Electric bikes or e-bikes are a modern solution for urban transportation issues. They require fewer resources to produce, maintain and operate than larger motor vehicles, and they also have the maneuverability of a traditional bicycle.
Although they must have pedals so that someone can manually operate the bicycle to qualify as an e-bike, many people will cruise using the power of the electric motor rather than their legs.
If you have thought about buying an e-bike, you will likely want to know the answer to the three frequently asked questions below before making that investment.
Where on the road do e-bikes belong?
There are four different kinds of bicycle routes acknowledged under California law. These are bike paths, bike lanes, bike routes and cycle tracks. Bike paths are multi-use paths, often found in recreational areas. Only unmotorized vehicles can operate on bike paths.
Bike lanes are a special portion of a road intended for bicycle travel. E-bikes are legal on bike lanes and paths. Bike routes are paths along motorized vehicle roads that connect other bicycle facilities. A cycle track is only for bicycles.
Typically, low-speed electric bikes can be anywhere that bikes are allowed. Higher-speed electric bicycles that exceed 20 miles an hour in speed are only legal in bike lanes or bikeways following a road.
Do I need a license/insurance for an e-bike?
You do not need a license to ride an e-bike in California, nor do you need to register your e-bike with the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will not need to display a license plate or provide proof of insurance to legally ride on an e-bike.
Those who do not have their license and those who have lost their license may find that an e-bike is a good alternative to a larger motor vehicle that requires registration, insurance and licensing.
How do I protect myself against injury or theft?
Although California does not require e-bike insurance, it can be a good investment. Otherwise, you will likely depend on the insurance of another driver to cover you for a crash.
You may be able to make claims against homeowners or renters insurance for e-bike theft, but not if the theft occurs when you are out in public. Having a policy that protects your e-bike and investing in a good lock could help you deter thieves and protect yourself in case you do ever get into a crash.
Knowing your rights if you do get into an e-bike crash will make it easier for you to stand up for yourself.