E-Bike Smart Marin Electric Bikes: Watts The Deal
Electric bicycles, often referred to as e-bikes, have been a hot topic of discussion as their popularity has continued to skyrocket, but what exactly 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. As many consumers have noticed, this simple definition has created seemingly countless varieties of e-bikes on the marketplace, and it can feel overwhelming to get all the facts straight. But never fear, your favorite local bike coalition is here to help.
There are three types, or classes, of e-bikes, which define the features of the e-bike as well as the rules and regulations that apply to it.
Class 1 – has a top speed of 20 mph and is pedal assist only
Class 2 – has a top speed of 20 mph, and has a throttle as well as pedal assist
Class 3 – has a top speed of 28 mph and is pedal assist only
It is important to note that some vehicles that are sold as e-bikes do not meet the above definition, either because of a lack of pedals or due to a motor over 750 watts. If either of these conditions is not met, the device is considered a “motorized bicycle” and is not permitted in bike lanes or on multiuse paths.
California E-Bike Policy – By Class of E-Bike
While Class 2 e-bikes do not have a legal age restriction, MCBC does not recommend throttle e-bikes for children under 16 years of age.
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, while Class 3 e-bikes are restricted from multi-use pathways but are allowed in painted and protected bike lanes, as well as use of signed bike routes.
California E-Bike Policy – By E-Bike Class and Infrastructure Type
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.
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 bicycle, the passenger must have a separate seat from the operator, and 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.
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.
If you’re in the process of buying an e-bike it’s always best to visit your local bike shop to test ride various models and get advice from the pros, so you can ride confidently knowing you have a bike that’s properly sized and has all the features you need to get the most out of your ride.
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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 which will be launching early 2023.
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