How are Electric Bicycles Treated Under California Law?
It is legal to ride electric bicycles on public roads in California, and you do not need a special license, but in some cases, the law requires you to wear a helmet.
If you ask people to tell you the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle, most people will tell you that motorcycles have motors and bicycles do not. A child can find a bicycle under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, walk it out to the driveway, and immediately start riding around the neighborhood. For a motorcycle, you must reach a certain age before you can ride it, and even if you are an adult, you must get a special motorcycle license, even if you are already licensed to drive a car. A motorcycle is a motor vehicle, whereas a bicycle can be a toy, a piece of fitness equipment, or even an instrument of environmental conservation; if you doubt this, just ask the DMV. To find out more, contact the Murrieta bicycle accident lawyers at Gibbs & Fuerst LLP.
Three Categories of Electric Bicycles in California
According to the California Vehicle Code, electric bicycles have the following characteristics:
- They do not exceed 750W
- Their maximum speed on level ground is 28 miles per hour or less
- The motor must automatically disengage when you apply the brakes
- The bike must have a switch that enables you to turn off the motor
California law further subdivides electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, into three categories:
- Class I e-bikes can reach a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour when you use the electric pedal assist, but when you are not using the pedal assist, they just work like ordinary bikes.
- Class II e-bikes also reach a maximum speed of 20 mph, but their motor continues to run when you stop pedaling, until you turn the motor off.
- Class III e-bikes are like class II e-bikes, except that they can reach a maximum speed of 28 mph.
The Law Treats E-Bikes More Like Bicycles Than Like Motorcycles
California law is unambiguous about the fact that, even though they have a motor, e-bikes legally count as bicycles and not as motorcycles. The minimum age for riding an e-bike in California is 16, but you do not need a license to ride one. You also do not need to register the e-bike or get insurance coverage for it.
Therefore, if you get into a collision with a car or other motor vehicle while riding an e-bike, the same laws apply as if you had been riding a bicycle without a motor. The first step is to file an insurance claim with the liability insurance company of the driver or motor vehicle owner. If your injuries are severe, you should work with a personal injury lawyer from the beginning.
Contact a Murrieta Bicycle Accident Lawyer
A bicycle accident lawyer can help you if you have been injured in a traffic accident while riding a bicycle or e-bike. Contact Gibbs & Fuerst LLP in Murrieta, California to set up a consultation about your car accident case.