Electric bikes are increasing in popularity all over the world. This is because they are making cycling more accessible for all sorts of different people. The electric assisted boost, can allow many cyclists to go further than before. Also, electric bikes make cycling more fun. If you’re thinking of buying an electric bike in the UK though, then you should be familiar with the UK electric bike laws.
Electric bike laws vary around the world and exist to determine the 3 factors below:
- What is an electric bike
- Who can ride an electric bike
- Where you can ride an electric bike
Currently, as it stands, the UK electric bike laws match with the EU. But now the UK has left the EU, this could possibly change in the future.
Being aware of the electric bike laws in the UK, can help you determine the below factors.
- If an electric bike would suit your needs (for example, if it will be fast enough for what you want).
- Allow you to know where you can ride an electric bike.
- Where you would stand legally, if you were to make any modifications. For example, if your bike would still be classed as an electric bike, after making any changes.
In this article, I will clarify and talk about the UK electric bike laws. Immediately below, though, is a table outlining the UK’s main electric bike laws.
What Defines an Electric Bike in the UK
For a bike to be defined as an electric bike in the UK, it needs to have the below.
- An electric motor that can provide assistance, to help the bike move forward.
- The bike must have pedals, like any regular bike. The motor provides extra assistance, whilst the rider is pedalling. This is referred to as pedal assistance, or PAS as an abbreviation.
- The power of the motor must be no more than 250 watts.
- The bike can go no faster than 15.5mph (25km/h) electrically assisted. If the rider goes above this speed, then the electric assistance will cut out.
An electric bike can have more than 2 wheels, by the way. This means you can even have an electric tricycle if you like.
Who can Ride an Electric Bike in the UK?
You’re allowed to ride an electric bike in the UK, as long as you’re 14 years old, or over. To own and ride an electric bike, you don’t need a license or insurance, or to tax it. You aren’t required to register the bike either. This is all as long as it meets the requirements mentioned above. You simply buy your electric bike and you’re immediately good to go.
Is it Illegal to Ride an Electric Bike that does not Meet the Requirements?
It is not illegal to own an electric bike in the UK, that does not meet the specified above requirements. If you were to own an electric bike that does not meet these requirements, then the bike would be classed as a motor vehicle. For example, this could be if the motor is 500 watts and can provide electric assistance up to 25mph. In this instance, you would need to get a license and the bike insured, taxed and registered.
If you have an electric bike that’s classed as a motor vehicle, the specifications of the bike will determine which license you would need. For example, if the motor helps the bike to go up to speeds between 25 km/h and 45 km/h, then it would likely be classed as a moped. Here, you would need a moped license to ride it.
Having an electric bike that’s classed as a motor vehicle, would mean you’d be restricted to where you can ride it. You would only be permitted to ride it on certain public highways. This would likely be anywhere you’re allowed to ride/drive motor vehicles in general. You would not be allowed to ride it everywhere you can ride a regular bike. For example, like riding on dedicated cycling lanes.
You can ride an electric bike that’s classed as a motor vehicle on private land. This is as long as you have permission from the landowner.
Where can I Ride an Electric Bike in the UK?
You can ride an electric bike (as defined by UK law) on any public highway in the UK. This can include riding it on the road, on dedicated bike lanes and on cycling trails, for example. Essentially, you’re allowed to ride an electric bike, anywhere you can ride a regular bike.
Can I Ride an Electric Bike with a Throttle in the UK?
Currently, as it stands, you can buy and ride an electric bike in the UK that has a throttle. This is as long as the throttle only powers the bike up to no faster than 3.7mph (6 km/h), without the rider needing to pedal.
The throttle, therefore, cannot power the electric bike any faster than this, without the rider pedalling. As long as the rider is also pedalling, the throttle can provide some assistance up the overall limit of 15.5mph. Remember, the bike still must have the electric pedal assistance, for it to be classed an electric bike.
If there’s a throttle, but no pedal assist. Or the throttle can power a bike forward faster than 3.7mph, without the rider pedalling. The bike will then be classed as a motor vehicle. Again here, the applicable license, insurance, registration and taxation will be required.
Electric Bikes with Throttles Purchased Before UK and EU Harmonisation
As mentioned earlier, even though the UK has now left the EU, the UK electric bike laws currently match the EU’s. This harmonisation the UK has with the EU electric bike laws, has only been since 1st January 2016. Before this, electric bikes in the UK were allowed to have a throttle that could take the bike up to the then, electrically assisted speed limit of 15mph, without pedalling. Meaning, the throttle can power these bikes without pedalling, above the currently required 3.7mph.
Some people may have bought one of these electric bikes with a throttle (that can take the bike up to speeds above 3.7mph, without pedalling) before 1st January 2016. As the law currently stands in the UK. These bikes are still considered electric bikes and not motor vehicles. So you’re still allowed to ride these bikes on the same public highways as regular bikes. You would also still not need to have a license and insurance etc.
This even applies, if you were to buy one of these electric bikes second-hand. As long though, if it was initially sold to the UK market before 1st January 2016.
These current electric bike laws make buying and riding an electric bike in the UK straightforward. As long as you’re at least 14 years of age, you can simply buy an electric bike and start riding it straight away. All without the hassle of registering the bike and getting a license, etc.
You can still get insurance if you want to protect your electric bike against theft and damage. This is only optional though and certainly not a requirement.
You can simply buy your electric bike and start having fun.