The Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) and the Bicycle Association of Great Britain (BA) are concerned that some sellers are unaware of, or ignoring the rules surrounding high powered electric bicycles.
Both associations are fielding enquiries regarding the exploitation of a 'grey area', whereby high powered bikes are bought for 'off-road use', in the mistaken belief that this makes them exempt from existing rules.
In order for an electric bike to enjoy the same rights as an ordinary pedal cycle, it should have working pedals, not exceed 250 Watts and the electrical assistance should cut out when the bike reaches 15.5mph. In the UK, an electric bike over 250W is legally classified as a moped if it is to be ridden on the road. Mopeds must be 'type approved'*, registered, taxed, insured and have an MOT. The rider must have the appropriate licence/training and wear a helmet.
If an electric bike over 250W is intended for off-road use in the UK, then it must comply with the same rules which apply to off-road motorcycles. That means riders are barred from using public roads, common land, paths or tracks intended for cyclists and must be registered on an agreed list for off-road competition bikes, known as the FIM competition list.
MCIA and BA would also remind anyone who owns or is selling an e-bike that it makes no difference if the machine has a switch to flick between a higher and lower power setting. The higher power rating is the rating that the bike needs to be classified by.
Steve Garidis, Operations Director of the BA
"The vast majority of the industry understands its obligations and is highly professional in the way it sells electric bicycles, but it's vital all sellers understand there is really no 'grey area' when it comes to when an electric bicycle must be treated as a moped. 'Speed pedelecs' for example, a category of faster e-bike becoming popular in Germany and other countries, are categorised as mopeds in the UK. They have motors more powerful than 250W and offer power assist to a higher speed than 25km/h (15.5mph). Unlike in Germany, there are no regulations which exempt speed pedelecs from any of the standard moped requirements in the UK, so the machine must be type approved, registered, taxed, insured; the rider must have a suitable licence and wear a full motorbike helmet, and be over 16."
Dave Luscombe, MCIA's Project Manager for Alternative Powered Vehicles
"Telling someone they are 'okay on private land' is seriously misleading, unless you make them understand they probably need to own the land themselves. High powered off-road electric bikes currently fall within rules meant for off-road motorcycle sport. That means they can't access areas where, for example, motocross machines are barred. They can't use public roads, common land or any trails or paths intended for bicycles and the bike must be registered on the FIM competition list, which is a list agreed by all EU manufacturers for bikes used in off-road sport. Dealers must make the restricted access very clear to people who may believe they can use cycle trails."
• For an e-bike to be treated legally as a bicycle in the UK it must be 250W or less, must have pedals and the power assistance must cut out at 15.5mph. Anything else is treated in law as a moped.
• Speed pedelecs are currently treated in UK law as mopeds, with no exemptions from moped requirements.
• Anything over 250W and intended for off-road use is classified similarly to a motocross machine and must be FIM registered and can only go where regular motocross bikes are legally permitted to go.
• Anything over 250W and intended for off-road use is classified as a motocross machine, must be on the FIM competition list and can only go where regular motocross bikes are legally permitted to go.
The views shared are that of the author and are not necessarily that of Lexham Insurance Consultants Ltd.