California E-Bike Laws
Electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, offer many benefits. They are an easy and convenient way to get around, especially for teens going to and from school. The popularity of electric bikes has soared, with U.S. sales topping $1.3 billion in 2022.
A major incentive for electric bikes is a rebate program run by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has allocated $10 million to fund the program for electric bikes.
However, the surge in e-bike use has also meant an increase in road accidents with bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. E-bike riders who ride alongside motor vehicles are at a higher risk of a suffering a serious injury. If you own an electric bike or a parent of an electric bike rider, it is important to know the laws governing electric bicycles. If you or a loved one was hurt in an e-bike accident, contact our Irvine bicycle accident lawyer.
Electric Bicycle Classifications
California vehicle code defines electric bikes as “a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor power of less than 750 watts.” It classifies electric bicycles into three categories:
- Class 1: These e-bikes have a pedal-assist system that provides electric power only when the rider is pedaling. The power is cut off when the speed reaches 20 mph or when the rider stops pedaling.
- Class 2: Similar to Class 1, the key difference with Class 2 e-bikes is that they have a pedal or throttle assist. This means that the rider can use the throttle to activate the electric motor without pedaling, up to a speed of 20 mph.
- Class 3: These are e-bikes that have a pedal-assist system that provides electric power only when the rider is pedaling, up to a speed of 28 mph. Class 3 e-bikes do not have a throttle. To ride a Class 3 e-bike, you must be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet.
Electric Bike Laws in Irvine, CA
Riding an electric bike in California is a lot like riding a regular bike. You do not need registration, a license plate, or insurance like a car or motorcycle. As with conventional bicycles, e-bikes are must follow the same rules of the road as motorists.
California Vehicle Code (CVC §21212) states that all bicycle riders under 18 years old must wear a bicycle helmet while riding on a public road. Class 3 e-bike riders must wear a helmet regardless of age.
Irvine City Council recently passed a city ordinance restricting e-bike riders from riding over 28 miles per hour on streets and 20 miles per hour on bike paths. The local ordinance specifically prohibits people from altering their bikes to increase its speed capability.
Cities including Irvine cannot restrict access to e-bike riders on bicycle paths, recreational trails, bike lanes, and bikeways. However, it is illegal to ride any type of electric bicycle, motorized bicycle, motorized scooter, or motor-driven cycle on a freeway or expressway. California law is subject to change, so stay up-to-date with current laws with the city of Irvine or the Orange County Transportation Authority.
What Is Not an E-Bike?
Despite their similarities, motor-driven cycles and motorized bicycles (aka mopeds) are not considered e-bikes in California. Mopeds are designed for higher speeds, and often require a driver’s license and registration to operate legally, much like a motor vehicle.
Tips for E-Bike Riders
You can ride an electric bicycle safely with the right precautions and practice. Here are important safety tips to prevent accidents on the road:
Wear a helmet
A bicycle helmet is the single most important safety feature when riding a bike. While California state law requires all minors wear a helmet, all electric bicycle riders, regardless of age, should consider wearing a helmet. Most serious head injuries can be prevented by the use of a helmet.
Follow traffic laws, signs, and signals
As a bicyclist, you have a responsibility to follow the same basic rules and regulations as motorists. This means stopping at red lights and stop signs, giving the right of way to pedestrians, and not making illegal turns. If you fail to comply with the laws, you put yourself and others in danger.
Ride in the same direction as traffic
All bicyclists in California must ride in the same direction as traffic. This makes it easier for drivers to see bicyclists as they are entering roads or changing lanes. Bicyclists must also ride on the right side of the road if they are moving as fast as traffic. Remain in the bike lane if moving slower than traffic.
Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks
When approaching an intersection, you must slow down and stop for pedestrians who may be crossing at a crosswalk. Pedestrians always have the right of way at marked and unmarked crosswalks when they have the walk symbol.
Wear reflective clothing
Riding an e-bike at night can be extremely dangerous if you are not wearing the right clothing. Dark colors are nearly impossible to see in the dark, making it difficult for a driver to see you. To avoid an accident, wear white, bright, or reflective clothes. Your bike must also be equipped with working front and rear headlights and taillights.
Contact an Irvine E-Bike Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one was injured in an e-bike accident in Irvine, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical bills, damaged electric bicycle, and more. While you can file a claim with your own insurance or the other party’s insurance company, you will have a much better chance at receiving maximum compensation with legal representation.
When you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer at Woodbridge Accident Lawyers, you will have the comfort knowing you are being taken care of. Our dedicated legal team will do all the work for you so you can recover in peace. Call us to schedule a free consultation at (949) 749-1575.