E-Bike Smart Marin All About E-Bikes

Electric bicycles offer a fun and efficient way to get around town and help to improve the mobility of our community members, all while reducing traffic emissions! If you’re interested in buying an e-bike but aren’t sure where to start, this guide is for you. 

Female with a helmet and plaid shirt with an e-bike and dog in the back basket

Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, are reliable, affordable, and sustainable and provide an independent transportation option for those unable to drive. These are all things that MCBC wholeheartedly supports. We love to see more people experiencing the joy, freedom, and health benefits that cycling provides. Riding an e-bike is strongly aligned with our mission to help people of all ages and abilities ride their bikes safely in Marin. 

However, with their rise in popularity, the market for e-bikes has been flooded with a wide range of products, and some have noticed that many of these “e-bikes” look a lot more like a motorbike. So what’s the deal?

What is an E-bike?

Per the California vehicle code, an electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor not exceeding 750 watts. There are three types, or classes, of e-bikes. Each class is defined by the features of the e-bike and the rules and regulations that apply to it. 

It is important to note that some vehicles marketed as e-bikes do not meet the above definition, either because of a lack of pedals, a motor over 750 watts, or an assisted top speed exceeding 28 mph. If any of these conditions are not met, the device is NOT considered an electric bicycle and not permitted in bike lanes or on multi-use paths. 

MCBC does not support devices that do not adhere to the legal standards of electric bicycles.

California E-Bike Policy By Class of E-Bike

California E-Bike Policy Table

While Class 2 e-bikes do not have a legal age restriction, MCBC does not recommend throttle e-bikes for children under 16 years old. 

E-Bikes Can Take You There – or Can They?

Now that we know what an e-bike is and what the three types can do let’s explore where they can go. 

Currently, Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are allowed to use all infrastructure that non-electric bikes have access to. Class 3 e-bikes are restricted from multi-use pathways but are allowed in painted and protected bike lanes and can use signed bike routes.

California E-Bike Policy By E-Bike Class and Infrastructure Type

California E-Bike Policy Table By Intrastructure Type

Local Examples

  • The Golden Gate Bridge legalized Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes in 2021 provided they adhere to a 15 mph speed limit. 
  • Mill Valley-Sausalito Path allows Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes with a 15 mph speed limit, which drops to 10 mph when passing Mill Valley Middle School. 

AB 1909 was signed into law in 2022 and will allow Class 3 e-bikes access to multi-use pathways, such as the Bay Trail and Mill Valley Sausalito Pathway. Be sure to mind posted speed limits. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I carry a passenger on my e-bike?

The short answer is yes, but there are a few rules. On all classes of electric bicycles, the passenger must have a separate seat from the operator. Both parties must be wearing a helmet if they are 17 or under. On a Class 3 e-bike, both the passenger and operator must be wearing helmets even if they are both 18 years or older. 

CVC 21204.b    CVC 21213.b

Is my student allowed to ride a Class 3 e-bike?

Class 3 e-bikes may only be operated by persons 16 years of age and older. 

CVC 21213.a

Buying an E-Bike

If you’re on the hunt for an e-bike we strongly suggest a visit to your local bike shop to test ride various models and get a bike that fits you and your needs. Buying from a local shop also guarantees that you’ll be able to get your bike serviced, as many shops will not service brands they do not carry (this is especially true for electrical issues). Lastly, buying from a local bike shop ensures you’re buying an electric bicycle, not a motorized bike, or electric motorcycle. 

And sometimes the difference between an electric bicycle and other devices can be subtle, there are some brands out there, including the ever-popular Super73, which are equipped with an “off-road” mode that allows their bike to travel at speeds over 28 mph. Once again, these devices are not supported by MCBC.

red and black 'bike' with a battery Light green bike with Specialized written on it in black

Left: The eFTR Hooligan 1.2, a collaboration between Super73 and Indian Motorcycle, has an Off-Road Mode which allows for assisted speeds over 28mph. This is not a model that MCBC supports. Right: The Specialized Vado SL, is a reliable Class 3 suitable for riders 16 and older. 

You can learn more about buying an e-bike on our other blog post; Buyer’s Guide: Power Up With An E-Bike

If you’re curious to learn more about e-bikes and e-bike safety, sign up here to get the latest information on E-Bike Smart Marin.

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If you’re curious to learn more about e-bikes and e-bike safety, sign up here to get the latest information on E-Bike Smart Marin, our newest program. 

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We’re working to make Marin more bike-friendly for people of all ages and abilities. Are you with us?

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