Electric Bikes & The Law: A Sticky Situation. Recommend You Stay Informed.

E-bikes banned on bike trails in Toronto Canada, via TheStar.com

This is an article by Gary Kaye; a professional writer who is passionate about e-bikes.  Check out Gary’s writing/marketing services at CompellingTelling.com.

While the popularity of e-bikes is growing by leaps and bounds, the legislation regulating their use is years behind the times.  The Federal government, all states, and many localities all have their own rules and regulations about the definition of an e-bike and how they can and cannot be used.  For e-bikers, not only is it important to know the rules of the road, but equally important, to stay informed so you can protect your e-bike rights. 

In New York State, regulations regarding e-bikes are so confusing that New York City Council member Brad Lauder of Brooklyn has introduced a measure aimed at setting up an e-bike task force for the city to figure out both what the existing regulations are, and what they should be.  Michael Freedman-Schnapp, Director of Policy for the councilman tells us that there are two e-bike bills up for consideration in the state legislature that take opposing views on whether e-bikes should be regulated.

Much of the hubbub in New York City stems from the growing use of e-bikes as restaurant delivery vehicles.  Residents have complained the delivery riders take their e-bikes on the sidewalk, or ride against traffic, and since they are neither licensed nor insured, there’s no protection for the public.

At the same time, some recreational and commuting e-bikers question whether the state really needs to demand tight regulations.  Freedman-Schnapp expects that if there is a city task force, it will have to work with state agencies and probably need to create a number of regulations to cover all variations of e-bike use.

In Aspen, Colorado, where they love the great outdoors, the Pitkin County commissioners voted 3-1 to allow disabled people to use electronic bikes and other powered vehicles on some of its trails.  According to the Aspen Daily News, the rules resulted from new Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, issued in March by the U.S. Department of Justice.

But the action does not allow for using e-bikes or Segways by non-disabled users.  Nor does it require any official sticker or license proving a disability.  The devices are limited to being 32-inches wide and to weigh 60 pounds or less, with a speed limit of 20 miles per hour.

Suprise! E-bikes are banned from some areas.

In Toronto, the city fathers have completely banned e-bikes from one of the city’s most popular bike paths.  According to the Toronto Star, a sign went up banning electric bikes from the path with almostno warning,  raising the ire of e-bike users.

The ban is “inconsistent” with the shift to greener ways of travel, said Lock Hughes, treasurer of the Toronto Electric Riders Association, which represents users of electric two-wheelers.  He added that the ban on “motor power assisted bikes” is vague and can refer to anything from an e-bike to a scooter or Segway, which are all different sizes and speeds.

E-bikes generally resemble conventional bicycles but with a small motor. A city bylaw restricts the use of bike paths to bicycles, defined as vehicles operating solely on “muscular power,” Lukasz Pawlowski of Transportation Services said; adding staff are in discussions to rework the term. “Right now, the definition of a bike is very strict so there’s no exceptions made for a bike like an e-bike,” he said.

When the bylaw came into place several years ago, people weren’t using electric two-wheelers, Pawlowski said. “It requires a more nuanced approach.”  Provincially, e-bikes are governed by the same rules as conventional bicycles. However, cities can pass bylaws limiting their use on bike paths and trails under their jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, a dozen cyclists rode past the Martin Goodman Trail sign without noticing it. They all said they’ve seen e-bikes and other motorized vehicles on the trail.  Andrew Le, who takes the trail about four times a week, said he’s happy with the ban. He’s had a few “close calls” with e-bikes.  “They’re faster so there’s just more weaving through traffic,” he said. “If you get hit by one, it’s no fun.”

Cameron Fitzgerald has “no problem” with e-bikes, which he has trouble distinguishing from conventional bikes.  For him, the city should focus on regulating bigger vehicles, like scooters, which can move at higher speeds.

As you can see electric bike regulations are in their infancy and we need to be aware of what is happening in our towns, states, and countries.  We don’t want this great form of transportation to be regulated out of use.

We want to hear from you!  Do you know of electric bike issues in your town?  Please let us know in the comment section below.


P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips.


  1. John Ellis says

    An obvious need for some effective national lobbying to protect the rights of e-bike riders and to encourage green energy.  The Feds could prohibit states and locales from passing more restrictive rules they they do, also.   Education is needed badly, which a national organization could do.  I have heard horror stories of local police making their own rules on the spot and writing tickets for not having licenses, registration and insurance when none is required under any rule for the situation.   This is politics as usual and only some effective effort on the national level is going to work. I would certainly contribute.

  2. Gatekids6 says

    Ft Collins CO has one of the most beautiful bike trail networks in the country, but the city council, in a vote of 4 against, 3 for  has voted against even allowing a limited trial period of ebikes on public trails .  However, medically “challenged” riders may ride ebikes as an adaptation to their malady.  Traditional bicyclists  argued against ebikes without even giving them a test run to measure ebike impact on mixed used trails or understanding the technology. Just a NO without any information to support it.  Education is the key- if city leaders would at the very least allow ebikes to be tested for a trail period-then others might be convinced they are no competition to traditional modes of recreation.

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