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E-bikes first generated buzz for their potential to help people ride well into old age. Creaky joints and worn-out knees no longer posed a problem – if helped out by a nifty lithium battery
But, e-bikes – or pedelecs, as they’re also known – have since found a market among young adults. A mid-point between a bike and a moped, they provide mobility for a generation all too often stuck relying on lifts or a stripped-back bus service.
Minimum age limits, however, are often unclear, especially in places with devolved governments. Discerning Cyclist’s handy guide outlines key e-bike laws – and lets you know where exactly these rules apply.
Can Anyone Ride an E-Bike?
Not everyone can cycle an e-bike. EAPCs – electrically assisted pedal cycles or pedelecs – can travel fast, and so many countries have imposed minimum age restrictions, even if no licence is required to ride. In Denmark, certain US states and Canadian provinces, you can’t set off on a pedelec unless you’re wearing a helmet.
Surprisingly, some regions even class e-bikes as motor vehicles. In these rarer instances, you’d need to treat the bike as you would do a car. That means obtaining any appropriate licences, insurance and number plates.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride an Electric Bike?
Most people will be able to ride an e-bike before they can legally drive. In the UK, you’ll need to be over 14, and within the European Union, the minimum age hovers around this number depending on the country.
In the US, there’s no blanket rule on e-bike riding. The federal government have yet to introduce national legislation, so it’s up to state governments to define their own minimum age.
Take a closer look at state government law and you’ll see how widely e-bike rules can vary. Arizona, for example, has no restriction on e-bike use, whereas in Idaho, a child can’t cycle a motor-assisted bike until their sixteenth birthday.
If you’re looking to learn more about limits worldwide, continue reading.
What Age Can You Ride an E-Bike in UK?
You’ll need to be over 14 to ride an e-bike in the UK. However, it’s important to note that you must be 18 or above to rent an e-bike from a public hire scheme (such as Lime or Santander).
However, if you’re a parent or carer and fancy a spin around one of London’s leafy parks with the family, you can hire one of TFL Santander bikes for an ‘additional user’ aged 14 and upwards. You’ll need to accept responsibility for your child’s use of the bike and verify that this TFL policy remains in place before you ride.
What Age Can You Ride an E-Bike in USA?
Here’s where it gets a little complicated. In the US, there’s no universally recognised minimum age for e-bike riding. This means that, in some areas of the country, the limit is around fourteen years old. In others, you can ride with a battery – well, at least theoretically – from birth.
Most states are, however, united in one legal requirement. Delaware, Florida, Maine, North Carolina, Maryland, and Montana ask that riders under the age of sixteen pop on a helmet before they ride an e-bike.
In New Mexico, Indiana and others, it’s a requirement up until the age of eighteen. With American e-bike speeds often reaching 25mph, a helmet should be on your radar even if you’re a few years (or decades) past eighteen.
If you need more detailed state-by-state information, we recommend that you visit the People for Bikes website. Their handy factsheets – created in a push for clearer legislation – give a run-down of e-bike rules and bylaws in all fifty states.
They even discuss their use in the country’s vast National Parks, in case you’re hoping to breeze through the redwoods at Yosemite or take a loop around the Rockies.
What Age Can You Ride an E-Bike in Canada?
No two provinces in Canada are alike and the same goes for the country’s e-bike age laws. On the famously picturesque Prince Edward Island, e-bikes are classed as a moped, meaning you’ll have to be at least 16 and carry a licence to ride.
If you’d like to ride in leafy Quebec, you’ll also need a licence. Other provinces, like the maritime New Brunswick, specify no minumum age applies.
It’s interesting how the nation’s famously cycle-centric cities, like Montreal and Vancouver, are adapting differently to the e-bike boom – and it pays to make sure you’re aware of requirements.
With fines for underage riding in Ontario setting you back as much as $500, your e-bike use might not only illegal. It’ll be very costly.
What Age Can You Ride an E-Bike in Australia?
Despite Australia’s vast size, its minimum age restriction is similar from territory to territory. Riders under 16 in Queensland are not allowed to cycle without supervision, and in West Australia, they are not allowed to ride e-bikes at all.
In Tasmania, you must be over 16 and wearing a helmet. In Victoria, the minimum age is lower at 12. In New South Wales, there are currently no age restrictions. The Nothern Territory has the most stringent requirements, with cyclist required to be 18 or over and wear a securely fitted bike helmet.
