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Do I need a license to operate an e-bike in California?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2022 | Bike & Pedestrian Accidents

Everyone knows that you need a driver’s license to drive a motor vehicle in California, including a motorcycle. And you don’t need a license to ride a bicycle. What about an electronic bike?

An e-bike is somewhere between a pedal-powered bike and a moped or motorcycle. The latest models resemble ordinary bikes, but they come equipped with battery-powered motors along with pedals. A growing number of people in Encinitas and throughout the northern San Diego suburbs enjoy riding e-bikes for their convenience, ease of use and low environmental impact. But if an e-bike has a motor, it might seem like you must be a certain age and possess a valid license to ride one.

But you don’t. California law does not require a license or a minimum age to ride an e-bike. However, there are still rules to follow.

State requirements for e-bikes

There are three classes of e-bikes. The motors on Class 1 bikes only activate while the rider is pedaling and stop working once the cycle reaches 20 miles per hour. For Class 2 bikes, the rider can use the motor exclusively if they want, but the bike still cannot go faster than 20 mph. And Class 3 bikes can go as fast as 28 mph.

State law requires riders 17 years old and younger to wear a helmet when riding any type of e-bike. Adults riding a Class 3 e-bike must wear a helmet too. Also, Class 3 e-bikes are prohibited on Class 1 bike paths, though you can ride one on bike lanes and separated bikeways next to the road. Naturally, riders must follow the same rules of the road as people riding traditional bikes.

E-bikes and negligent drivers

No matter how careful you are, there is always a chance you will get hit by a car, truck or SUV the next time you ride your e-bike. You could end up seriously hurt whether you are wearing a helmet or not. Then you will be facing huge medical bills and lost wages, not to mention tremendous pain and suffering.