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Electric bikes are becoming more prevalent on our streets and bike paths in the UK and across the world, with their popularity growing from strength to strength without any sign of slowing up.
The UK government calls electric bikes EAPCs (electrically assisted pedal cycles) and while you don’t need a licence to ride one, the UK does have some strict rules about the types of electric bikes that are allowed on public roads.
So what are the actual rules and laws surrounding the ownership and use of electric bikes?
Key Electric Bike Laws in the UK
- Electric bikes must have pedals to propel it
- E-bikes must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
- The bike must show the power output (i.e. wattage) on the frame
- The bike must show the manufacturer of the motor
- The bike must show the battery’s voltage
- The bike must show the maximum speed of the bike
- The electric motor must not be able to propel the bike beyond 15.5mph
- Throttles cannot propel the bike beyond 3.7mph
- You can ride an electric bike anywhere you can ride a pedal bicycle (see UK cycling laws)
- Electric bikes can be ridden on roads
- Electric bikes can be ridden on bike paths and trails
- Electric bikes can’t be ridden on pavements
- You don’t legally need to wear a helmet (although it is recommended)
- You don’t legally need insurance
- You must be at least 14 years old to ride an electric bike
What the Highway Code Says About E-Bikes
The highway code in the UK actually doesn’t say a whole load about electric bikes per say. However, as they are still a bicycle they have to therefore follow the same rules as any other bike.
This means that they still have to give way to those on foot and follow all of the other road laws when travelling along the roads. Therefore if you are unsure of what these are, it’s best to brush up on the rules to keep yourself and others safe as well as in the know.
Are Electric Bikes Legal?
Electric bikes are legal to buy and use throughout the world. However there are two main laws you have to consider when buying or using an e-bike.
First off, your age: in the UK you have to be over 14 to buy and ride an electric bike. This is of course a safety measure to ensure that unnecessary accidents don’t occur. This age restriction is similar in most of Europe.
However in the US, they don’t currently have an age restriction for electric bike usage. Therefore, anyone can ride an electric bike. But you should still do so with precaution due to the motor.
Secondly, the motor of the electric bikes has to be limited to a certain speed with the pedal assist. This speed limit is 15.5mph. This means that once you are up to this speed, the motor must stop assisting you. You are still allowed to ride faster than this, but this can only come from the power you generate (or a nice downhill ride).
Therefore, any electric bikes that are unlimited with regards to speed, or have a motor that is in use when you aren’t pedalling, are in fact illegal.
Do You Need Insurance for an Electric Bike? (UK)
According to the UK Government website regarding electric bike rules, an e-bike does not need to be insured for you to own or ride. It also does not need to be taxed like you would with a car.
However, just because you don’t need to insure your electric bike by law, it is still a great idea to get some insurance for your electric bike. Bike insurance will cover your bike in a number of situations, much like car insurance.
Insurance for your e-bike is good to consider as it can cover the cost of your bike if it gets stolen or if it’s damaged in a crash. This is of course worthwhile considering the cost of electric bikes: replacing a stolen one that’s not insured would cause a big dent in your pocket.
Do E-Bikes Need to Be Registered?
Under British laws set out by the UK Government, an e-bike does not need to be registered in order for you to own or use one. This is the exact same rules as with any regular bike.
However, just because you don’t need to register your e-bike with the government there are other forms of registration that you may want to consider looking into.
For example, the Bike Register in the UK is a useful service that allows you to register your bike’s unique number onto a database used by the police which is really useful in the event of a theft. This allows the police to match up the bike’s unique number with your information and return your bike to you.
Do E-Bikes Require a Licence?
According to the official UK Government website, you do not need to attain a licence to use your electric bike. Unlike driving a car which requires a driving licence.
This is not needed because it’s not technically a motorised vehicle, even though it has a motor. Because it’s only pedal assisted, the law doesn’t deem electric bike owners to posses a specific licence to ride one.
Therefore, as long as you are 14 and over, you can jump on an electric bike without any issues, as long as it still has a speed limiter on it, if not it’s technically a motorised vehicle and thus no longer an e-bike.
