E-bike Laws in the UK
Using an e-bike can make commuting and riding faster and more fun, and makes cycling accessible to more people. It’s important to be aware of the laws surrounding electric bikes: what you can and can’t ride, and where. EU law EN15194 has been standardised in the UK since April 2015, giving e-bikes a fairly clear definition. This article explains the rules and provides the information you need to ride on and off-road in the UK.
What is an EAPC?
Your bike will be classified as an EAPC, or an ‘Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle’ if it meets the following requirements:
- It has pedals to propel it
- It shows either the power output or the manufacturer of the motor
- It shows either the battery’s voltage or the maximum speed
- The electric motor should not be able to propel the bike at over 15.5mph
- The electric motor must have a maximum nominal power output of 250 watts
E-bikes (those with two wheels, plus tandems and tricycles) adhering to these rules can be used in the same way and in the same places as a normal, non-electric bike, without the need for a licence, vehicle tax or additional registration. The UK also states that you must be over 14 years old to ride any bike on the road that meets the above requirements. Off-road there is no lower age limit.
What are the classifications of electricbikes in terms of the law?
An e-bike or pedelec is any motor-powered bicycle that sits under the EAPC definition. There are no additional legal factors to take into account if you wish to purchase and ride one, as long as you are over 14 years old.
Similar to a pedelec but faster, speed pedelecs can reach higher speeds, up to 28mph, with more powerful motors. Due to the fact that there is no legislation specific to a speed pedelec in the UK, they are legally classed as a moped, and the associated motorcycle laws apply.
Twist and go
Unlike the previous two classifications, with a ‘twist and go’ you don’t need to pedal to get moving. Often compared to a moped, these thumb-throttle bikes reach higher speeds with no effort and, as the same rules apply as with a speed pedelec, the bike needs registering, insuring and taxing, and the rider must have a licence and wear a more protective helmet than a standard cycling helmet.
Are electric bikes legal in the UK?
The short answer is yes, electric bikes are legal. Anyone over the age of 14 can buy and ride an electric bike that is classified as EAPC without the need to undergo any additional paperwork or pass any tests. Step outside of this and you’ll need to pay tax, get it registered and insured, and pass the motorcycle CBT.
How throttle plays its part
Bikes with full-speed throttles fall under the definition of a moped and need to be registered. Many EAPCs have a ‘walk assist’ mode, and as long as the pedal-free assistance is capped at 3.7mph (6kph) it’s completely legal. If a rider pedals one of these bikes, the assistance will continue up to 15.5mph when the motor cuts out, but when the rider is rolling but not pedalling, then assistance cuts out at just 3.7mph. This mode is there merely to help when pushing the bike or to get you started.
Are the laws different for speed pedelecs?
A speed pedelec will need to be registered, taxed and insured, the appropriate safety equipment worn, and the rider (16 or over) needs to have passed their CBT. Your bike also needs a number plate visible at all times.
An s-pedelec may make your rides easier and faster, but it’s important to remember that as it is classified as a moped, shared use paths are no longer accessible. If motorbikes are allowed in the bus lanes so are you, but this may not be the case everywhere in the UK. Cycle lanes are also out of bounds, and you’re legally required to stick to the speed limit, with the risk of points if you don’t.
Do I need to get vehicle approval?
Standard pedelecs do not have to be vehicle approved. If the bike can be propelled without pedalling (a ‘twist and go’ EAPC) or it does not meet the EAPC rules for a pedelec then it needs to be type approved. In this instance, the manufacturer or importer should have had it approved before purchase and the bike should have a type approval number plate.
Do I need to pay Vehicle Excise Duty for an e-bike?
No, you do not need to pay Vehicle Excise Duty for an e-bike. If it does not comply with the regulations listed above, however, then you will be required to tax the bike as though it were a moped.
Where can I use an electric bike?
You can ride an electric bike almost anywhere you can ride a non-electric bike, be that cycle lanes, paths and tracks, bus lanes and other places a normal bike is allowed. There are exceptions to this rule in particular areas, particularly off-road where e-bikes may be banned, or charged more to compensate for the increased trail damage and congestion that an electric mountain bike may cause.
If your electric bike does not comply with the regulations, it will be treated and subjected to the same laws as a motorcycle, making it illegal to use bus lanes and bicycle-specific spaces.
Do I have to wear specific safety equipment, like a helmet, to ride an electric bike?
There is no mandatory requirement to wear a helmet or use other safety equipment when riding an electric bike. If you do decide to wear a helmet, you can choose a regular cycling helmet, however, there are electric bike helmets available that may offer additional safety, comfort and functionality. Most are designed with a city rider or commuter in mind, delivering style alongside features such as improved coverage, high visibility and integrated lights.
Do I need insurance for an electric bike?
Although there is no legal requirement to have your electric bike insured, it’s always a worthwhile investment. Riding an e-bike potentially means faster rides and more miles, busier roads and the need to lock up outside a shop or train station, and if you find yourself in trouble, they can be expensive to repair. Being generally more expensive to purchase, they may not be covered under a home insurance policy, and some insurers specifically exclude them.
Many people are turning to more specialist insurance that covers third party liability, theft, damage and accidents so you’re prepared for any eventuality, and you’ll be able to choose from a range of plans to best suit your needs.