Electric bicycles are popular in California. Electric bikes spiked in popularity in the state after Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1096, which permitted the use of low-speed electric bikes on bicycle paths for the first time in the state. It also gave local municipalities the power to regulate different classes of electric bikes as needed. Learning the California laws specific to e-bikes can help riders stay safe and defend their rights.
What are the Different Types of Electric Bikes & Regulations?
A type 1 e-bike is pedal-operated, with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. Riders of any age can operate type 1 e-bikes. Users under the age of 17 must wear helmets while operating or riding upon type 1 electric bicycles in California. Type 1 bicycles have access to all bicycle paths, lanes, routes, and protected lanes in California.
A type 2 e-bike also has a top speed of 20 miles per hour but is not pedal operated. The rules for type 2 electric bicycles are the same as type 1: no minimum age, helmets for riders 17 and under, and access to all bicycle paths, routes, and lanes in the state.
A type 3 e-bike is pedal-operated but can achieve speeds of 28 miles per hour. Riders must be at least 16 years old to operate type 3 electric bikes in California. All riders, regardless of age, must wear approved helmets at all times on these bikes. The law prohibits the use of type 3 e-bikes on Class 1 bicycle paths but allows them on other bicycle lanes and routes.
Users do not need driver’s licenses to operate electric bicycles of any class. The law does, however, require a driver’s license to operate a moped in California. You also do not need to register electric bicycles or attach license plates to them. AB 1096 encourages safe use of electric bikes for riders as well as regular bicyclists and pedestrians. Riders must operate electric bicycles within the regulations of AB 1096 as of January 1st, 2016, or risk a fine.
What are Your Rights as an Electric Bike User?
Just as riding an electric bicycle comes with special rules compared to normal bikes, it also comes with special rights for riders. As someone who uses an electric bicycle in California, you have the same rights to the road as motor vehicle drivers – as if you were riding a regular bicycle. Prior to the passing of AB 1096, California treated electric bicycles like mopeds in terms of roadway rules. Now, however, riding an electric bicycle on the road is the same as riding a non-electric bike.
Electric bicycle riders must obey all traffic laws when riding in the road. They must ride in the same direction as traffic, as close to the right-hand side of the road as possible (except when turning left or avoiding roadway hazards). They must stop at all stop signs and red lights, as well as follow other roadway signs and traffic signals. Electric bicycles cannot surpass the posted speed limit. Bikers must signal their intent to turn and cannot ride abreast of a motor vehicle. Electric bicyclists may ride side by side with other bikers in a single lane.
If you get into an accident while riding an electric bicycle, review your rights with help from an attorney. You may have a case against the driver that struck you, if that driver was breaching a duty of care or infringing upon your rights as a bicyclist in the state of California. A lawyer can help you fight for fair compensation if you have a claim. Contact the California bicycle accident attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case today! (619) 295-0035