E-Bike Memorandum

Electric Assist Bikes

Electric Assist bicycles, aka e-Bikes, are gaining huge popularity. E-bikes are legal when they fall within the definition set by statute. Most e-Bikes sold in bike shops do. Others, however, exceed the limits set by statute and fall outside the definition. The statutes only address electric assist bikes which fall under this definition: “Electric-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle with two or three wheels that:

  1. Has a saddle and fully operable pedals for human propulsion;
  2. Meets the requirements for bicycles under Code of Federal Regulations, title 16, part 1512, or successor requirements;
  3. Is equipped with an electric motor that has a power output of not more than 750 watts; and
  4. Meets the requirements of class 1, class 2 or class 3 electric-assisted bicycle.

Briefly, Class 1 and Class 3 e-Bikes have to be pedaled in order to activate any assistance from the motor. A Class 1 bike must cease assistance at 20 mph. A class 3 bike must cease assistance at 28 mph. A class 2 bike can assist the operator through either pedaling for by use of a throttle control. If an e-Bike is moving swiftly down the road and the operator isn’t pedaling, it’s likely a Class 2 with a throttle. A Class 2 must cease assistance at 20 mph. Everything is terms of speed and assistance is ultimately determined by the software. If the software is modified the limits on the speed can be too.

A legal e-Bike, for use on MN roadways and bikeways, cannot have motor power output of over 750 watts. There are many so-called “e-Bikes” in use which exceed that. Some look more like motorcycles, some don’t have functional pedals. The speed they are going while riding can certainly be a giveaway at times as to its power lever and conformance. The market is flush with new products trying to enter the “E-Bike” market. This is where discretion, curiosity and your own personal subject knowledge are necessary and useful.

169.222 Subd 6a addresses electric assist bicycles, e-Bikes. For the most part the laws regarding e-Bikes are identical to those for regular bicycles. The biggest difference is – NO person under the age of 15 shall operate an electric assist bike. Lastly, local or trail ordinances can be passed to control e-Bike use on their facilities.