California Vehicle Code Applying to Electric Bicycles

In 2015 the California State Legislature clarified the definition of an electric bike, by passing Assembly Bill 1096. Assembly Bill 1096 revised the California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 312.5 to provide for three categories of electric assist bicycles, and to define regulations for each category. These regulations include specifications for where each category of electric bike is allowed to be ridden. The provision became effective January 1, 2016. Under CVC 312.5 regulations for each category of electric assist bicycles are as follows:

  • A Class 1 electric bicycle is a low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph. Class 1 electric bikes are allowed wherever regular bikes are permitted, unless a sign specifically prohibits electric bicycles. CVC 21207.5 (Electric assist bicycles are not to be confused with “motorized bicycles”, i.e., gasoline powered bicycles. Signs prohibiting motorized bicycles on bike paths abound because they were installed prior the existence of commercially available electric bicycles.)
  • Class 2 electric bicycles are essentially the same as Class 1 electric bikes, except that they are throttle-assisted, not pedal-assisted. Like Class 1 bikes, they are allowed wherever regular bikes are allowed unless a sign specifically prohibits electric bicycles.
  • A Class 3 electric bicycle is a high-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph. They may be used in bike lanes or separated bikeways adjacent to the roadway. CVC 21207.5 They may not be used on trails or bike paths unless allowed by local authorities. They require helmets and may not be operated by people under age 16.

Swann Electric Bicycles carries Class 1 and Class 3 electric bicycles.

Safety

Please remember to always ride with extra caution, especially on bike paths and when pedestrians are present. You are capable of going much faster on your e-bike than you might otherwise. The speed limit on all bike paths is 15 mph even if it’s not posted. If you want to go faster than 15 mph, use a bike lane, not a bike path. Never ride faster than the speed limit.