Do you need a license to ride an electric bike?
The popularity of electric bikes continues to rise in the UK.
Sales volumes show no sign of slowing in terms of year-on-year growth, with 2023 predicted to follow this trend. Indeed, e-bikes make up a significant, and increasing proportion of the total of all bicycles sold.
Private ownership of electric bikes is on the up, while rental e-bikes, such as the now ubiquitous Lime bikes and others, are commonplace on the streets of London and other UK towns and cities.
And there’s a good reason for this rapid uptake. Electric bikes present an eco-friendly and enjoyable way to travel.
However, given their relative newness on the roads in the UK, there are still some misunderstandings about the rules and regulations when it comes to using a motor-powered bicycle.
At Eco Bike Co. HQ, the most common question we hear asked on this subject is, “do you need a license to ride an electric bike?”
In this blog, we will answer this question and look at some of the other important regulations to be aware of to ride safely and legally in the UK.
Do you need a license to ride an electric bike?
The short answer is no.
The slightly longer answer: it depends on the bike.
Lets first focus on the bikes we sell at Eco Bike Co. Our UK-manufactured electric bikes are all road-legal without a license.
This is because they are classed as EAPCs, or ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’. The UK Government has a handy guide to the criteria an e-bike must meet to fall into this category.
To summarise, an EAPC must show either its power output or the manufacturer's name on the motor. The battery’s voltage and or max speed should also be displayed, and crucially, the motor must have a maximum power output of 250 watts and should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling to speeds of more than 15.5mph or 25kph.
All of the bikes available on our online store meet these criteria and can therefore be ridden without a license.
The only additional stipulation to be aware of is you must be 14 years old or over to ride an electric bike in the UK.
What if my e-bike isn’t an EAPC?
Perhaps your electric bike has a more powerful motor than 250 watts and can reach speeds of more than 15.5mph.
If this is the case, it cannot be considered an EAPC. Instead, the bike is referred to as a speed pedelec.
Your speed pedelec will need to be registered with the DVLA and taxed, and you’ll have to have a driving licence/CBT to use it on the road. You can often spot a speed pedelec as it will have a number plate, and often wing mirrors and a horn.
Indeed, while it might look very much like a regular electric bike, you should think of it as a moped or motorcycle in the eyes of the law.
As such, you wouldn’t be able to ride it on cycle paths, and you must wear a motorcycle helmet.
Conventional cycling rules apply to e-bikes
When focusing on the technical classifications of EAPCs, it’s easy to overlook the rules of the road that apply to all bicycles, electric or otherwise.
Firstly, by law, your e-bike or traditional bicycle must have working front and rear brakes to be road legal.
If you ride your bike on the road after dark, you must have working front and rear lights and reflectors on your bike. The front light should be white, while the rear light should be red.
As with any form of road use, cycling under the influence of drink and drugs is illegal.
When we talk to new cyclists or those who have been out of the saddle for some time, we always suggest they refamiliarise themselves with the UK Highway Code. There are specific sections that apply to cyclists, but a good grasp of the rules of the road allows for safer journeys - for you and for other road users. A few hours of prep now could save a lot of stress and worry down the line.
Are electric bike laws universal?
Perhaps you are thinking about travelling with your e-bike - within the UK or further afield.
In the UK, the same electric bike laws apply across all of the home nations. Previously, in Northern Ireland, e-bike riders were obliged to have a CBT license or equivalent: this is no longer the case.
Electric bike laws in the EU are largely the same as in the UK - but given the newness of the technology, and ongoing shifts in public policy both there and at home, we would strongly advise you carry out your own research before travelling to ensure you can ride your e-bike safely and legally.
Riding an electric bike without a license
One of the many things we love about electric bikes is how accessible they are.
The fact you can ride one without a license makes that purchase decision that bit easier! Are you ready to join the electric revolution?
Eco Bike Co. are proud to be one of the UK’s leading retailers of electric bikes. We offer a wider range of brands and models on our site and our friendly team of e-bike experts is on hand to help with any questions or queries you might have. Get in touch today.