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Are Electric Bikes Legal? A Comprehensive Guide to UK Law

I have compiled this page to help people understand the UK law and government vehicle restrictions around using an electric bike on UK roads in England. So, are electric bikes legal? Yes, they are, to a certain level. A really simple definition is as follows: If you refer to the law on the Electric Scooters page linked here, you’ll find that the bike law also covers electric tricycles

The government classifies electric bikes as EAPCs (Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles). They must have a motor output of no more than 250W, a top speed of 15.5mph with pedal assistance, and use pedal assist to legally operate on UK public roads.
Image showing the electric bike law in the UK

What makes an e-bike legal in the UK?

Electric bikes must have a motor output of no more than 250W and a maximum speed of 15.5mph assistance, to be legally used on public roads in the UK and MUST use pedal assist, which means the motor only works when you pedal and turn the pedals.

Electric bikes MUST be fitted with pedals and a bike that can be used independently of the motor, it cannot be just electric powered.

You do not need a driving license to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed, or insured.

What is the legal definition of an ebike in the UK?

The legal definition of an electric bike in the UK is a pedal cycle with an electric motor of up to 250 watts, which is used to assist the rider. It must have pedals that are operable at all times and the motor must cut out when the rider stops pedalling or reaches a speed of 15.5mph. The electric bike must also be fitted with a speedometer and the motor must be clearly marked with its power output.

Anything over 250 watts is considered a moped in the eyes of the law and you will need tax, MOT test and insurance to be on UK roads, which in turn will mean you need a driving license like people who drive cars. 

You will also be required to wear a crash helmet for safety, not a normal cycling helmet. 

I am not sure when this legislation was created but it needs updating.

Can I use an E-bike with a throttle on the UK roads?

If you bought your bike before 2016, you can have a throttle on your E-bicycle but any newer and it’s NOT legal, and your ebike will be classed as an electric motorcycle, as this is one shared feature, you have a few options. You can often disable the throttle in your e-bikes settings, or just chance it and hope you don’t get pulled over by the police, which is rare but does happen.

What are the age limits for using electric bicycles?

In the United Kingdom, the legal age for cyclists using an electric bike is 14 years old or older. However, riders under 16 must be accompanied by an adult and wear a helmet.

Is my 500-watt, 750-watt, or 1000-watt bike legal on UK roads?

No, they are not legal. They are classed as mopeds or electric motorcycles, so they come under the same rules and regulations as motorists. You need tax, insurance, and an MOT certificate. It is a massive grey area in the law and lots of people own and use these bikes on UK roads. You would also not be allowed to use cycle paths or cycle lanes.

500 watts, 750 watts and 1000 watts or over are classed as mopeds or motorbikes, so they will be treated as such if you are stopped by police.

Is it legal to own a 500-watt, 750-watt bike, or even more powerful?

It is not illegal to buy or sell these bikes, they are just not legal to use on our roads, it is one of the many confusing parts of the law.

What is the legal speed limit in the UK for e-bikers?

This is an interesting question. The maximum speed an electric bike can power you to is 15.5mph. Now you can go faster, but this is what speed the electric bike motor will cut out or turn off.

However, if you do not use an electric motor, you can ride as fast as you like, you are expected to stick to the same limits as any other road user. For example, on a 30mph road, you need to stick within this limit.

This is why the 15.5mph speed limit on ebikes does not make sense, as some users can pedal faster under human power than they can use an electric motor. Also, it does not allow you to keep up with traffic.

Why is the speed limit for e bikes set at 15.5mph in the UK?

The answer to this is pretty interesting. The reason it’s set to this is because this is what speed a human can run at a fast pace. For example, Roger Bannister ran an average of 15mph. When he set his 3-minute mile record, this is why this speed of 15 mph was chosen, interesting, right?

I am not entirely sure how they came to 15.5mph but I know this is why it was made to 15.5 mph. It seems a little outdated now, but the story is great behind it.

Should I risk using my e-bike on UK laws if it is classed as illegal?

It honestly is not for me to say, I have used all kinds of bikes on UK roads in the past. I think the law is completely outdated and flawed, it needs to be updated, but if you take the risk and get caught please don’t come moaning to me about it, as you should know the risks, and if you do get caught saying you don’t know the rules won’t cut it.

Here are the police views on this matter on this page, it’s important to point out that the police do not make this law, so they are not really to blame they only enforce the law, it’s the government that is to blame for this whole mess.

