U.S. states are acknowledging the advent of electric bicycles and are implementing laws to further specify guidelines for the operation of such. Not only are electric bikes a fun alternative to riding regular bikes, but they are also sustainable and more accessible than other transportation vehicles.
Wisconsin has joined the majority of U.S. states in defining an electric bicycle. In 2019, the Wisconsin Act 34, which creates a more specific definition for e-bike and provides a regulatory framework for safety, was passed. In this article, you will learn about Wisconsin state-specific e-bike regulations and riding safety tips.
In Wisconsin, an electric bike is defined as a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedas and an electric motor that does not exceed 750w that provides assistance to the rider. An electric bicycle is regulated like a standard bicycle. E-bikes are categorized according to three classes:
A Class 1 electric bicycle is equipped with a motor that only provides assistance when the rider is pedaling. This e-bike is also known as “pedal assist”. The electric assistance stops when the bicycle reaches the speed limit of 20mph.
A Class 2 electric bicycle is equipped with a motor that may be exclusively used to propel the bicycle, even without pedaling. This e-bike is also known as “throttle mode”. The electric assistance stops when the bicycle reaches the speed limit of 20mph.
A Class 3 electric bicycle is equipped with a motor that only provides assistance when the rider is pedaling, just like a class 1. The main difference is that the electric assistance stops when the bicycle reaches the speed limit of 28mph. A class 3 e-bike is the fastest among the three classes.
A vehicle outside these definitions would not be regulated as a bicycle.
The new e-bike law does not only define electric bicycles. It is more than that. There are also new regulations regarding age limit, riding rules, and manufacturing requirements.
There are NO license, registration, and insurance requirements for electric bike operators. Interestingly, there are NO helmet requirements for riders, which is usually required by other states.
Persons below the age of 16 are prohibited from operating a Class 3 electric bicycle. Generally, electric bicycles are allowed on roadways and roadway bike lanes where regular bicycles are allowed. In bike paths and shared-use paths, electric bikes may only be allowed when the motor is not engaged. On sidewalks, e-bikes are prohibited.
Manufacturers are now required to affix a permanent label on a prominent location that would indicate the classification of the e-bike motor, and top speed. No person shall tamper with the label. If a rider chooses to modify the electric bicycle, the affixed label must be updated.
The new law also gives the power to local authorities or the Department of Natural Resources to prohibit the operation of electric bicycles on any bike path under its own jurisdiction.
Bicycle trails are usually regulated by the local authority. It is essential to review your local laws before attempting to ride on bike trails.
The new law paved the way for Wisconsin to join 44 other states in designating specific definitions for electric bicycles. The remaining minority that lacks a specific definition usually includes e-bikes in another vehicle class such as a “moped” or a “motorized bicycle”.
The three-tiered classification system is followed by 26 states. These states have similar defining language and regulate the operation and requirements in the same manner. New Jersey and West Virginia only have a two-class system. New Jersey only recognizes the first 2 classes, and designates a class 3 e-bike as a “motorized bicycle”. West Virginia only recognizes classes 1 and 3. The class 2 e-bike, which can exclusively propel the bicycle without pedaling, is not acknowledged.
Helmet requirements, which are very important, also vary from state to state. 25 states include some sort of helmet requirement for riders and passengers in their e-bike laws. Riders under a certain age are often subject to this requirement. The strictest state is Connecticut, which requires all operators and passengers for all classes to wear a fully approved protective helmet.
An e-bike operator or passenger below 16 years old is required to wear a helmet in Florida, Maine, and Maryland. Under age 17 is the requirement for New Jersey, while under age 14 for New York. In Delaware, any person under 18 is required to wear a helmet.
The states that require a protective headgear for class 3 e-bikes, regardless of age, are California, New York, Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Meanwhile, class 3 e-bike riders below 18 years old in Colorado, Utah, Indiana, South Dakota, Michigan, and New Hampshire are required to wear a helmet. Both rider and passenger, regardless of age, must wear a helmet in South Dakota.
In Arkansas, class 3 e-bike operators under 21 years old are subject to helmet requirements.
It is noteworthy that 25 states still do not have helmet requirements. This includes the state of Wisconsin. Eight out of these states are already implementing specific e-bike laws, but without the helmet requirement.
Riding safety tips
When riding your electric bicycle, it is important to remember these safety tips to prevent accidents:
That’s all for the Wisconsin electric bicycle laws and riding safety tips. Have fun and live life to the fullest with your e-bike!