Did you find yourself looking longingly at that shiny new e-bike, wondering whether or not you can give it a spin on the sidewalk?
Well, it’s good that you asked. As it turns out, in some states, you can end up in trouble if you do. We asked the same question and set out to find the answer — so at least you know where to start. So grab a drink, sit back, and read on.
Are You Allowed to Ride an e-Bike on the Sidewalk?
Whether or not you are allowed to ride an e-bike on the sidewalk depends on where you live and, in some cases, what kind of electric bike you own. It goes back to the old saying that if you’re not forbidden from doing something, you’re probably allowed to do it. Of course, the exact answer is always a little more nuanced than that.
In the US, some states classify e-bikes as Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3:
- Class 1 e-bikes have assisted pedaling that typically ends at 20 miles/hour.
- Class 2 e-bikes have assisted throttling that typically ends at 20 miles/hour.
- Class 3 e-bikes have assisted pedaling and/or throttling that typically ends at 28 miles/hour, and their usage tends to be subject to stricter rules.
This definition isn’t adopted by every state. And some states may have e-bike definitions of their own that may — or may not — align with it. So take this as a general guideline, treat it with a grain of salt, and do your own due diligence to determine whether or not you can ride your e-bike on the sidewalk.
Instead of pretending that there’s a rule of thumb to keep you reading, we’ll give you the rundown and point you to the documents and websites where you can learn more.
The situation for some of the biggest states:
Arizona: The state of Arizona doesn’t explicitly forbid the riding of bicycles on a sidewalk. However, counties and municipalities may have local laws that do. For example, Tempe allows the use of e-bikes on sidewalks only when there are no bike lanes available, the speed limit is greater than 25 miles/hour, and the e-bike’s motor is turned off.
California: In most counties and municipalities in the state of California, including in Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s not allowed to ride electric bikes on the sidewalk. If you live in California and you want to buy an e-bike, you should familiarize yourself with the CA DMV’s two-wheel vehicle operation handbook.
Colorado: In Colorado, Class 1 and 2 electric bicycles are allowed on the same bicycle and pedestrian paths as regular bicycles. Unless the local laws in your county or municipality state otherwise, you can ride a Class 1 or 2 e-bike on a sidewalk as long as you give the right-of-way to pedestrians and an audible signal before overtaking or passing them by.
Massachusetts: The state of Massachusetts forbids e-bike riders from riding on the sidewalk. The state also forbids using electric bikes on a “natural surface” trail, like mountain trails.
New Mexico: In the state of New Mexico, electric bikes are subject to the same regulations as non-electric bikes. These regulations don’t forbit the riding of bikes on the sidewalk. However, they require the presence of a front light and reflector for nighttime riding, and a working bell, siren, or whistle at all times.
New York: In the state of New York, you can’t ride an electric bike on a sidewalk unless your municipality’s local law explicitly permits it. You can also ride on some streets and highways with a speed limit of 30 miles/hour or less.
Texas: In the state of Texas, there is no law that explicitly prohibits the riding of an electric bike on a sidewalk. However, counties and municipalities are free to make their own local laws, and may have rules and regulations in place that prohibit it.
Treat the information above as a starting point for your own research.
Remember that it was accurate when we published the article, but the situation may have changed since then, as it often does. It should also go without saying that this is a reference for your education and entertainment — and in no way is it legal advice.
Is It a Good Idea to Ride an e-Bike on the Sidewalk?
Okay, now you know where to dig deeper to find the answer for your state, county, or municipality. But, hey, even if you can ride an e-bike on the sidewalk… think twice about doing it.
Bike lanes and, where allowed, roads are there for a reason; to keep moving vehicles and walking pedestrians at a somewhat safe distance from one another. An e-bike accelerates quickly and goes fast, which means that you — its rider — have to pay caution for your safety and the safety of others.