What qualifies as an e-bike? 

An E-bike is an electric bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.

  • E-bikes are regulated like bicycles. The same rules of the road apply to E-bikes and human-powered bicycles. 
  • Electric bicycles with maximum speed capacity of 28 MPH are not subject to the registration, licensing or insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles.


In California, there are many styles of E-bikes out there, most fall within three (3) legal classifications (types), which are described below.  


  • Pedal-assisted - CVC 312.5 (a)(1)                                                                                     
  • Power maxes out at 20 MPH
  • Allowed wherever regular bicycles are allowed


  • Pedal or throttle assisted - CVC 312.5 (a)(2) 
  • Power maxes out at 20 MPH  
  • Allowed wherever regular bicycles are allowed


  • Pedal assisted (NOT throttle assisted) - CVC 312.5 (a)(3)
  • Maxes out at 28 MPH
  • Some restrictions on where they can be ridden, see below

Any E-bike that assists the rider over 28 MPH is NOT street legal and must stay off of roads, sidewalks and multi-use trails and paths.

It is against the law in California to modify or otherwise tamper with electric bicycles in a way that changes the speed capability, unless the rider also changes the bicycle’s classification. Electric bicycles with motors of more than 750 watts, and bicycles with gas motors are technically motorcycles according to the law and require Class M licenses, registration, and insurance.

E-bike Rider Requirements 


  • No minimum age
  • No driver's license required
  • Helmet required for 17 and under - CVC 21212


  • No minimum age
  • No driver's license required
  • Helmet required for 17 and under-CVC 21212


  • Minimum age 16 - CVC 21213(a)
  • No driver's license required
  • Helmet required for all ages - CVC 21213(b)

What to know about passengers on E-bikes

  • Most E-bikes are not equipped to carry passengers. Per CVC, E-bikes can only transport passengers if there is a permanent seat or when using a child safety seat - CVC 21204(b)
  • Passengers are required to wear a helmet if they are under 18 - CVC 21212.
  • CLASS 3 E-bike riders must not transport passengers

Where You Can Ride 

There are a few key differences in where an e-bike can and cannot ride.

Public right of way determined by CA Vehicle Code (CVC)

  • Bike paths and trails: CLASS 1 and CLASS 2 E-bikes are allowed on bike paths and trails.  CLASS 3 are not allowed - CVC 21207.5(a).
  • Bike lanes adjacent to a roadway: CLASS 1, 2, & 3 E-bikes are allowed in bike lanes - CVC 21207.5(a)
  • Roadways: Bicyclists/E-bikes operating upon a roadway at a speed less than normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway - CVC21203(a).

Trail access determined by various agencies - always be sure to obey posted signage

  • Presently, CLASS 1 and 2 E-bikes are allowed on San Juan Capistrano trails and paths which indicate bicycles are allowed.
  • In California State Parks, CLASS 1 and CLASS 2 electric bicycles may be allowed where bicycles are allowed as long as they’re not specifically called out as prohibited. 
  • City of San Juan Capistrano Multi-Use Trail Safety Guide

E-bike Chart

  • FEDERAL: As of August 29th, 2019, all e-bikes up to 750 watts can now access Federal Lands and natural parks anywhere a regular bicycle can access. The one exception is National Forests, the forests are managed by the Department of Agriculture and these changes are not implemented yet on the forests. Changes are happening to align all Federal land to the recent Order. Contact the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Office or the BLM California State Office for more information.

Rules of the Road 

All cyclists (E-bike riders included) are subject to all the same rules of the road as motorists. Cyclists who don’t follow the rules are subject to ticketing and fines as defined by the California Vehicle Code or local Municipal Code.  A copy of the Rules of the Road is available in English and Spanish

Make sure to follow these guidelines: 

  • Cyclists 17 years and under must wear a helmet. 
    • Traffic lights, signs, and signals apply to all road users, including cyclist and E-bike riders.  
  • Utilize the designated Bike Lanes. You can leave the bike lane to turn left, pass someone, avoid a road hazard or avoid cars turning right. 
  • Dismount and walk your e-bike on the sidewalk and crosswalk if there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic. Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.  
  • Be aware of others on the road and always ride at a safe speed for the conditions. This means riding safely in areas with pedestrians. 
  • Must stop at red lights. 
  • Must stop before right turn at red lights. 
  • Must stop at stop signs. 
  • Do not weave in and out of traffic. 
  • Riding in the opposite direction of traffic is prohibited. 
  • Cyclists must ride to the right edge of road as practical. 
  • Proper reflective equipment must be used (during night operation). 
  • It is illegal to carry passengers on your E-bike unless your bike has an extra permanent seat or when using a child safety seat. 

Click here for a reference sheet of California Vehicle Codes (CVC) applicable to bikes, E-bikes and E-scooters, and pedestrians. For a complete listing of California Vehicle Code (CVC) descriptions, click here.