E-Bike Laws in California

July 31, 2022 Posted In Bicycle Accidents

E-Bikes are used by many in California as an economical means of transportation. However, since they are not just bicycles, unique state laws apply to e-bikes and their use. If you find yourself in a bicycle accident in California, don’t hesitate to reach out to our San Bernardino bicycle accident lawyers.

E-Bike Definition

In California, electric bicycles (E-bikes) are classified as  conventional bicycles, but they cannot exceed 750W and 28 mph. They must also have a switch or mechanism, that when applied or released, will cause the e-bike to disengage or slow down. That state breaks down e-bikes into three classes: 

Class I

Equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and reaches a maximum of 20 mph.

Class II

Equipped with a motor that propels the bicycle by a throttle and pedaling is not necessary. These bikes reach a maximum of 20 mph. 

Class III

Equipped with a motor that provides assistance when the rider is pedaling, is equipped with a speedometer, and bikes reach a maximum of 28 mph. 

Do I need a License to Operate an E-Bike in California?

You do not need a license, insurance, or registration to operate an e-bike in California. However, you must be at least 16 years or older if the bike is a Class 3 and can reach 28 mph. 

Can I Legally Ride an E-Bike on Surface Roads or Freeways?

E-bikes can be legally ridden on surface roads similar to bicycles but must be ridden as far right as is practical. However, electric bikes can only be ridden in dedicated bicycle paths or trails if they are adjacent to a roadway or a sign is posted that allows them. E-bikes cannot be ridden on freeways.

Do I Have to Wear a Helmet on an E-Bike in California?

Electric bicycle riders who are 17 and under must wear a helmet in California, but it is recommended that everyone do so for their safety. Although e-bikes travel at lower speeds, an accident without a helmet can be devastating. Riders are at an increased risk of suffering a severe or fatal injury due to their lack of protection. Additionally, if you are involved in an accident caused by another party but you were not wearing a helmet, it can impact your claim for compensation. The at-fault party’s insurance company can attempt to blame the severity or cause of your injuries on your negligence for failing to wear a helmet. 

Tips for Staying Safe on an E-Bike

Here are some safety tips for riding an e-bike in Pennsylvania.

  • Make sure you are seen. Wearing brightly colored or reflective clothing and keeping your headlights on can help other drivers see you. 
  • Stay in control. Remain alert, follow traffic laws, obey the speed limit, and adjust for inclement weather. 
  • Be heard. Add a bike horn so if you are not sure if a driver sees you, you can honk the horn to make sure they know you are there. 
  • Wear safety gear. In addition to a helmet, gloves and a thick jacket can provide extra protection in an accident. 
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