that we can ride faster than before. So be very cautious when riding in traffic.
Most drivers will not notice that you are on an ebike and will think you are riding slower than you are. Just be very defensive about how you ride and assume nobody sees you.
Can I ride an electric bike on multi-use paths?
For the most part, you will be able to ride your ebike on paved multi-use paths unless otherwise designated. I have never had an issue with this.
There will always be a couple of bad apples that can ruin it for the rest of us and cause the local authorities to close certain paths to ebikes. Pay attention to the signage to make sure that you are allowed to ride in your area.
Always slow down when passing others, be sure to ring your bell and say “On your left” and pass them on the left.
I have found people these days to be just as distracted walking the paths as drivers are driving. Not everyone is going to hear you ring your bell, or hear you tell them you’re passing, just be aware of it.
Groups of people can be interesting too. You would think they would move to the side, but sometimes when I come up behind them and ring my bell to pass, they just turn into bumper cars and bang into each other with no clue of what’s going on. (always makes me smile) 🙂
Also, watch out for dogs! I love dogs, and every dog owner knows their dog is special. Some of these special dog owners think it’s fine that their dog is off-leash even though dog leashes are required on multi-use paths. Even the most special of special dogs can do weird things when there are bikes and other people around. (SQUIRREL!) Just be careful.
Can I ride my electric bike in the rain?
Most electric bikes will come with sealed batteries and motors allowing you to ride in the rain just fine. I do it all the time.
If you bought a particularly cheap electric bike or used a DIY kit to build your own ebike then I would be very cautious about this.
Ebikes can get wet just like regular bikes. I would recommend some fenders for your ebike if you have to ride in the rain a lot.
It’s best if you can bring your ebike inside, out of the rain, when you are done riding, and let it dry off while it’s charging for your next adventure.
Can I ride my electric bike in the snow?
Winter is a wonderful time to bundle up and keep riding and there’s no better way to tackle tough snow rides than on an electric bike!
I would recommend you use studded tires for ebike (yes, they make studded tires for bikes) or if you have the clearance then run at least 4” or bigger tires. I have found that 2.5″ studded tires or bigger do just fine with practice.
I know some people that run 4.8” tires with studs and can get out in the snow and have a blast.
Your ebike will be able to take tires as big as the frame will allow, so if you really want to try riding in the snow, then get the widest, studded tires you can fit.
More and more places are grooming areas at snow parks just for winter fat bike riding, just check with them to make sure they allow ebikes. Or, just go off and find your own path.
Can I ride my electric bike on the beach?
Most beaches that allow regular bikes will allow ebikes. Some will have regulations that don’t allow certain classes of ebikes.
In order to ride on the actual sand, you will need at least 4” tires with very low tire pressure or it won’t matter much, because bikes don’t work very well on sand.
With an ebike, you will be heavier too, and this will cause you to sink in further. But, with the right conditions and the right electric bike, riding on the beach can be an amazing experience.
Can I ride my electric bike on single-track trails?
Where it starts to get tricky is when you get off the road. After doing some research, it seems that even the states that regulate electric bikes just like regular bikes still leave it up to local trail stewards to determine if they’ll allow ebikes.
Some places simply have too many people riding the trails already and will not allow ebikes. I know here in Bend, OR, electric bikes are not allowed on most of the mountain bike trails no matter what class they are. There are many other places to ride, though.
If you want to ride your electric bike on your local trails, please check with whoever manages your trails to see if they will allow you to. Most places will post signs at park entrances and on the trails themselves, which will tell you.
At the End of the Day
As you can see there are many places you can your electric bike. I have found that I’ve gone out and explored so many more areas on my ebike than I ever did on my regular bike.
It may seem like there are a lot of rules and regulations for ebikes, but for me, riding my electric bike has opened up so much more of the world and has allowed me to explore some amazing places that I never knew were there.
I highly recommend you give ebiking a try and even if you are not yet allowed on your local trails, it only takes a little imagination to find someplace not yet explored and create your own favorite adventure spot.
Before long more and more parks will pop up that specifically encourage ebikes to come. This all reminds me of ski resorts not allowing snowboarders, the times they are a-changing.
Stay safe out there and keep on riding!