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New e-bike law passes in California

New e-bike law passes in California

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On October 7, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 1096. This legislation clarifies the regulation of electric bicycles (e-bikes) in California.

This new law is the result of a coordinated campaign between PeopleForBikes, the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA), and the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) to refine how and where cyclists can ride electric bicycles. A.B. 1096 will encourage the safe use of e-bikes by providing clear rules with respect to how they must be equipped and operated. The bill passed the Legislature with unanimous support in both chambers and takes effect on January 1, 2016.

The legislation was a contentious one within the electric bike industry, as a large contingent of electric bike brands spearheaded by Accell North America executive Larry Pizzi prevailed in getting support for their bill over legislation that was supported by California-based Pedego. The disagreement between Pizzi and Pedego has everything to do with throttles: Pizzi’s contingent argued for treating throttle bikes differently than pure pedelecs (electric bikes with pedal-assist only), whereas Pedego, which sells to an older buyer demographic that prefers throttle bikes, argued for wording that was more favorable to manufacturers of throttle bikes.

Aside from modernizing e-bike law, A.B. 1096 fills in many of the gaps left by existing federal law and California state law with respect to electric bicycles.

  • Most importantly, e-bikes will no longer be regulated like mopeds and the same rules of the road will apply to both e-bikes and human-powered bicycles.
  • E-bikes will not be subject to the registration, licensing, or insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles.

The bill designates three classes of e-bikes, and distinguishes lower speed electric bicycles that reach motor-assisted speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, from higher "speed pedelecs" which have motors that provide assistance up to 28 miles per hour. This class system allows the use of lower-speed e-bikes on bicycle paths, and also provides local municipalities the flexibility to regulate different types of e-bikes based on their local needs. The bill can serve as a model for progressive e-bike legislation in the rest of the country.

  • Helmet use for Class 3 electric bikes is required, and helmets will also be required for any electric bike rider under the age of 18. 
  • Class 3 electric bikes cannot be ridden by anyone under the age of 16, and Class 3 ebikes will also be banned from using Class 1 bike paths (a.k.a. ‘multi-use paths’) but may use bike lanes and protected bike lanes on public roadways.
  • Class 2 electric bikes that are equipped with a throttle and that can function even without pedaling will be limited to a top assisted speed of 20MPH, however, they will be permitted on bike paths, unlike their faster Class 3 counterparts.

With the successful campaign for the passing of the California law over with, the electric bike industry will now move onto lobbying other large states with restrictive electric bike laws, including New York and Michigan.

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