The rise and progression of micro-mobility is inevitable and has reshaped the culture of bicycling and transportation. Electric assisted bicycles have become extremely prevalent for both transportation and recreation. In 2021, 880,000 e-bikes were sold in the US which was a 252% increase from 2019. Since 2020, e-bikes sales in the US have outpaced electric vehicles.
Electrical assisted bikes can physically accommodate, advance mobility, assist with cargo utility, and provide a lot of benefits to a wider range of people and cyclists who struggle to bike conventionally. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia supports the inclusivity of ridership among everyone and electric bikes are one way to appeal to a greater population. We prepared this statement to answer frequently asked questions about e-bikes and to provide our position on e-bikes as of summer 2022.
Q: How are E-bikes Classified generally classified by most States?
The Three Class System:
- Class 1: Pedal Assist
- Individual must pedal in order to use motor assistance
- Max speed 20 mph, no driver’s license, no age limit
- Class 2: Throttle Only
- Motor controlled by the throttle, often in conjunction with pedal assist
- Max speed 20 mph, no driver’s license, no age limit
- Class 3: Pedal Assist 28mph
- May or may not have a throttle
- Motor provides assistance when pedaling
- Max speed 28 mph
Q: How are e-bikes regulated in PA and NJ?
Pennsylvania does not categorize e-bikes by classes. To be considered an E-bike in Pennsylvania, the only criteria is that the:
- Motor be under 750w
- Maximum speed is 20mph
- Weighs no more than 100lbs
E-bikes, or “pedalcycles with electric assist” are considered bicycles under Title 75 of Pennsylvania’s vehicle code. This does not apply to electric scooters.
New Jersey Regulations: C.39:4-14.16 – (Operation of low-speed electric bicycle or scooter)
- Adopted the three class E-bike system and two classes of low-speed:
- Class 1 and 2 are regulated as bicycles
- Provides assistance and ceases power when the e-bike reaches 20 mph
- Class 3 are regulated as motorized bicycles
- Motorized bicycles have age, license, helmet and registration requirements.
Ebikes have the right to be on the road but there needs to be a clear definition and a distinction between which e-bikes are allowed and where they can be ridden in Pennsylvania. The national organization People For Bikes (P4B) has developed model legislation, which New Jersey has adopted, defines and regulates the different classes of electric bicycles within the state’s vehicle code. P4B considers Pennsylvania to have “acceptable” legislation where e-bikes are regulated like conventional bicycles
Q: Where Are E-bikes Allowed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
All E-bikes in PA are considered the same as a conventional bicycle and the same rules of the road apply. E-bikes are not subject to the registration, licensing or insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles. E-bikes are allowed wherever bicycles or “pedalcycles” are allowed. E-bikes are allowed on sidewalks but restrictions may apply.
The PA Bureau of State Parks on E-bike on Trails:
- E-bikes are permitted only where motorized vehicles are permitted
- Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on trails open to mountain bikes on State Forest property
- Class 2 and 3 E-bikes are not permitted on approved mountain bike trails and roads in state forests
Currently, the PA State Park regulation precludes many e-bike users from legally using a trail (in a State park) because most state park trails do not allow motorized vehicles. Each county and state park have trail management rules that could differ in how they apply to e-bikes. contacting local trail managers is advised to determine where e-bikes are or not allowed.
In NJ, Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are regulated like bicycles. The same rules of the road apply to both e-bikes and conventional bicycles and Class 1 and 2 e-bikes can ride on any shared use path unless specifically restricted by trail managers . Bicycles and e-bikes cannot be operated on a sidewalk for pedestrian use, except if local rules and regulations have expressly been allowed.
Q: What does BCGP Recommend for Pennsylvania?
We support the accessibility of cyclists to be able to ride comfortably on trails with safety being a priority. After reviewing different state parks and trails’ successes, we are able to incorporate some policies and recommendations we fully support into Pennsylvania trails. BCGP recommends trail managers and legislators to:
- Update the state vehicle code by properly defining the three-class system as outlined by People for Bikes’ published a one-pager that offers a Model Electric Bicycle Law with Classes.
- Set a speed limit for all trail users (we suggest 15 mph). The speed limit could be lowered where there are conflicts in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
- Add trail etiquette signs at trailheads
- Permit e-bikes and other low-speed personal vehicles on paved shared use paths with a posted speed limit.
- Display maps and/or regulations at trailheads to show where e-bikes are allowed
- Publish maps to show where e-bikes are allowed on trails
Q: What does BCGP Recommend for New Jersey?
BCGP recommends trail managers and State agencies to:
- Permit e-bikes and other low-speed personal vehicles on paved shared use paths with a posted speed limit (we suggest 15 mph)..
- The speed limit could be lowered where there are conflicts in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
- Incorporate Class 3 E-bike language for operating and registering Class 3 E-bikes on the DMV website.
The Bicycle Coalition opposes any policies and programs that suppress the access and ability of cycling. Public policy regarding certain types of electric bicycles, issues like licensing and registration, or restrictions and regulations on where electric bicycles can ride should be examined closely in order to not discourage the use of cycling. But we must recognize the problems of dangerous speeds these e-bikes are capable of, especially on trails, and find best practices to control speeding in order to ensure safety for all cyclists.
The Bicycle Coalition strongly agrees that e-bikes also have the right to use the road and should be subjected to consistent and fair treatment under the law. We also consider that vehicle-class-based laws are more difficult to implement and uphold. Vehicle-neutral laws with speed limits would be easier to administer and regulate compared to class-based bans on shared use paths. The Bicycle Coalition believes that the design of pathways and implementation of regulations impact behaviors of road users which is crucial for making sure that everyone is safe on roads and trails.
With that being said, electric bike technology is progressing faster than legislation can regulate. There are many caveats in e-bike legislation as many different states have different policies. In Pennsylvania, the Senate and House have yet to pass legislation to update the vehicle code, Title 75, to enact a three-tier classification of e-bikes. Without the official classification and definition, it allows confusion on where all these types of bikes can or cannot be ridden and where they are allowed.