Electric Bike UK Laws: Our Guide
In 2023, electric bike sales are tipped to hit the 40 million mark globally. And sales in the UK are far from slouching, with increasing numbers of people recognising the health benefits, and pleasure, of riding an e-bike.
With the number of e-bikes on the rise in both urban and rural areas, there has been an increasing focus on the rules, regulations, and laws that surround this mode of transport.
In this blog, we will cover electric bike UK laws, ensuring that you have the key facts to be aware of when riding an e-bike.
EAPC - defining an electric bike
It might seem obvious, but first and foremost, it’s vital to understand how an electric bike is legally classified.
Indeed, the Government defines electric bikes as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ or EAPCs.
An EAPC must be able to be propelled by pedals alone (as opposed to just a throttle). It must also display various specifications regarding its power output, principally the battery and motor.
Legally, an EAPC must display either its power output or the manufacturer of its motor. There are regulations when it comes to e-bike motors - output must be at most 250 watts.
Additionally, the maximum speed or battery voltage should be provided. Regarding speed, an EAPC motor should not propel a bike beyond 15.5 miles per hour or 25 km/ph.
Note: an EAPC isn’t limited to two wheels - we are talking about pedal cycles here, as opposed to bicycles. A tricycle, for example, may also be classified as an EAPC should it meet the criteria detailed above.
Who can ride an e-bike, and where?
This is key. The minimum age to ride an electric bike is 14 - and this rule applies across all UK regions.
Previously, regulations in Northern Ireland differed from England, Scotland, and Wales.
E-bike riders were required to have a moped licence and ensure their EAPC was taxed, registered, and insured. While insurance is generally a good idea, it is not required by law in the UK.
In terms of where you can ride an e-bike, the answer is simple. If you can ride a conventional bike there, your EAPC is permitted. Cycle paths and roads are legal - so long as your EAPC meets the necessary criteria detailed in this article. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to stick to private land.
Traditional bike rules and regulations apply
It is important to remember that while EAPCs must adhere to specific technical regulations, conventional bike rules will also apply.
To recap, your e-bike (or traditional bicycle) must have working front and rear brakes.
At night, working front and rear lights and reflectors are required (white in front, red at the rear).
Of course, cycling under the influence of drink or drugs is strictly prohibited, as is holding onto another moving vehicle while riding..
It’s well worth re-familiarising yourself with the UK Highway Code. Traffic light regulations, road signs, and necessary attention to other road users are covered in detail.
For more information about maintaining your EAPC to ensure it remains roadworthy, check out our blog on looking after your electric bike.
We have also discussed how to remain safe while riding an e-bike on the road - including general cycling tips and best practices.
What if my bike doesn’t meet the regulations?
Given the relative newness of electric bikes, it’s not uncommon for us to speak to customers who have inadvertently purchased an e-bike that doesn’t meet EAPC status.
If your e-bike has a motor which is more powerful than 250 watts or can hit a top speed of more than 15.5 mph it cannot be classified as an EAPC and certain regulations apply. This type of 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.
Wearing a cycle helmet at all times is vital whatever type of bike you have, but should your electric bike exceed EAPC regulations, you are obligated by law to wear a motorcycle helmet.
Do keep in mind that speed pedelecs cannot be ridden on cycle paths: they are exclusively road vehicles.
It is possible to convert a speed pedelec to meet EAPC classification. However, we recommend carrying out due diligence prior to purchasing a conversion kit or speaking to an expert to ensure that whatever changes you make will meet all UK legal requirements.
The question of the throttle
With relatively recent changes to the law, confusion often surrounds the legality of throttles on EAPCs in the UK.
Updated legislation that came into force on January 1st 2016 means that the only legal throttles for electric bikes are those that assist the rider up to a maximum speed of 3.7 miles per hour without pedalling. Should the rider be travelling faster than this without pedalling, the throttle will cut out.
However, if the cyclist is pedalling, they may use the throttle for speed assist up to the maximum speed of 15 miles per hour.
Note: if you bought your electric bike prior to 1st January 2016 with a throttle, it is still legally considered an EAPC. However, should you purchase an e-bike with a throttle that would be considered ‘twist and go’ you will have to follow the regulations detailed above (registering, taxing, and motorcycle regulations).
Are e-bike laws likely to change?
As with any relatively new piece of technology, it’s not impossible that regulations will change over time (as exemplified by the updated throttle rules and Northern Ireland registration).
It’s also worth being aware of potential differences in legislation between UK regions - and of course, the EU.
While the regulations detailed in this blog are accurate as of the time of writing, it’s worth continuing to monitor the latest developments.
And if you’re not sure where to look for such information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Eco Bike Co. team. We are experienced cyclists - using both conventional and electric bikes and are well versed in the rules of the road (and trail!)For any queries about electric bike UK laws contact us via email or phone and we would be happy to advise you.