What is an electric bicycle or “E-Bike”?
An E-Bike is a bicycle with a battery powered lightweight electric motor that can be pedaled like a regular bicycle, pedaled with a motor assist, or propelled solely by the electric motor. E-bikes come in all styles, shapes, and sizes and have a variety of options on where and how they can be ridden. Most of them look just like a regular bicycle with a few small added components. They can be purpose built for electric motors or they can start out as a regular bicycle with an add-on electric motor kit. E-bikes can ridden by everyone, including casual cyclists looking to ride farther than they are otherwise capable of, commuters looking to save energy and arrive at work more presentable, car-free riders looking to carry heavier cargo loads, or even new or inexperienced mountain bikers looking to go as fast or as far as some of their more experienced compatriots.
The motor could be mounted in the front or rear hub of the bicycle or to the cranks. Each location has its own advantages and disadvantages. Crank mounted motors, “mid-drive” are the most popular and versatile, however they can be the most expensive and complicated to install and maintain. Front hub motors are durable and can be installed on most any bicycle, however they have a significant impact on how the bicycle handles. Rear hub motors offer a more traditional feel when being ridden but present a different set of challenges when it comes to the drivetrain selection and wheel fitment. The batteries come in various shapes and sizes, can be installed in numerous locations on the bike and can typically be easily removed for charging or long-term storage. Some systems will even allow for a secondary battery effectively doubling the range of your E-bike.
What are the laws regarding “E-bikes” in California?
Electric bicycles are permitted by California law although there are some restrictions on the size of the motor and where they can be ridden. All motors must be rated at or below 750W to ride on roadways and bike paths. Type I and Type II E-bikes are pedal or throttle assisted pedal bicycles that do not provide any assist above 20MPH. These first two types of bicycles enjoy all of the same freedoms and regulations as traditional pedal powered bicycles. Type III E-bikes allow for motor pedal assist up to 28 MPH. All riders are required to wear a helmet when riding a type III E-bike versus only those under the age of 18 for other bicycles and the minimum age for riding a Type III E-bike is 16 years old although no license is required. Type III bicycles are also restricted from limited access Class I Bike Path such as the Bayshore Bikeway, Mission Bay Bike Path, Highway 56 Bike Path or the Silver Strand bikeway. A Class I Bike Path provides a completely separated right of way for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with crossflow by motorists minimized