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5 Electric Bike Laws in New York City You Might Want To Know About

Posted by Rommel Lim on


New York City is one of the best places to ride an electric bike. The city has a lot of smooth pavements and streets, grass, sand, hills and great parks that are perfect for electric bikes to navigate. Also, the traffic and the rush hours make you wonder why you haven't bought an electric bike if you don't have one already. Before, you decide on buying an electric bike in New York City, however, you might want to know about a few of their laws regarding electric bikes.

Legal Definition Of An Electric Bike
The state of New York (NY) defines an electric bike as a bike with a small motor attached.

Electric bikes have a modified or custom bicycle frame with pedals and an electric motor. It is usually in the form of a hub motor, belt or mid-drive motor connected to the rear wheel. This lets a rider either pedal the bike or leverage the power of a battery with the use of a motor drive system. In order to use an electric bicycle, you must charge the battery, activate the controller system and then twist a throttle, pedal the bike forward or pull a trigger to get the motor drive system engaged. Throttle only drive is a lot similar to traditional gas-powered scooters because there is no need to pedal. On the other hand, pedal-assist mode makes use of the rider’s input or the throttle signal and is quite popular in Europe where bicycle laws are stricter when it comes to battery and motor power. European bikes are typically limited to 250 Watt motors, while the US has a lot of bikes with motors that are as strong as 500 or even 600 watts. These make bikes go faster and power up steeper hills a lot more easily.

Registration and Licensing
The state of New York does not allow registration of electric bikes.

This means that you are not required to have a license or registration for electric bikes. It will be treated as a bicycle and abide by the laws for bicycles. It also means that if you operate an electric bicycle in any area that allows public motor vehicles, you could get arrested and if your electric bicycle gets stolen, there is no registration information to help you trace it. The other vehicles that you cannot register include:

*Mini-bike – a small, motorized vehicle that has two wheels and designed for off-road use.
*Motorized Scooter – a vehicle with a motor attached and a handlebar for a standing rider.
*Go-Kart – a small, motorized vehicle with 4 wheels, made for off-road use.
*Golf Cart – a small motorized vehicle with 4 wheels made to carry people.
*Off-Road Motorcycle – A motorcycle made for use on off-road trails or in off-road competitions.

Helmet Law
Helmets are required for all riders on any motorized vehicle or device.

So what kind of helmet is recommended? Some electric bicycles are no faster than a traditional bicycle, which makes people assume that a bicycle helmet would be enough. It is recommended to wear a light helmet for motorcycles. An ordinary bicycle helmet is not recommended for a lot of reasons:

* Most of the time, an electric bicycle is not driven in its maximum speed. If it is driven in maximum speed and a crash occurs, an ordinary bicycle helmet cannot protect you from the sustained damage.
* A motorcycle helmet has better air vents than an ordinary bicycle helmet. This is important if you take long rides that is common to electric bicycle users.
* Standard bicycle helmets do not properly protect the face such as the jaws which could transmit damage to the brain in a crash at motorized velocities.
* Bicycle helmets are tested at only about 14 mph. Electric bicycles have maximum speeds that go well beyond this speed.
* An ordinary bicycle reacts differently from an electric bicycle on certain shared trails like streets and roads and mix with heavier motor vehicles like trucks and cars.

Where To Ride
Electric Bicycles may not be ridden on any street, highway, parking lot, sidewalk or other in New York State which allows public motor traffic.

Electric bicycles can be classified according to terrain. Most of them are all-terrain types but some manufacturers have labelled them to be specific to certain terrains so it would be appropriate to classify them.

*Electric Hybrid Bike – A blend of traditional road bikes and mountain bikes.
*Electric City Bikes – An electric bike built for smooth city pavements.
*Folding Electric Bike – An electric bike ideal for use in heavy traffic.
*Electric Tricycle – Three-wheeled electric bikes that offer stability.
*Electric Mountain Bike – Electric bike used for exploring mountain trails.
*Electric Fat Bike – Electric bike used for off-road purposes such as sand, grass and mud.

Laws and policies may change at any time rendering the above information outdated and non-applicable. We strongly encourage that you check with the city, county, state and other local agencies for the most recent laws governing the proper, legal use of electric bicycles in your area.

Electric bikes have really motored their way to become an important issue with state lawmakers. There are over 250,000 electric bikes sold in the U.S. alone in 2015. Even if they fall into a gray area of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law and are generally considered illegal to operate on public highways, the benefits of electric bicycles are simply hard to ignore even for lawmakers. These benefits are:

* No driver’s license or insurance required to ride
* Can be used on sidewalks as well as cut through parks
* Lighter, cleaner as well as more reliable compared to gas powered vehicles
* Cheaper than gas powered vehicles in the long term when using electricity vs. gasoline or another fuel source
* Safer than street-legal motorcycles or scooters since they are slower and not fully usable on high-speed intersections or highways
* Easily avoid and skip through congested traffic areas
* Environmentally friendly, no exhaust produced for the user to breathe in
* Efficient and affordable parking
* Easy to use with public transportation such as trains, buses as well as light rail systems
* Provides opportunity to exercise as well as practice balance
* Social opportunity to get in touch with the community and become more social
* Relaxing and focusing

Electric bikes are really rising in popularity in America but already in widespread use in Asia and Europe due to these benefits.

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