The real danger is if someone causes a serious accident, you will not have insurance, which would be more serious and could get you into a lot of trouble with the law.

There is often the argument that if you cause a death on your ebike you will be in trouble, but if you cause any kind of accident or someone dies on or in any kind of vehicle, you are in a lot of trouble anyway the fact it’s illegal not going to make any difference.

I did post this on Reddit once and someone commented, well that’s not always true However, if the accident was truly an accident in the sense that it occurred without any criminal intent or gross negligence, it’s less likely that the person responsible would face prison time. If you were on an illegal bike that would probably be negligence though.

I saw someone riding a powerful Surron motorized bike on the pavement at about 50mph once. This person should be in jail because you endanger pedestrians’ lives riding at this speed on the pavement. I also realise this makes me a massive hypocrite, but I am a very careful rider and most people would not dream of riding like this, unlike some.

If you own an electric scooter, these are also not legal to use on the street either and just think how many of those you see each day.

I took the risk but I am not telling you to do so, hopefully, the law will be updated soon.

What is the penalty for riding an illegal bike on the UK roads in the UK?

The police usually give you 14 days of grace. If you do not resolve the issues at this time, it could be sold or scrapped.

The rider may also be prosecuted for driving without insurance or a driver’s license from the DVLA and an MOT certificate, the same as if you drove a car with no insurance or no MOT, which could get you up to 8 penalty points or discretionary disqualification, as well as a fine.

Can the police seize or take my bike from me?

Yes, if they suspect it is an illegal bike, they can take it from you to check it over, or if they suspect you have broken the law, it’s the police’s job to keep people safe.

How will the police know if my bike is illegal or not?

I honestly do not know the answer to this. I am guessing they will have some training on this but it would be pretty hard to tell if a bike is illegal or not. However, I can usually spot an illegal bike just by looking at it after a few years of experience. The police can learn this too.

The people I know who have been stopped by police have either been riding and not pedalling or going very fast for a push bike, thus ending up being stopped and told off. They were given warnings. I do not know of anyone who has had their bike taken or been prosecuted yet, but as things stand, it’s bound to happen with antisocial riding.

Are electric-bikes required to be registered and insured to be on UK roads?

Unlike other motorised vehicles, you do not need to have insurance or be registered to use UK roads, so long as your bike is legal, does not have a bigger motor than 250 watts, and does not go faster than 15.5 mph.

If you own a bigger bike than 250 watts that goes faster, technically, you need to have insurance to use UK roads, but since they can’t be MOT tested or at least it’s hard to do, it’s very difficult to insure an ebike for legal use on the roads due to the current legislation, you would need an MOT certificate and since you can’t get an MOT certificate for an e-bike (as far as I’m aware) it’s hard or next to impossible to insure your bike.

Now you can insure your bike against theft, whatever the size of your bike motor is, as this is for a different reason, but it would not insure you to be on the road, just insure against someone stealing your bike.

Can you ride an electrical bike if you are banned from driving?

Yes you can, you do not need any kind of valid driving license to ride an ebike, and again, this is another gap in the law.

These laws need updating for the good of everyone, so we can all learn to be safer and the country and government could actually make some money from helping people go electric, by letting people pay a small road tax fee to use these scooters and bikes.

We currently have a subculture of people riding scooters and electric bikes illegally, and if you watch any of the debates on Facebook about this issue, you are either the devil for riding an illegal bike, or a complete fairy for sticking to the law. The law is the issue here, not the people. The law has been too slow to update while this industry has ploughed ahead full steam

I, for one, don’t have a problem with illegal bikes, but I have seen some idiots riding them and am sure if one ran into me I might change my mind about that, there are some proposed changes to the bike law coming up for debate soon,

Please check out more of our blog posts, and share our electric bike site with others

See Also

Electric scooter law for the UK
Keep your ebike from thieves
What an ebike is
Delay in electric scooter adoption

Owner at Reight Good Bikes | Website | + posts

I'm the passionate mind behind this online web shop. As an avid cyclist, I have a particular fondness for electric bikes and scooters, believing they offer a unique sense of freedom and joy. Not only do I enjoy riding them, but I also take pride in reviewing and sharing my insights about these fantastic machines. Additionally, as someone who suffers from dry eyes, I'm committed to stocking products that genuinely enhance and improve people's lives. Dive into my shop, and you'll find a curated selection of e-bikes, scooters, and other life-enhancing products that I stand by.


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