SBBIKE supports E-bikes which will remove barriers to biking, making it truly easier for anyone to ride the original zero-emission vehicle regardless of fitness, distance or okay-ness with arriving a little sweaty. Recently a SBBIKE member reached out with questions about the laws concerning E-bikes. Below we summarize the basic tenants or the ABC's of E-bike laws.
Almost all E-bikes are allowed on paths, bikes lanes, and city streets. Rideres should follow the same laws as non-E-bike riders including stopping at stops signs, riding with the flow of traffic, and yielding to pedestrians. In Santa Barbara, this also means not biking on the sidewalk! Also, note that anyone under the age of 18 is required to wear a helmet on an e-bike. While some cities require all minors to wear helmets (including Santa Barbara) many do not.
But not if you have a throttle-assisted Class 3 E-bike. In that case, you are not legally allowed on bike paths because it's likely your bicycle can go up to 28 m.p.h. or much faster than many of your path counterparts (families walking, joggers and young children who may be new to riding).
Class 3 makes all the difference E-bikes are divided into 3 classes (see graphic below) which define how and where they can be used. You should find the class of your e-bike stamped on the frame itself. While Classes 1 + 2 are treated just like regular bicycles, Class 3 E-bikes follow stricter rules: Helmet use for Class 3 E-bikes is required. Class 3 E-bikes cannot be ridden by anyone under the age of 16, and Class 3 E-bikes are banned from using Class 1 bike paths (a.k.a. ‘multi-use paths’) but may use bike lanes and protected bike lanes on public roadways.
Class 2 electric bikes that are equipped with a throttle and that can function even without pedaling will be limited to a top assisted speed of 20MPH, however, they will be permitted on bike paths, unlike their faster Class 3 counterparts.
It so happens a Board Member, Frank Peters, was involved in passing the key state legislation that set E-bike regulations. He covers the process and what it took to get there on his blog, Santa Barbara Cyclist.