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Home / How To Guide / E-bikes and the Law: What you need to know legally

E-bikes and the Law: What you need to know legally

What you need to know legally

If you are interested in buying an e-bike or an s-pedelec, this is what you need to know from a legal point of view.

Age

To ride an e-bike, e-cargo bike or e-tricycle you have to be at least 14 years of age.

To ride an s-pedelec, s-cargo bike or s-tricycle you need to be the same age as riding a moped, so 16 years old. However, you will need to have completed the CBT (compulsory basic training) for the relevant motorcycle category, unless you passed your driving test before 2001, in which case you will have permission to ride a moped anyway.

Where you can ride it

An e-bike is considered to be a bicycle / cargo bike / tricycle, so you can use the cycle lanes and cycle paths as well as the road (but no riding on the pavement unless it is a marked cycle path as well).

An s-pedelec is considered to be a moped, so you must stay off cycle lanes and cycle paths and only use the road, unless it is a shared bus lane where motorcycles are allowed too. So you have a maximum speed of 28mph and could be riding on a 50mph dual carriageway with a cycle path on the pavement next to you that you can’t use. This is being looked at by the government but don’t expect a quick fix.

What is an e-bike legally

It is a bicycle, tricycle or cargo bike that has a motor added. The motor is only there to assist – so you must pedal, but it will only assist you up to 15.5mph, above that and you are on your own. The motor has to have a maximum of 250W. The power switch or control must default to off, so you have to select the motor assistance.

If the e-bike has a switch for off-road for speeds over 15.5mph then it does not comply with UK e-bike law according to the Department of Transport. That speed may be increased in the future, for example, in the US the top speed for an e-bike is 20mph. That could encourage more people to leave the car at home.

Useful for extending the distance that you want to cycle, for help with hills and with reducing the sweat levels for commuters.

If it is CE marked then it complies with EU regulations and the UK haven’t diverged from that to date. It will need to show either the power output or motor manufacturer, in addition it has to show either the battery or the maximum speed of the bike.

You are restricted to speed limits if on the road. Other laws that apply include laws around hit and runs, mobile phone use, drink / drug “driving”, careless and dangerous driving, causing death by careless / dangerous driving, causing serious injury by careless / dangerous driving, as they do to any cyclist.

If riding at night then you need constant front and rear lighting; the flashing ones can be used in addition, but not instead.

You do not need insurance, road tax, number plates or mirrors, or to pass any test or training.

What is a s-pedelec legally

It is a bicycle, tricycle or cargo bike that has a motor added. You have to pedal, but the motor will assist up to 28.5mph, above that and you are on your own. Same advantages as the e-bike in that you can extend the distance to cycle, help with hills and reduced sweat levels is a commuter.

If it is CE marked then it complies with EU regulations and the UK haven’t diverged from that to date. It will need to show either the power output or motor manufacturer, in addition it has to show either the battery or the maximum speed of the bike.

If riding at night then you need constant front and rear lighting; the flashing ones can be used in addition, but not instead.

You are restricted to speed limits on the road. Other laws that apply include laws around hit and runs, mobile phone use, drink / drug “driving”, careless and dangerous driving, causing death by careless / dangerous driving, causing serious injury by careless / dangerous driving, as they do to any cyclist or moped rider.

You will need a motocycle / moped helmet as opposed to a cycle helmet, road tax (currently £0), insurance, number plates and mirrors as it is classed as a moped. You will also need to have passed your driving test before 2001 which allows you to ride a moped anyway, or have passed the relevant motorcycle category’s CBT (compulsory basic training).

The above is being looked at by the government as a fit cyclist on a non-motor assisted bicycle can reach over 15.5mph, indeed over 28.5mph, without having these issues.

If you want some night-time reading here are the links to the various laws:

www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1983/1168/made – for e-bike definitions

www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/24/made – for the 2015 modifications to the above

www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/2559/made – for cycle lighting

www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52 – the Road Traffic Act 1988

www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi.2015/474/made – for the pedal cycles (construction and use) (amendment) regulations 2015

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