Riding Bicycles and eBikes in the UK

The coronavirus lockdown in the UK is seeing an upsurge of bicycle and ebike use on roads, either as means of alternative transport or exercise. The uptick has in fact given repair shops and bike retailing outlets recognition, and permission to operate as essential businesses.

Rather than brave the risk of contracting the Covid-19 disease by riding buses, trains or The Tube, public commuters now consider it much safer to travel by way of bikes when leaving the house for an essential purpose. Inasmuch as ebikes have also become popular as a more modern means of transport, many are wondering if they can ride their electric dirt bikes in the nearly empty thoroughfares, without being apprehended by constables.

Riding Ebikes During the Covid-19 Lockdown Does not Change the Rules

The country’s existing rules and regulations pertaining to ebikes remain enforceable even while there is an ongoing health crisis.
Those contemplating buying an electric bike, instead of spending money in overhauling their old bicycle, should first know what the UK requires when allowing ebikes as legal transport. After all, ebike laws do not apply uniformly on all types of electrically-powered two-wheel technology.

It should also be noted that Northern Ireland has a different set of rules, as this UK territory requires having a moped license for riders of any kind of ebikes.

Overview of UK Laws for Electric Bicycles

The first thing to know about UK laws for electric bikes is that the rules are different for electrically assisted pedal bikes (EAPBs), non-pedalling electric vehicles and off-road ebikes.

Rules for EAPBs

The use of electrically assisted pedal bikes or EAPBs for public road travel in cycle paths or green lanes, do not require driver-licensing, vehicle registration, insurance coverage, or subject to tax.

However, an EAPB rider must be at least 14 years old and that the following information must be visible on the EAPB, for the unit to be considered as road legal:

The Power Output of the Electric Motor to which the maximum power output is up to 250 watts. Moreover, there should be additional info about the manufacturer of the motor and guarantee that the motor will not propel the electrically assisted pedal bike, when the speed exceeds 15.5 km/h.

The Maximum Speed of the EAPB, which is at 15.5 km/h

The Battery Voltage – which can be 24V, 36V or 48V

No Pedalling or the “Twist-and-Go” Electric Bikes

“Twist -and-Go” no-pedalling bikes, including EAPBs capable of propelling the unit when the speed goes beyond the EAPB 15.5 km/h limit, fall under the Motorcycle or Moped classification. The type-approval for the vehicle must be indicated in the plate by way of a type approval number.

That being the case, operators of such types of electric bikes must wear a helmet and have a valid driving licence. In addition, these types of two-wheel electric vehicle must be properly registered, have proper insurance coverage and be tax compliant. Otherwise, riding twist-and-go electric vehicles even on cycle paths, will be regarded as illegal.

Off-Road Electric Bikes

The general rule for electric dirt bikes is that they do not require operators to have a driving licence, vehicle registration, insurance or tax payments because the use of these types of ebikes are restricted to legal off-road sites or privately-owned properties only.

If the electric dirt bike operator uses the unit for recreation in a property that does not belong to him or his family, he must first obtain permission from the owner. Otherwise, he is at risk of being cited for violating a UK motor vehicle law. Ignoring such citations could result to law enforcement actions that include impounding of the vehicle.

By the way, the rules apply even for off-road ebikes for kids, like Razor electric dirt bikes.