New York State e-bike laws

Last Edited
November 6, 2021

New York State e-bike laws

Christian Angelo 9-27-21

Everyone knows what a bicycle is, but not all are familiar with the rising star - the  electric bicycle. E-bike sales have been booming for the past years, most especially during this time of pandemic. Since more and more people are buying e-bikes, new legislation is being passed in order to regulate the use and to ensure the safety of the people. 

In this article, you will know how the state of New York defines an electric bicycle, what types it accepts, and what are the important traffic rules that every rider should follow.

What is an e-bike?

In the simplest terms, an e-bike is a bicycle with electric assist. It has an integrated electrical system composed of an electric motor that is less than 750 watts, a battery, a sensor, a display, and/or a speedometer. In New York, e-bikes must measure no more than 36 inches wide, have fully operable pedals, and meet the federal equipment and manufacturing requirements. An e-bike must also belong to one of the three classes:

Class 1 electric assist bicycle: electric assistance can only be activated when the rider is pedaling, the motor ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches 20 miles per hour.

Class 2 electric assist bicycle: electric assistance can be activated whether or not the rider is pedaling, the motor ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches 20 miles per hour or the brakes are applied.

Class 3 electric assist bicycle: only available within a city that has a population of one million or more, electric assistance can be activated whether or not the rider is pedaling,  the motor ceases to provide assistance when the bike reaches 25 miles per hour or the brakes are applied. Class 3 e-bikes are only allowed in New York City.

E-bike chart

LawClass 1 Class 2Class 3
Top-assisted speed20mph20mph25mph
Throttle modeNOYESNO
Motor wattageLess than 750 wattsLess than 750 wattsLess than 750 watts
Helmet15 below15  below15 below

E-bike traffic rules

Here is the full summary of electric bicycle rules in New York:

  • E-bikes are operable on highways with a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less
  • Municipalities may regulate the operation of e-bikes
  • No one is allowed to ride the e-bike on a sidewalk unless there is an authorization from the local law or ordinance
  • An e-bike with wheels that are less than 26 in. in diameter operated by a person who is aged twelve or below are allowed on sidewalks
  • Parking, standing, or stopping is prohibited within designated bike lanes.
  • Cyclists must ensure that at least one hand firmly holds the handlebar when riding.
  • In an accident, cyclists must stop and provide the name, address, and insurance coverage of the party that is suffering injuries or damages, and go to the nearest police station if there is no officer on the scene.
  • Electric bicycles are prohibited on expressways, drives, highways, interstate routes, bridges and thruways, unless authorized.
  • All e-bikes must have a permanent label indicating the manufacturer, electric motor wattage, and top assisted speed.
  • An e-bike that has been modified to exceed the 750-watt motor wattage limit is not allowed on any public highway.
  • An e-bike that has been modified - the electric assist does not engage or disengage when the rider stops pedaling, the brakes are applied, or the speed limit is reached  - is not allowed on any public highway.
  • E-bikes may only be operated on parks designated for bike riding. However, bikes may be pushed in a single file to and from such places.
  • Bicycle lanes are designated for bicycle use alone.
  • Cyclists are not allowed to wear more than one earphone attached to an audio device while riding.
  • All persons riding bicycles are granted all vehicular rights and must adhere to all applicable vehicle laws.
  • A person riding a bicycle must ride on a permanent seat; must attach the feet on the pedals; and must not carry more than the bike is designed for.
  • On roadways, e-bikes must not be attached to any other moving vehicle.
  • Cyclists must ride on the right side of the roadway as practical as possible.
  • No two riders shall ride abreast.
  • One hand must be maintained on the handlebars when carrying packages.
  • A white headlight and a red tail light is required from dusk to dawn.
  • An audible signal such as a bell or a horn is also required.
  • The brakes must be fully functional.
  • Additional safety devices that increase visibility like reflective vests are required.
  • All riders must use hand signals to indicate turns and stops.
  • A child under one year old is not allowed to ride on a bike.
  • Fully approved, functional helmets must be worn for riders  or passengers aged 1-5. Children aged 1-5 must be properly affixed in a child carrier
  • Fully approved, functional helmets must be worn for riders or passengers aged 5-14.

Why should I follow the law?

The simplest answer is that the road belongs to everybody. You do not own the road, thus you share it with everyone else. Obeying the law promotes safety for everyone. As an e-bike rider, it is important to follow the law to predict each other’s behavior. You don’t just ride your e-bike the way you want it because it would be too dangerous for everyone.

Safety gears must be equipped all the time. Although there is a certain age for requiring helmets, it is still highly recommended to wear one no matter the age. You should also make sure that you are visible to all motorists and pedestrians. This will allow them to see you ahead and act accordingly. 

If you also want to avoid hefty fines, then you should be careful on the road. Observe traffic rules diligently to avoid unfortunate accidents. Accidents involving yourself or others may cause serious physical injuries and personal damages. Being extra careful mitigates the risk of an accident. 

Always remember that a fun ride is a safe ride! 

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