Electric bicycles or electric-assist bicycles, often called e-bikes, are becoming increasingly popular because they can make biking easier or more comfortable, which potentially allows for a greater diversity of bicycle trips and riders. E-bikes are even starting to be integrated into bike sharing systems around the country, with Birmingham, Park City, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville leading the way.

E-bikes include a small electric motor that is engaged by pedaling or by a device on the bike's handlebar such as a throttle or switch. Generally, e-bikes look very similar to standard bicycles and a standard bicycle can be converted into an e-bike. The top speed for most e-bikes is between 20 and 28 miles per hour. Maximum speed is particularly important to the classification and regulation of e-bikes. While regulations vary by state and municipality, at the Federal level, e-bikes are considered to have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour when powered exclusively by motor.

As of 2020, twenty-six states have legislation that regulates e-bikes by a three-tier classificaiton and eighteen states define e-bikes in some manner. The remaining states have sometimes confusing laws that may classify e-bikes somewhere among mopeds and scooters. Some municipalities also have special e-bike laws, which typically regulate use on trails, paths, and sidewalks. The Department of the Interior recently announced that e-bikes may be permitted on public lands, where traditional biking occurs, as determined by local land managers and existing state and local regulations.


Framework for Considering Motorized Use on Nonmotorized Trails and Pedestrian Walkways provides guidance for permitting e-bikes on nonmotorized paths.

PeopleForBikes shares up-to-date information on federal and local e-bike policies as well as resources for e-bike retailers and people interested in electric mountain bikes.

State Electric Bicycle Laws - a Legislative Primer offers in-depth discussion of the legal regulations that pertain to e-bikes.

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Do people who buy e-bikes cycle more? reveals a significant increase in average distance traveled by bicycle per day by those who purchased e-bikes.

Evaluation of an Electric Bike Pilot Project at Three Employment Campuses in Portland, Oregon finds that e-bike ownership can foster longer bicycle trips and trips by a wider range of users.

Motives, perceptions and experiences of electric bicycle owners and implications for health, wellbeing and mobility analyzes interviews with e-bike owners in the UK and the Netherlands.

Risky riding: Naturalistic methods comparing safety behavior from conventional bicycle riders and electric bike riders finds that e-bike riders do not differ from conventional bicycle riders in terms of safety behavior.

Electric bikes in North America: results of an online survey concludes that e-bikes help bicyclists take more trips, longer trips, and carry more cargo.

Riding an E-Bike Is Not Cheating shares findings from a growing body of research that shows that electric-assist bikes may have profoundly positive health impacts.

The Electric Assist: Leveraging E-bikes and E-scooters for More Livable Communitiesdiscusses the role of e-bikes and e-scooters in making communities more livable.

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