There is no area of bicycle law that is as out of date as laws regarding E bikes. E bikes are fast growing. They are evolving and their uses are growing and changing.
Delivery drivers in cities use E bikes. Companies like LIME have been created to rent E bikes to tourists. The result has been more E bikes in traffic with bicycles and pedestrians, as well as more E bikes in traffic with motor vehicles. Florida laws have not kept pace with these changes.
The definition of a bicycle under Florida law includes a vehicle with an “electric helper motor” capable of going “not more than 20 mph” on level ground.
This is an out-of-date definition.
E bikes are now sold with throttle control, meaning the rider need not ever pedal. Some E bikes are now sold with two motors, one for each wheel. Many E bikes are capable of speeds in excess of 20 mph.
The point is that although it is reasonable to define a category of E bikes capable of going no more than 20 mph, E bikes capable of faster speeds also need to be regulated.
In Florida it is illegal for an E bike to be operated on a sidewalk with its motor engaged.
It is common to see E bikes operated on sidewalks. A growing problem with E bikes is collisions with pedestrians. Hospital emergency rooms are reporting increasing injuries from collisions between E bikes and pedestrians.
E bike riders should consider their potential financial responsibility in the event of a crash with a pedestrian. Auto insurance will not cover you while you operate an E bike. Homeowners insurance will cover you while operating a pedal bicycle. Whether it will cover you while operating an E bike depends on your policy and on how powerful the E bike is.
E bikes are here to stay. Whether you ride an E bike, or a pedal only bike, be aware of potential issues when you are on the road.