Legal e-bikes in the UK are cycles which have limited electric powered assistance. They are popular with older people, who find them easier to use on longer journeys, and also with people cycling children to school. Legal electric pedal-assist cycles (or EPACs) account for the bulk of those sold in major UK bike shops. We see legal e-bikes and e-bike converter kits as a welcome addition to Londoners’ transport options.
Several firms offer conversion kits that enable a rider to turn their pedal cycle into a power assisted one. Conversions within the above specifications are legal but you should make sure you have good well-adjusted brakes to cope with the extra weight.
Shared hire e-bike
Fat tyre e-bike
E-bikes are governed by the same rules as pedal cycles. They do not require a helmet, insurance or driving licence. When buying an e-bike or conversion kit, take care to buy from reputable shops and sources to prevent you ending up with a vehicle that is not road-legal, not road-worthy, or both.
Dangerous gaffer-taped battery
Overly powerful 750W motor
Throttled pedal moped (Credit Mike Pennington)
They may only be ridden in the main carriageway and must observe all rules governing motor vehicles. The vehicles must have type approval and meet relevant safety requirements to be ridden on the public highways. They require insurance, number plates, registration, a driving licence, a motorcycle helmet and motorcycle training.
If a rider, or their vehicle, fails to meet any of the above requirements they can be charged with illegally riding a motorbike, lack of insurance, helmet, training etc. This can mean a significant fine, points on a driving licence and seizure of the bike in question.
Some riders chose to modify regular e-bikes through illegal conversion kits to provide higher power than 250W or higher speeds than 15.5mph. If used in a public space this automatically makes them a motorbike in the eyes of the law and they have to meet all the regulations for motorbikes above.
These vehicles may not legally be used in cycle lanes or cycle cut-throughs. Overly powerful conversion kits are also unlikely to be type approved for use on public roads and would therefore automatically make the rider liable to penalties (see above). The police can readily recognise illegally modified e-bikes and may seize the bike and charge the owner.
Hacked or illegal e-bikes may also represent a danger to you – their batteries or chargers may work improperly and represent a fire risk.
If buying a used e-bike for on road use make sure you have checked that it fulfils regulations regarding motor power (max 250 Watts) and speed assistance (max 15 mph). If in doubt walk, or scroll, away.
The UK Government previously promised to bring new legislation in the form of a Transport Bill to Parliament in autumn 2022 but this did not get delivered and now appears to have been indefinitely delayed. We call on the UK Government to bring this legislation back before Parliament as soon as possible.
We previously prepared reports to assist with this new legislation:
In particular we share the concerns of the British Bicycle Association of the broad use of the term “e-bike” to describe all nature of light two-wheeled electric vehicles – even when they can travel at speeds above 50mph. This can confuse readers who may think they can ride such vehicles on the road without the required licence, insurance and safety equipment, or think they may legally use cycle lanes and cut-throughs.
We ask journalists to clearly distinguish between legal “e-bikes”, illegal hacked e-bikes, and motorbikes in their reporting. We also encourage national reporting bodies to clearly separate collision statistics based on cycle or vehicle type.
JOIN THE MOVEMENT
LCC is highly effective because it's supported by 12,000 members. If you cycle in London please consider joining today. You'll be supporting our work and you'll get a huge range of benefits in return.
KEEP UP TO DATE