Why e-bike laws are stupid

When it comes to the United Kingdom there is a ton wrong with it which mostly boils down to the shittest corrupted politicians we have had in a long while but one set of laws that is dumb and needs discussing is e-bike laws. It is worth saying before we carry on that scooters should be legal (but kept at the same speed limits as mobility scooters) but that’s a rant for another day. It is also worth saying this rant does not discuss insurance or taxes as while I do believe there should be no taxes I do think insurance is worth having – something I also think should apply to everything such as mobility scooters.

If you do not know this is the law when it comes to e-bikes.

Electric bikes: licensing, tax and insurance

An EAPC must have pedals that can be used to propel it.

It must show either:

  • the power output
  • the manufacturer of the motor

It must also show either:

  • the battery’s voltage
  • the maximum speed of the bike

Its electric motor:

  • must have a maximum power output of 250 watts
  • should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph

An EAPC can have more than 2 wheels (for example, a tricycle).

Government Digital Service (2012). Electric bikes: licensing, tax and insurance. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/electric-bike-rules [Accessed 5 Jul. 2023].

Change the speed limit

The first thing that I disagree with is the speed limit but I can also understand why one is needed. If you have ever ridden a bike, you likely have had issues keeping up with cars on the road, which is dangerous. I do think the limit should be 30mph won’t keep up with cars and as they should only be on the road anyway it shouldn’t harm people using the side of the road.

If someone does ride on the pavement then they should get into trouble as bicycles should be on the road (although I understand why kids don’t). When it comes to e-scooters they should be limited to 4mph on the pavement with an option to switch to 8mph on the road.

These changes will help bikes to keep up with traffic and electric scooters can stay on the pavement and cause no more harm compared to a mobility scooter. Imagine being able to park outside towns and then just jump onto an electric scooter to get to work or whatnot.

“Full-powered” throttles should be allowed

This one is hard to understand why they are illegal. There is no real difference compared to pedalling and I would argue it is saver to use a throttle at times compared to pedalling. Throttle allows to easily pull away after a stop and if sudden movement is needed it allows people to quickly react and not focus on anything else.

Another point that is worth discussing is many e-bikes that are on the market (such as one I will be reviewing soon) are set up in such a way that you don’t even put any effort into pedalling for the motor to go off which is just a throttle where you use your legs.

You could debate they are low-powered motorbikes at that point but maybe we even need to relook at moped laws and make them equal to pedelec as long as my next point is considered.

Change the motor limits

This is the biggest issue I have with e-bike laws and if only one could chair it would be this. It makes no sense to have a limit on the motor power assuming you capping the speed. There is no real difference between a 250w motor going 15.5 mp5 compared to a 2kw motor doing the same beyond the latter allowing people to go up hills at the same speed.

The law logic is based on the logic that a 250w motor allows you to go 15.5mph as long as you live in flat land but you go anywhere north of London and you are fucked. Changing this would allow far more people to ride an e-bike outside of London and not worry about if they can go up a hill.

The worst that could happen is people pulling off faster than you would expect someone on a bicycle to do so and people may remove the limit. This already happens anyhow and is not something the law couldn’t police as they should. E-bike makers already use higher-powered motors and just limit it via software with the speed which again is all that matters.

E-scooters would be the same and it makes me wonder now about the motor limits for a mobility scooter or an electric wheelchair as I imagine a lot of the law could carry over.

Need to reference?

Ellis, M. (2023). Why e-bike laws are stupid. [online] Snat's Narratives & Tales. Available at: https://snat.co.uk/rants/why-e-bike-laws-are-stupid.html [Accessed 21 Apr 2024].

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