Electric Bike Laws in Washington: Everything you Need to Know

Electric bikes are becoming an increasingly popular choice of transportation in Washington. And for good reason: these battery-powered bicycles are both economical and eco-friendly. You also don’t need a license to ride one. Whether you’ve already purchased an e-bike or are considering one, take time to familiarize yourself on the electric bike laws in Washington.

What is an Electric Bicycle?

First let’s look at how Washington State law defines an electric bicycle:

“Electric-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor. The electric-assisted bicycle’s electric motor must have a power output of no more than seven hundred fifty watts.

There are three different classifications, legal to ride in Washington:

  1. Class 1: This bike still requires the rider to pedal, even though it has a motor. It can reach speeds of up to 20 mph.
  2. Class 2: This bike’s motor can power the bike with or without the rider having to pedal. It can reach speeds of no more than 20 mph.
  3. Class 3: Like class 1, this bike still requires the rider to pedal. However, it can reach speeds up to 28 mph. Class 3 must have a speedometer attached.

Sometimes, certain classifications may be not permitted for use on some roads or areas. Make sure you know before you go!

How Do Electric Bikes Work?

An electric bicycle has a battery-powered motor attached to the frame. Some models essentially allow the cyclist the opportunity to ride without having to pedal at all – a real plus if traveling up a steep hill or great distance. However, the cyclist can also turn off the motor and use the pedals as you would any other bicycle. The electric bike also has a controller to monitor power consumption, distance covered, and current battery charge.

Clearly, there are some advantages to owning an electric bicycle! For one, you can travel faster and with less effort than a traditional bicycle. It’s also an eco-friendly option for city dwellers and commuters as it produces no carbon emissions.

What are the Laws about Electric Bikes in Washington?

Before you hit the road with your new e-bike, make sure you’re aware of these Washington State laws.

  • Helmets: Believe it or not, there is no law about helmets in Washington. Each city has the authority to set their own rules. See the current list of city guidelines about helmets. (However, we think wearing a helmet is always the smartest and safest choice.)
  • Abide by the Rules of the Road: Bicyclists must abide by the same rules of the road as motorists. This means riding on the right side of the road, signaling turns, stopping at red lights, and so forth. If you fail to follow the rules, you can be ticketed.
  • Reflectors at Night: Bikes, including e-bikes must have a white front light and red rear reflector for night-time.

For more on this topic, see the WSDOT page on bicycles. Also, remember that laws are subject to change, so make sure to keep an eye on them.

Where Can I Ride my E-Bike in Washington?

E-bikes are still relatively new, so it’s natural to expect changes.

The good news is that e-bikes can generally be ridden anywhere traditional bikes are permitted. This includes mixed-use trails, bike lanes, and roads, unless otherwise noted. In late 2020, the Bureau of Land Management amended its regulations to allow e-bikes on areas other off-road vehicles are permitted.

However, there are some places you cannot ride your e-bike. If you’re encountering a single-path trail and there’s no signage permitting motorized vehicles, stay off. Many mountain trails strictly prohibit e-bikes. Land managers also can opt to exclude access. Class 3 bikes may have further limited access. Make sure to research where you plan to go ahead of time.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Ride an E-Bike?

You must be at least 16 years old to ride an electric bike in the State of Washington. However, you do not need to hold a driver’s license to be able to ride an electric bike.

Do You Need Insurance for an Electric Bike?

Another reason that electric bikes are popular is because there is no licensing, registration, or insurance requirement. However, there are a couple good reasons for reaching out to your insurance agent anyway:

  1. E-bikes are expensive. How will you replace or repair your e-bike if it’s stolen or damaged? Homeowners’ policies tend to exclude the addition of vehicles. Still, you may wish to explore options with your agent as e-bikes are often a spendy purchase or your primary mode of transportation.
  2. You’re responsible if you crash into someone. What happens if you aren’t paying attention and hit a pedestrian or damage someone’s property? You could be held liable (that’s a fancy way of saying, expect to receive a big bill!).

Make sure to call your agent to discuss your options.

What Happens if You’re Hurt in an E-Bike Crash?

Hurt in an e-bike accident? Perhaps a driver wasn’t paying attention and crashed into you? Or – you suspect your crash was due to a bike malfunction? That’s where we can help. Please call our team. It’s free to do so and you’re under no obligation.

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