Riding an electric bike legally

Are electric bikes legal? UK law explained (March 2024 update)

29 January 2024Eilis Barrett

Electric bikes are classified as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’, or EAPCs so are perfectly legal to ride as long your ebike meets the DVLA's EAPC rules. The key ones to obey are:

  • The pedals must be in motion for electric assistance to be provided
  • A maximum power output of 250W
  • No electric assistance over 15.5mph.

These rules apply to electric bikes you buy or convert

Rules electric bikes don't need to meet

That's what the bike has to do. Here's what you don't need:

  • You don't need a licence, as with a non electric bike.
  • There's no legal need to register, tax or insure the bike (although we recommend insuring ebikes).
  • You don't need special permission as EAPC-compliant ebikes are classed as a normal pedal bike. They can be ridded on any private or public property where a standard bicycle is allowed - including cycle paths.

Finally, you must be aged 14 or above to ride an electric bike. The age limit for mopeds is 16 but electric bikes are less powerful.

These rules are based on previous EG regulations - and in October 2023, the EU Court of Justice reinforced those rules for the EU saying ebikes are bikes, not motorcycles, and don't need insurance. 

The rules for faster ebikes 

If your ebike is above the 15.5mph or 250w limit, it's called a speed pedelec, or s-pedelec and is counted as a motorcycle or moped. The manufacturer must have UK government approval. And you'll need to register and tax it, have a driving licence to ride it and wear a crash helmet while doing so. These pedelecs may even have mirrors, horns and number plate lights. You mustn't use them on cycle lanes.

However, the government is currently consulting (as of March 2024) on whether the speed or power limits should be increased. There is little mainstream support for this idea. 

Rules lawyering

All the rules above apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here are a few things to know about exactly how they are applied:

  • Tricycles and tandems are fine as long as they meet the EAPC requirements.
  • Some ebikes provide starting assistance without the user pedalling - this is OK as long as it is up to 6km per hour (3.7 miles).
  • Electric bikes are perfectly legal on UK roads as normal pedal bikes are.
  • What is the legal speed limit for electric bikes UK? Technically, road speed limits don't apply to bicycles. So in theory there is no speed limit for electric bikes in the UK - as long as the electric assistance cuts off at 15.5mph, you can cycle as fast as your pedalling can manage. 
  • You can ride an electric bike if banned from driving in the UK as EAPC compliant models are bikes not motorbikes.
  • You have to obey the general rules for bikes -  so you need a white light on the front, a red light on the rear and amber pedal reflectors.
  • You can buy kits on Amazon to increase the speed of ebikes - your bike will then not be legal to ride and you may invalidate any warranty. We do not recommend them.  
  • You may invalidate any ebike insurance if you don't use a quality lock

Buy an electric bike.

Ebike throttles

You can only have a throttle on a bike bought in 2016 or later if it assists the rider without pedalling at a maximum of 6km/h (3.7 mph). These "twist and go" throttles are designed to help people who have difficulty starting due to injury or disability. The throttle must cut off at 6 km/h if the user isn't pedalling - otherwise the bike isn't covered by the EAPC legislation. 

The Mirider One is an example of a bike with a road-legal throttle. 

The legal rules around riding electric scooters in the UK are very different.

City bans: Coventry

It is possible for local authorities to ban electric bikes from some areas - and Coventry did just that for its city centre last year in response to "reckless" food delivery drivers riding unlawful ebikes (either too fast or throttle controlled).

Adam Tranter, the West Midlands Cycling Commissioner, has condemned the plans for penalising responsible cyclists and making active travel harder.

People who use an ebike or escooter as a mobility aid are exempt from the ban (and it doesn't apply to mobility scooters). 

Can you ride an electric bike if banned from driving

You can ride an electric bike if banned from driving because you don't need a licence to cycle. Driving bans apply to motor vehicles only - cars, motorbikes or mopeds.

Software restrictions

The Adveritsing Standards Authority ruled against Cyrusher in February 2023 because its adverts showed 750W throttle-controlled electric bikes being used in public places, for commuting and down some underpass stairs. The ASA did not consider warnings about legality sufficient given what was happening in the adverts. 

The DfT even advised that "bikes sold in a power-restricting set-up, but the maximum motor power of which exceeded 250W or the powered maximum speed exceeded 15.5mph in another mode of use, were not compliant EAPCs and would therefore be treated as motor vehicles."

Many more powerful products are power or speed limited in this way for the UK market, so although this is only guidance, it's a concerning development that we don't think has been properly thought through.

There had been hope that the government would announce legislation for electric bikes and scooters in the King's Speech on November 7th 2023 but there was no mention (although they did find time to announce restrictions on London pedicabs of all things!)