Is Your E-Bike Legal in New York? What You Can Ride and Where
An Upstate New York police department's move to add E-bikes to it's fleet of vehicles is prompting questions from local residents about the legality of such vehicles, with some asking: "If the cops can use them on local streets, then why can't I?"
The answer is a bit complicated so we're diving into New York State laws regarding ATVs, E-bikes and what's legal and what isn't.
The police department debuting the new E-bikes is the Utica Police Department. They recently announced the addition of the bikes and sent five officers to a course to become certified Bike Patrol Officers.
UPD officials say the E-Bikes will be used primarily for patrolling city parks and special events in the city, like parades and other large gatherings.
However, that sparked questions on social media like:
- Why don't the bikes have license plates on them?
- Why can cops ride E-bikes on city streets but I get ticketed for doing the same?
In New York, some higher speed or altered E-bikes are considered ATVs and are prohibited for use on any city streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and highways. However, whether or not your E-bike is street legal often comes down to its speed capability.
A E-bike, also called a bicycle with electric assist, is allowed on some city streets if it's motor is less than 750 watts. However, they are only allowed on roads with a post speed limit of 30 MPH or less.
Another key element is that it must have operable pedals and stop providing power when it reaches a speed of 20 or 25 MPH.
Does your electric assist bike meet the criteria for riding on the road? Check here for NY's three approved classes of E-bikes.
Note: There is limited use for ATVs on some NY highways, but only where it is clearly marked. Typically, whether it is an E-bike or an ATV, it would only permitted on highways as a crossing point to get from one bike trail to another, only otherwise noted by posted signage.
IMPORTANT: If your E-bike is legal for operation on a city street, it is NOT legal for use on a sidewalk.
To the question of whether your E-bicycle needs a license plate, the answer is always 'No'.
For information on ATVs (including the difference between an E-bicycle and a motorized bike) and where they can legally be operated, review this information to help you avoid getting what can be a very, very costly ticket.