Is it legal to ride an electric bike in the UK?

Conventional bicycles have proved to be both a convenient mode of transport and an enjoyable hobby, but nowadays, cyclists are looking for a more convenient way to travel.

EAPCs (electrically assisted pedal cycles) are soaring in popularity, providing motorists with an environmentally friendly alternative for getting around and making it easier to get from A to B – but are electric bikes legal in the UK? Read on to discover the electric bicycle laws in the UK, and how you can use your electric bike safely and legally. 

What is classed as an e-bike?

electric bike ukSince March 2020, UK sales of electric bikes have increased by 60%, but if you’re thinking of hopping onto the e-bike trend, it’s important to note what is actually classified as an electric bike, and how they differ from mopeds or motorcycles.

An electrically assisted pedal cycle is exactly as it sounds, using a motor to assist its power, but that doesn’t mean you can get about without putting in some of the work! Whilst electric bikes present a less strenuous alternative to traditional bicycles, they are not an effortless ride.

To be classified as an electric bike in the UK, your EAPC must require some movement of the pedals. The motor is there to give you a boost, but any bike that can travel at more than 15.5mph using electrical assistance, or has a motor that functions without the pedals being used, would not be classified as an electric bike and would fall into the moped or motorcycle category, depending on their engine size and maximum speed.

What are the electric bicycle laws in the UK?

Is it legal to ride an electric bike in the UKSo long as you are over the age of 14, and your bike meets electrical bicycle regulations, you can ride an EAPC on UK roads, bicycle paths, and anywhere where regular bicycles are permitted, with no licence, road tax, or insurance required. The law doesn’t even state that electric bike users have to wear a helmet, although this is advisable for best safety practice!

However, if your e-bike does not meet UK regulations, or has a twist-and-go throttle, the electric bike laws are more complicated. In 2016, bikes with twist-and-go throttles were re-classified as motor vehicles, meaning that road users must register and insure them like any other motor vehicle. Twist-and-go e-bikes are still available second-hand and can be used legally providing you do not exceed a maximum speed of 15.5mph.

How to tell if your electric bike is road legal

It’s not difficult to tell if your electric bike is road legal. All electric bikes must be marked with either the manufacturer’s name or the maximum power output (which must fall below 250 watts), and require pedalling for the power assistance to function. It must also show the battery’s voltage and maximum speed, in order for your e-bike to meet government guidelines and be passable for road use in the UK.

Why are electric bikes so popular?

electric bicycle regulationsNearly 1 in 20 people now own an electric bike in the UK, so there’s no time like the present to hop on the trend and enjoy quick, convenient, and environmentally friendly travel. Despite offering a less intense form of physical activity, riding an electric bicycle still has plenty of health benefits.

Because EAPCs still require a good amount of pedalling to get you going, they can still offer many of the health benefits of regular cycling. They certainly offer a better blood-pumping workout than travelling on foot but are still a lower impact form of exercise than conventional cycling

If you’re travelling through a hilly environment with steep inclines, an electric bike will help you to climb with ease as long as you put in the effort. This can make the world of difference if you’re biking through the countryside, turning a tough cycle into an enjoyable journey.

How to hit the road safely

As with any bike or scooter, electric or not, it’s always important to put your safety first. Always wear a helmet for protection and appropriate, clearly visible clothing. This is especially important if you’re riding at night when reflectors will help to ensure you are visible to other road users.

Before you take to the road with your bike, read up on road etiquette and electric bike regulations, so that you can respect the rules of the road and enjoy your bike safely and legally.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a low-impact way to exercise, are elderly and want to get around more easily, or you want to do your part to preserve the environment and swap your motor for an electric alternative, e-bikes are changing the game for road users.