California E-bike Laws

Last Edited
November 6, 2021

California E-bike Laws

(Christian Angelo, August 27, 2021)

The state of California is full of stunning views, wide lanes, exciting trails, and fail-safe weather paths that all lead to an exciting and fun e-bike ride. Whether you are commuting, cruising, training, trailing, exercising, or just having a quick ride around the neighborhood, California is the place to be. In fact, California was ranked 4th in the 2019 Bicycle Friendly State rankings by the League of American Bicyclists. 

Some of the best bike paths include The Strand in L.A., Rincon Bike Trail in Ventura County, Monterey Bay Recreational Trail in Monterey, West Cliff Drive Bike Path in Santa Cruz, The Pacific Beach Boardwalk in San Diego, and many more. Along with these beautiful roadways are certain laws for electric bicycles. Here are the electric bicycle laws in California:

What is an electric bicycle?

Under the California Vehicle Code, an electric bicycle is defined as a “bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts”. Like many other states California also follows the three-class system:

Class 1 electric bicycle - also called a “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle”, designed to provide assistance only when the rider is pedaling, provided assistance ceases at the speed limit of 20 miles per hour

Class 2 electric bicycle - also called as “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle”, designed to provide assistance which exclusively propels the bicycle, provided assistance ceases at the speed limit of 20 miles per hour.

Class 3 electric bicycle - also called as “speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle”, designed to provide assistance only when the rider is pedaling, provided assistance ceases at the speed limit of 28 miles per hour, required to have a speedometer

Electric bicycle riders are subject to the chapter 1 of the Rules of the Road division in the Vehicle Code.

More laws on e-bike


Starting January 2017, manufacturers and distributors of e-bikes shall affix a permanent label, in a visible location, that indicates the classification number, motor wattage, and top assisted speed of the e-bike.  The font shall be Arial in at least 9-point type.

Local government

A transit development board has the right to exercise its power to adopt ordinances, rules, or regulations to prohibit or specify certain conditions about the use of electric bicycles under any property that it has control of, or any property that it uses. 

A public agency, but not limited to, such as the Regents of the University of California and the Trustees of California State University is also allowed to do the same as long as the public property is under the jurisdiction of the said public agency.


A Class 3 bicycle cannot be operated on a bicycle trail, bicycle path, or bicycle lane unless it is within or adjacent to a roadway or unless the local authority under the jurisdiction over the specific bike path allows the operation.  

By ordinance, the local authority, having jurisdiction over a certain bike path or trail, has the power to prohibit a class 1 or class 2 bicycle from the certain bike path or trail.

Other requirements

A class 3 electric bicycle cannot be operated by a person under 16 years old. 

Riders of a class 3 e-bike bicycle are required to wear a properly fitted, fastened bicycle helmet that is fully approved by the Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A passenger of a class 3 e-bike is also required to wear a fully approved, protective helmet.

Electric bicycle criteria

  • All e-bikes are required to comply with the equipment and manufacturing requirements of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission 
  • All e-bikes shall fully function in a way the electric motor disengages or ceases to provide assistance in line with the e-bike’s classification
  • E-bike riders are not subject to the following traffic codes:
    • Driver’s licence
    • License plate requirements
    • Motor vehicle requirements
    • Insurance requirements
  • A person cannot apply any modifications to his/her e-bike unless the affixed label is updated to display the correct information.
  • Every manufacturer shall show certifications that the equipment and manufacturing requirements meet the standard of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Electric Mountain Bike Guidelines

Guidelines across the state may vary significantly. In general, trails that are allowed for both motorized and non-motorized bicycles are also allowed for eMTBs. However, trails that are designated for non-motorized bicycles and activities may prohibit eMTBs. It is very important to check your local rules and regulations to avoid any violations. 

Introducing E-bike Tax Credit Bill

In a bid to encourage widespread use of electric bicycles in lieu of vehicles and motors, the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act was created. This aimed to impose a 30% tax credit for new electric bicycle purchases, with prices not exceeding $8000. 

The credit can reach a maximum of $1,500. Most of the electric bikes sold across the United States fall below the 8000-dollar limit. E-bikes generally used for commuting are sold within the $1000-$3000 price range. Those higher end e-bikes manufactured by bigger companies cost an estimate of $4000-$6000 dollars.

The E-BIKE Act, proposing a 30% tax credit on e-bikes, has recently been pushed further towards becoming a law. Progress has been made as this bill has been passed in the House of Senate in July 2021. Its companion bill has been passed to the House of Representatives beforehand. 

The attempt of incentivizing electric bicycles, as PeopleForBikes CEO Jenn Dice mentioned, gears the nation towards more efforts for lowering carbon emissions brought about by common transportation options.

The takeaway

The e-bike laws in California are similar to those states who also follow the 3-class system. The state does not require a driver’s license and registration as well. Class 3 e-bicycles cannot be operated by persons under 16 years old. E-bike riders and passengers shall also comply with the helmet requirement. Manufacturing and equipment requirements guarantee that e-bikes are safe and fully functional. 

The new e-bike tax credit bill will be helpful not only in purchasing electric bicycles but also in reducing harmful emissions, minimizing traffic, and personal health benefits.

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