California is one of more than 30 states to have adopted the People for Bikes model legislation regulating eBikes, which specifies motor power, speed limits, helmet requirements, and age limitations for eBikes using Class I, II, III system.
Before buying or riding an eBike, make sure the style you select is legal to ride in California. Let's take a look at the various rules that regulate eBikes in the "golden state", California:
Class I eBikes
California Class I eBikes provide assistance at up to 20 MPH when the rider is pedaling (pedal assist). They cannot have a throttle.
Class II eBikes
California Class II eBikes can have both pedal assist and throttle to propel the eBike both when the rider is pedaling, and without pedaling. Both modes are limited to 20 MPH.
Class III eBikes
California defines Class III eBikes as models that provide pedal assist at up to 28 MPH.
In California, electric bicycles (eBiked) are not subject to the registration, licensing, or insurance requirements that apply to other motor vehicles. However, all classes of eBikes in California must carry a sticker or label showing the Class, Motor wattage, and top speed by law.
California eBike age and helmet requirements
Helmets are required for all riders of Class III electric bicycles, regardless of age. Riders 17 and under must wear a helmet when riding any bicycle, including any eBike. Persons under 16 years of age may not ride a Class III electric bicycle in California (unless as a passenger) but can ride Class I and II models.
How to comply with California eBike laws
Some eBike models can be modified by the user to comply with California eBike laws:
- Adjust the speed limiter on your eBike so the motor stops providing assistance at 20MPH when riding where Class I and II eBikes are allowed, but Class III are disallowed.
- Some eBike brands equipped with throttles will still run with the throttle unplugged. In this case, you can unplug and remove the throttle so that your eBike motor only runs when the rider is pedaling if needed to ride where only Class I ebikes are permitted.
Where to get more information
People for Bikes, an industry advocacy group, maintains eBike data on a state-by-state basis. Access it here and click on your state. 36 states have adopted People for Bikes’ model eBike legislation, which attempts to streamline eBike rules and make them consistent from state to state. Additionally, People for Bikes has provided this file with information specific to California (PDF).
Please note: this topic is changing quickly. Make sure to review current laws, rulemaking, and limitations in your location before riding.