What Age Can You Ride an E-Bike in Europe?
Although the 27 EU member states agreed on key directives for e-bike power more than three years ago, minimum age proves a stickier subject. In countries like Belgium and Denmark, a cyclist of any age can take to the roads on a 250W bike.
In fact, in the latter, the only bikes with age restrictions are the new class of ‘speed pedelecs’ – permissible on cycle paths, but able to zoom along at speeds of 28mph. For these bikes, the Danish authorities ask riders to be fifteen.
With such variation, it’s worth checking directly with the authorities of any country you’ll be visiting, especially if you’re following a pan-European cycling route like EuroVelo.
Do You Need a Licence for an E-Bike?
It depends on where you’re riding. In the UK, an e-bike – or EPAC to keep it official – doesn’t require a licence as long as you’re over the minimum age limit and your bike hasn’t been modified. In the US, it varies state-by-state with some states placing e-bikes in the same class as a Cadillac.
In mainland Europe, EU directives lay out ground rules for e-bike power and speed limits, but they don’t specify whether a user requires a valid driver’s licence. As a result, each of the 27 EU countries has an e-bike licensing laws you’ll need to consult.
Do You Need to Wear a Helmet on an Electric Bike?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a universal law when it comes to wearing a helmet on e-bikes. Although the Highway Code suggests that all cyclists wear a helmet, there is no legal requirement to wear one in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
However, studies have shown that buckling up can drastically reduce your risk of a serious head injury – and with injuries sustained on e-bikes possibly more severe, the lack of a legal requirement doesn’t mean you should hold off buying one.
In some EU states, the rule around helmets is more stringent. Both Italy and Ireland require e-bike riders to wear a helmet if they’re under the age of eighteen. This aligns with legislation in the US, which in many states, makes it illegal for teenagers to cycle without helmets.
More Rules on Electric Bikes
So, you’re old enough to legally cycle and own an e-bike? Below, you’ll find a round-up of more general rules covering everything from power to pavements and bike path use.
You might have noticed that being on the same continent – or even in the same country – does not
As you’ll have noticed by now, being on the same continent – or even in the same country – doesn’t always mean that riders are governed by the same set of laws. We’ve complied e-bike rules in the UK, USA, EU and Asia – so that you can get your head around e-bike ownership wherever you’re reading from.
E-bike Rules UK
If you haven’t already read the Discerning Cyclist’s article on need-to-know laws in the UK, here’s a brief resume.
The most commonly known UK e-bike laws surround the power and speed of the bike. The maximum power should be 250W and the electric motor must not be able to propel the bike beyond 15.5mph. The throttle cannot propel the bike beyond 3.7mph.
This is because the e-bike must be powered primarily by pedals. Otherwise, it won’t be classed as a bicycle.
Your chosen bike must also have its power output visible on the frame and the manufacturer of the motor, maximum speed and battery voltage must be clear to all.
Providing it meets all regulations, you can ride your electric bike wherever you can ride a pedal bicycle. That means roads, bike paths and trails and bridleways, but firmly excludes pavement.
And finally, as explored, you must be over 14 to ride an e-bike, and often over 18 if the bike is part of a ‘city bike’ scheme
E-Bike Rules USA
Very few e-bike rules are set by the US federal government, but one does apply regardless of your state flag, E-bikes must only be able to travel up to 20mph on motor power alone. If accompanied by pedalling, the maximum permissible speed increases to 28 miles per hour.
Otherwise, the rules vary depending on your state, which makes for a confusing situation for consumers and retailers alike. Again, we recommend checking People for Bikes for detailed information on your home area.
E-Bikes Laws Around the World
According to Sixth Tone, a state-owned publication in China, the country rolls out almost 30 million e-bikes on average each year – but what are the rules for the people that ride them? In China, different regions define and govern e-bike use differently. This is because national cycling legislation can be supplanted by local laws.
In Beijing, for example, e-bike users not only have to register their e-bike with the local government, they need a driver’s licence too. Apparently, there are more than 200 million registered e-bikes in the country.
In Japan, registration is also mandatory and top speeds are limited to 24mph. In the past, cycle retailers have been prosecuted for selling faster imported models, which under Japanese law, are classed as motor vehicles and require plates.