How California Vehicle Laws Apply to the Bolt Electric Bike

Main Takeaways:

  • Electric bike riders need to be 16 years old and must wear an approved bicycle helmet.
  • There is no license required to operate the Bolt Electric Bike. License plates and insurance are also not required.
  • Electric bikes under 1,000 watts and travel less than 20 mph are not considered motor vehicles and therefore be used anywhere a regular bike is allowed.

What Is the Bolt Electric Bike?

Bolt Electric BikeWith no license required, the Bolt Electric Bike is becoming a rapidly popular form of transportation. The state of California has seen a rise in the use of the Bolt Electric Bike because of it’s affordability, and ease of use. The problems associated with this rise in electric bike use involve the safety of riders, the lack of licensure required to operate the bikes, and the absence of laws that surrounding how and where these bikes can be operated.

In California, electric bike riders only need to be sixteen years old, and they must wear an approved bicycle helmet. No license to operate the bike, license plate or insurance is required. Electric bikes that are under 1000 watts and travel less than 20 miles per hour are exempt from motor vehicle laws, making them a bike and not a motor vehicle.

Classification of Electric Bikes as Bicycles in California

Since electric bikes are classified as bikes, and not as motor vehicles, riders can use an electric bike anywhere a regular bike is allowed. This can prove hazardous on congested bike paths, or in areas where motor vehicles are not allowed as bicyclists on electric bikes may be traveling at higher speeds than those riding on traditional bikes. In addition, riders who are using the electric bike and choose to pedal at the same time may reach speeds up to twenty-five miles per hour. This can cause dangerous conditions for riders who get into accidents traveling at this speed.

Electric bikes are classified as a moped type CVC 406 (b) in the state of California, and the only laws that need to be followed are those that govern the use of bicycles on the street.

Use of Electric Bikes and Safety Laws

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding electric bike usage and proper safety laws that are designed to protect riders from serious injury. With a rise in traumatic brain injuries from the use of these bikes, who is liable for the injuries sustained becomes a question many people have started to ask. If the rider, using the bike as intended, gets into a serious accident because of speed, is someone liable for their injuries?

This is a complicated matter, and one that may not be solved anytime soon. If the rider was following all traffic laws and hit by a negligent driver, then it is likely that liability will be established on the part of the negligent driver. If, however, the accident occurred and everyone was following the traffic laws, determining the cause of the accident becomes much more important.

If There is an Accident with an Electric Bike, Call the Authorities

When there is an accident between two vehicles, most people will call the police in order to have the situation assessed. In the case of an accident between an electric bike and a motor vehicle, this step becomes even more important. If the rider of the electric bike gets injured, having an accident report that details what happened at the time of the accident will be a critical piece of information to have. Determining liability may rest completely on an accident report created by the police, so it is an essential piece of information to have.

Making Electric Bike Riding Safer in California

To make riding electric bikes safer for everyone involved, some activist have been trying to change the laws that govern the use of electric bikes. So far, there have been no changes made to the codes surrounding the use of electric bikes, and riders continue to get hurt at higher rates than those that are riding regular, non-electric bicycles. While it is the responsibility of bike riders to ensure their own safety by wearing mandated protective gear, only helmets are required.

A helmet does little to protect a human from an accident that occurs at 25 miles per hour, especially one that is wearing no further protective gear and riding on the open road with an electric bike. Riders of electric bikes are getting hurt, but who decides what time of restrictions should be placed on these riders?

It is important for those who choose to ride electric bikes as an alternative form of transportation to follow all the safety laws in place for bicycle riders. In addition, proper safety gear should be worn, including appropriate head gear, hand, elbow and even knee protection. While it may seem excessive to wear additional gear than required by law, this will help prevent more serious injuries.

Contact an Electric Bike Attorney

If you have been hurt because you were riding an electric bike, and you are not currently able to work, it’s time to contact a qualified attorney who can help you determine if you have a viable personal injury case. While your injuries may be due to your own carelessness, it is also possible that you have the right to financial compensation that you were not aware of.

Updated August 2019

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