Electric Bike Speed Limit UK
As aforementioned, electric bikes in the UK do actually have a speed limit in terms of when the motor will cut out and no longer assist you when pedalling.
The speed limit for Britain is 15.5mph.This means that once you have got up to 15.5 mph with the motor assisting you, it will then no longer assist you in building on that speed.
Other countries also have a limit, which you should check for the individual country. Some do allow e-bikes to assist up to higher speeds, but in the UK it’s illegal to have a bike without a speed limiter.
But with this being said, road speed limits don’t technically apply to bikes, so you can still ride an electric bike as fast as you want (or are able) to within reason. However I would still highly recommend keeping to the speed limits of the road for safety reasons.
Is It Illegal to Remove Speed Limiter from E-Bike?
It is in fact illegal to remove the speed limiter from an e-bike in the UK.
Therefore if you are thinking of doing it: don’t. It’s better to be safe than sorry, plus no one wants to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Therefore keep yourself and others safe and abide by the laws set out in the country you are in.
Are Electric Bikes with Throttle Illegal?
E-bike throttles are heavily regulated in the UK.
E-bikes with a throttle can be used, but the electrical assistance from a throttle must cut out at a speed of 3.7mph.
Effectively, this means that e-bike throttles can only be used to help start the bike moving – which can be very useful if you want to move from a standing start on a hill.
If a e-bike can be ridden beyond this speed using a throttle only, it will instead by classed as a moped or motorbike – meaning it will be to taxed, insured and the rider must have a suitable driving license.
Can Electric Bikes Use Bike Lanes?
Electric bikes can thankfully be ridden anywhere a ‘regular’ bike can be ridden, this therefore allows electric bikes to also be taken along bike lanes.
Not only that, but electric bikes can also be ridden along bike specific trails, such as mountain bike trail centres. This is obviously great as it allows for improved accessibility.
But it is worth noting, specific bike paths are very different from pavements: the highway code does not permit any bicycle, e-bike or otherwise, to travel along a pavement. This is only allowed if the signage specifically allows for mixed use of both pedestrians and bikes.
Can Electric Bikes Go on Roads?
As with normal non motorised bikes, electric bikes are permitted to use all roads apart from the motorway. I’d also personally advise, strongly, against riding along a dual carriageway although it is technically legal.
But all in all, yes. Electric bikes can go on the roads and in fact, with the pedal assist helping to keep your speed up along the flats and especially the climbs, an e-bike could arguably be seen as a safer option when choosing to travel along the road.
This is because the faster you are travelling, certain rules no longer apply. For example, cars can break a solid white line to overtake if that person on a bicycle is travelling at less than 10 mph. This will often occur even if it’s not safe for the car to do so.
However, if the cyclist is riding faster than 10 mph, the car isn’t allowed to break the white line. Therefore an e-bike can help stop this from occurring as cars won’t be allowed to overtake if you are travelling at 15 mph, which the motor should allow for.
Are Electric Bikes Road Legal?
Electric bikes that meet the EAPC regulations are road legal, according to the UK Government website. Therefore, any e-bikes that meet this criteria can safely and legally be ridden on British roads without any issues.
However, if they do not meet the EAPC regulations then your e-bike may not be road legal, therefore it’s best to check up on the details first and foremost.
Do I Need to Wear a Helmet on an Electric Bike?
If you were wondering if wearing a helmet is a legal requirement while riding an electric bike, then the simple answer is: no.
Just the same with a regular non-motorised bike, UK law does not enforce cyclists to wear helmets while riding a bike. However in some countries, such as Australia, it is a legal requirement to wear a helmet while riding a bike.
However, if your e-bike has a throttle, being that you actually have a motorbike legally, you will need to wear an appropriate helmet that is in fitting with the current laws.
But overall, although it’s not enforced by law, it is always a good idea to wear a helmet while riding a bike. Especially while on an e-bike given how powerful they are: it’s better to be safe than sorry and you only have one brain.