In 2018, the State of Ohio passed Amended House Bill 250, which clearly excludes electric bicycles from the definition of motorized vehicles, motorized bicycles, and scooters. The law requires all bicycles, including e-bikes, to be subjected to certain regulations. By March 2019, this law has taken into effect.
An electric bicycle, or e-bike for short, resembles the appearance of the traditional bike. Its main difference is that it is integrated with an electrical system that provides pedal assistance. With a simple click or shift, the battery-powered motor starts and gives the rider a boost. Generally, e-bikes are made to make riding easier, longer, and more fun for all ages.
Why should e-bikes be subject to rules and regulations?
The lack of specific vehicle classification for electric bicycles creates confusion among riders, manufacturers, retailers, and enforcers. E-bikes could be misinterpreted as combustion engine vehicles, which is never meant to describe an e-bike. It is important to properly regulate electric bikes, just like traditional bikes, to clarify the confusion, increase safety, and improve organization.
Ohio State-Specific Laws
Three-tier class system
Like most states, Ohio follows the three-tier classification system - Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. Each class is defined as a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals with different distinctions:
“Class 1 electric bicycle” - electric motor of less than 750 watts, only provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, pedal assistance stops when the bicycle reaches 20 miles per hour, allowed on bicycle-only and shared-use paths
“Class 2 electric bicycle” - electric motor of less than 750 watts, provides assistance whether the rider is pedaling or is not, pedal assistance stops when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour, allowed on bicycle-only and shared-use paths
“Class 3 electric bicycle” - electric motor of less than 750 watts, provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, pedal assistance stops at 28 miles per hour, must be equipped with a speedometer, prohibited on any bicycle-only or shared-use paths unless adjacent to a highway or permitted by local authorities
The class of the e-bike is the defining factor for certain laws.
Specific requirements and laws
Operation of any electric bicycle DOES NOT require any license requirements.
Operation of any electric bicycle DOES NOT require any registration.
Age: Persons below 16 years old are prohibited from operating a class 3 electric bicycle. Riding as a passenger does not require any age limit.
All electric bicycles must have a visible permanent label indicating its class, top assisted speed, and motor wattage.
A modified electric bike must have an updated label showing accurate information.
Class 3 bicycles must be equipped with a speedometer
Class 3 bicycle riders must wear a fully approved protective helmet
A front lamp that emits a light that is at least 500 feet visible from the front, and 300 feet from the side
A red reflector 100-600 feet visible from all distances
A red rear light that is at least 500 feet visible from the rear, this can also be used as the red reflector if it meets the guideline
An e-bike may be equipped with an audible signal indicator except for a whistle or siren
All electric bicycles are required to have fully functional brakes
Manufacturers and distributors are required to affix a permanent label -- containing the information stated in the labeling section --- in a visible location
Manufacturers shall strictly follow the class specification system so that the electric motor engages and disengages when the required speed limit is reached
Manufacturers shall ensure compliance with the established equipment and manufacturing requirements
No person is allowed to ride astride the bicycle’s permanent seat or any other attached seat dedicated for a passenger
The rider shall only ride on a firmly attached and regular saddle.
The rider shall not carry anything that will compromise his/her safety by preventing him/her to have two hands on the handlebar
No electric bicycle shall carry more than what it is designed for.
Carrying a child shall be allowed for as long as the bike is designed for it and there is a designated seat
No rider shall attach the bike or the self to any vehicle or trolley
Riding electric bicycles on trails that are not reserved for such and are historically reserved for non-motorized bicycles are prohibited
Allowed roads and positioning
Every rider shall be positioned as near to the right side of the roadway unless it is unsafe to do so, when overtaking, or making a left turn
More than two riders are not allowed to ride abreast in a single lane, except on bicycle-exclusive pathways
Electric bicycles cannot be operated on the sidewalks unless the motor is disengaged.
Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are allowed on bicycle-only and shared-use paths
Class 3 e-bikes are prohibited on bicycle-only and shared-use paths unless adjacent to a highway or permitted by local authorities
Hand signals shall be given on the left side:
Left turn - extend hand and arm horizontally
Right turn - extend hand and arm upward
Stop or reduce speed - extend hand and arm downward
An alternative right turn signal may be given by extending the right hand and arm horizontally on the right side of the e-bike
The most common penalty for any violation stated above is the issuance of a minor misdemeanor in certain degrees, which varies on the violator’s history.
Local authorities could implement additional laws in their own local jurisdiction. Riders are encouraged to regularly check local laws to prevent legal troubles and ensure safety.
Why are e-bikes not regulated at a federal level?
Since 2002, the federal regulations for electric bicycles have been limited to product safety. Federal regulations do not specify rules for riding and roads to be used. This is where state-specific laws come in. This is also the reason why states differ in their regulations for electric bicycles.
Your designated electric bicycle
Before choosing your electric bicycle, make sure that whatever you are choosing would not be prohibited on your planned riding locations. A Class 1 or Class 2 e-bike is perfect for riding on bicycle-only and shared-use paths. A Class 3 e-bike is best used when commuting to work or going for longer rides, but not on bicycle-only and shared-use paths.
If you have purchased an electric bicycle already, make sure to follow the rules and regulations all the time. Not only will it keep you safe, but it will also prevent legal troubles in the future. As always, have fun and keep safe all the time!
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