In 2020, the state of Florida has finally joined more than 20 states in giving specific definitions for electric bicycles and dedicated laws for them. House Bill 971 amends certain definitions, provides rights and privileges to e-bikes and operators, exempts e-bikes from certain vehicular provisions, requires labeling and compliance to specific provisions, and authorizes e-bike riders to operate where regular bikes are allowed.
The new law is a game-changer for e-bike enthusiasts in the state of Florida. Before, electric bicycles were given the same rights and responsibilities as regular bicycles but they were defined as "motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride".
Because of the previous definition, e-bikes that go faster than 20 mph were prohibited. A $5 registration fee also falls under the definition of a “motorized bicycle”. Finally, children below 16 years old were not allowed to ride a “motorized bicycle”.
Under the new law, a clearer definition for electric bicycles was given. An electric bicycle is a “bicycle or tricycle equipped with fully operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and an electric motor of less than 750 watts which meets the requirements of one of the three classifications”.
Class 1 e-bikes are equipped with a motor that only engages when the rider is pedaling, and ceases to provide assistance when the 20 miles per hour speed limit is reached. Class 2 e-bikes are equipped with a motor that provides assistance whether or not the rider is pedaling, and disengages at 20 miles per hour. Class 3 e-bikes are the same with Class 1 but with a higher speed limit of 28 miles per hour.
For electric bicycle regulations, e-bikes are now eligible for the rights and privileges that regular bicycles are entitled to. Additionally, e-bike operators must also be responsible because they are subject to the same duties as regular bicycles do. Basically, electric bicycles are now defined as a vehicle to the same extent as a bicycle and can be ridden in the same areas regular bikes are allowed to.
An operator of an e-bike is not required to have a license, or auto insurance. A vehicle registration is not required anymore, unlike the previous provisions. A rider who is under the age of 16 must be equipped with a fully approved protective helmet.
The new law has given power to local authorities to permit, control, or regulate, the operation of e-bikes on sidewalks, sidewalk areas, streets, and highways. In sidewalk areas, the ordinance must require a 15 miles per hour speed limit. The local government also has the power to prohibit electric bicycles from bicycle paths, multi-use paths, or trails.
In terms of safety, the driver of a vehicle must pass an e-bike at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet in between. An e-bike rider shall position one’s self in the most practical path on the right side of the road.
By the start of 2021, manufacturers and distributors are now required to affix a visible label containing the classification number, top assisted speed, and motor wattage. No person shall tamper with the label, and must update it if any modifications on the e-bike have been made. Manufacturers shall ensure that the electric motor of an e-bike is fully functional so that it disengages when it reaches its speed limit.
Now that you are aware of this recent law, it’s time to responsibly enjoy your electric bike. Here are some beautiful places to bring your e-bike and have a wonderful adventure:
Bicyclists would surely enjoy the flat topography of Alafia River State Park. From scenic to challenging trails, the best biking experiences can be found here. Trails are acknowledged by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and difficulty ranges from beginner to highly advanced. A full bike service shop can be found here too.
The mixture of different environments such as coastal sand hills, lakes, forests, and the Loxahatchee River offers bikers an amazing adventure in this park. Cyclists are always excited to experience the 8.7-mile Ocean to Lake multi-use trail, and another 8-mile Eagles View multi-use trail.
30 minutes away from downtown Miami, a long and fruitful adventure awaits cyclists in Oleta River State Park. The park offers a 15-mile off-road bicycling trail for both beginners and intermediate bikers.
A combination of history and nature results in a unique experience. The Fort Clinch State Park entices cyclists with their historical landscapes and scenic landscapes. With 3.3 miles of paved road for tour bikes and 6 miles of off-road trail, bikers would be delighted to take on this historical adventure.
The new e-bike law addresses the definition of an electric bicycle within the three-class tier system. It also gives the electric bicycles and operators the same rights and privileges, and accounts the same responsibilities to that of a regular bicycle or operator.
E-bikes are allowed in places where regular bikes can be driven. The local government has the power to make changes and regulations, or prohibit the operation of electric bicycles in sidewalks, sidewalk areas, streets, roadways, highways, bicycle paths, and multi-use paths.
The new law also removes certain vehicular requirements such as licenses, and registration. Manufacturers and distributors are now required to follow state-mandated guidelines by affixing a permanent label and ensuring the full functionality of the electric motor of an electric bicycle. Tampering the label is prohibited unless it is replaced and updated to completely show modifications.
Finally, there are safety provisions in terms of overtaking an electrical bicycle, requiring helmets, and setting age qualifications for operating a Class 3 e-bike.