Safety first! E-bikes unlock a new sense of freedom and adventure for young Riders and give them an extra boost of independence. But with more independence comes extra rules of the road—or as we like to call them, terms of the trail.
The rules and regulations for e-bikes vary state by state and bike by bike. Some e-bikes, like our woom UP, come with more freedom than others. We’re here to tell you why that is and where you can find the most up-to-date information about riding e-bikes in your area.
That brings us to the question:
Are e-bikes legal in my area?
To best understand the legality of e-bikes, it’s essential to understand their classification system. Let’s take a look at the three classes of e-bikes.
Class 1—this is what the woom UP bike falls under. This is the most lenient class and e-bikes bikes that fall under this category are generally allowed to be operated anywhere you can ride a regular bike, which is great news for your Rider that’s ready to take on the road with an extra jolt of energy.
A Class 1 e-bike only applies power to the drive system as your Rider pedals—in other words, no pedaling, no power. E-bikes in this class can’t exceed 20 miles per hour with electric assistance. Created with your child’s safety in mind, the woom UP is limited to 12 mph. Once the UP reaches its maximum speed, the motor automatically switches off. Riders are still able to pedal to their heart’s content or zoom down a hill to reach higher speeds, they just won’t have the extra help of the motor.
Class 2 e-bikes receive their power through the handlebar throttle and can speed up using power on demand, which means they can speed up without pedaling at all. These bicycles are very similar to electric scooters or motorcycles, but still offer the rider the ability to pedal if wanted or needed. The maximum speed for Class 2 e-bikes is also 20 mph.
Class 3 e-bikes are the challengers of e-bike legality and the lines get a little blurry here depending on your state or area. These types of bikes don’t operate via the handlebar throttle, but rather through pedaling, just like the Class 1 e-bikes. The catch here is that Class 3 e-bikes have the power to go up to 28 mph before the motor calls it quits and deactivates. E-bikes in this class may be restricted from slower speed areas such as multi-use paths. Some states also require a license for this type of e-bike, meaning your Rider would need to be of a certain age—usually 16 or 17. And of course, helmets are generally required with this one, though we recommend always keeping safety top of mind and protecting your melon.
Now for the nitty gritty.
General E-Bike Laws and Regulations
U.S. federal law refers to e-bikes as “low-speed electric bicycles.” To be more technical, they’re defined as “two- or three-wheeled vehicles with working pedals and an electric motor that’s less than 750 watts.”
Though legal throughout most of the U.S., individual states have the final say when it comes to whether you can ride freely. Generally speaking, e-bikes are treated like traditional bikes in most states when it comes to the what, where, and when to ride—as long as you're respecting the traditional traffic codes that follow along with bicycling. However, because e-bikes sped onto the scene so quickly, some states are still catching up, making it extra important that you look into the rules and regulations of your state.
State Laws Regarding E-Bikes
Because e-bike laws vary by state, it’s important to research before you ride. A great resource to find information about e-bike regulations in your state is with our friends over at PeopleForBikes. Their site features a state-by-state grid of all 50 states (and D.C.) where you can click on your state to find current info about e-bike legislation. You can also visit your state’s government website and search for “e-bike” or “electric bike” for additional info.
Are There Specific Laws Restricting Kids From Riding E-Bikes?
Since there’s no one-size-fits all answer for the U.S., it’s best to reference your state’s laws. Some states like Alabama, Hawaii, and Alaska have age minimums.
Rules for Riding Off-Road With an E-Bike
E-bikes aren’t just for the roads, and the woom UP is designed to be taken for a spin on any terrain. But before your youngster puts tires to dirt, you’ll need to inform yourself on specific trail rules for electric mountain bikes, or e-MTBs. State and municipal parks, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service, and Fish and Wildlife should all have current information available to the public about e-bikes on their lands. When in doubt, contact your local trail stewards for up-to-the-minute info.
E-Bike Laws: Gain Respect by Giving It
E-bikes are gaining traction and have had a recent explosion in the biking realm for transportation and recreation, which means laws are catching up to define e-bikes in a category all their own. To help create favorable e-bike laws for the future, be sure to respect the current rules of the road. E-bikes allow for more independence and access to public spaces, and e-bike laws are ready to catch up to this supercharged trend.