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New Law Legalizes E-Bikes and E-Scooters in New Jersey

New Law Legalizes E-Bikes and E-Scooters in New Jersey

Just in time for summer, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (PDF) to clarify New Jersey laws regarding electric bicycles (e-bikes) and adding new regulations for electric scooters (e-scooters). The new law will make it easier for people to travel around New Jersey without using a car.

How does the New Jersey law define e-bikes?

Some e-bikes are nearly indistinguishable from regular bicycles, such as this Luna Fixed Stealth Ebike.

Some e-bikes are nearly indistinguishable from regular bicycles, such as this Luna Fixed Stealth Ebike.

E-bikes generally come in two forms: throttle and pedal assist. On a throttle bicycle, you can engage the throttle to propel forward using only the motor. Pedal assist bicycles give you extra power while you’re already pedaling. Some e-bikes are equipped with both modes.

Under the previous regulatory framework, e-bikes were classified as motorized bicycles (mopeds), and required registration with the MVC. However, the MVC system would not allow registration because the law was written for gas-powered vehicles. That left e-bikes in a legal gray area.

As of May 14, 2019, a brand new vehicle class was added to Title 39: “Low-speed electric bicycle.” This new vehicle is described as “a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by a motor, while operated by a person weighing 170 pounds, is less than 20 miles per hour.”

The new law allows both “pedal-assist” and “throttle” bicycles. In order to ensure that New Jersey is in line with federal definitions, the new law states that the bicycle must “meet the requirements of one of  the following classifications: “class 1 low-speed electric bicycle” which means a low-speed electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour; or “class 2 low-speed electric bicycle” which means a low-speed electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles.”

Low-speed electric bicycles must follow all the regulations established for traditional bicycles. This means there is no need for a license or registration. However, riders must continue to comply with all the laws that apply to vehicles, such as obeying traffic signals and following the direction of traffic. Like bicycles, e-bikes will be allowed to park on sidewalks, as long as they do not block pedestrian access.

Additionally, the definition of motorized bicycles have been expanded. Aside from continuing to allow gas-powered vehicles, electric bicycles that can achieve speeds between 20 mph and 28 mph now fall under this classification. These vehicles will still require a driver’s license and registration from the MVC.

Low Speed Electric Bicycles:

  • 20 mph max speed
  • 750 watts or less
  • May be parked on sidewalks without blocking pedestrian traffic
  • No license, insurance, or registration required
  • Must follow all laws applicable to bicycles
  • Helmet use is required for those under age 17
  • May be pedal assist or throttle powered

Motorized Bicycles

  • Electric pedal bicycles that can achieve speeds between 20 and 28 mph
  • Gas pedal bicycle with maximum piston displacement under 50 cc
  • Require driver license, registration, and insurance
  • Helmet use is required

How does the New Jersey law define e-scooters?

A Lime electric scooter being demonstrated during the April 2019 New Brunswick Ciclovia.

A Lime electric scooter being demonstrated during the April 2019 New Brunswick Ciclovia.

The word “scooter” can apply to a range of consumer products. Under the previous regulatory framework, all forms of scooters, aside from electric personal assistive mobility devices (mobility scooters for the disabled), were illegal for use on public streets in New Jersey.

The new law creates a new vehicle type called a “Low-speed electric scooter” which is defined as “a scooter with a floorboard that can be stood upon by the operator, with handlebars, and an electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion at a maximum speed of less than 19 miles per hour.”

E-scooters must follow all the laws that apply to bicycles. That means that riders must comply with all the laws that apply to vehicles, such as obeying traffic signals and following the direction of traffic. Like e-bikes, e-scooters will be allowed to be parked on sidewalks, as long as they do not block pedestrian access. Operation on sidewalks and trails is up to local municipalities.

Low Speed Electric Scooters:

  • 19 mph max speed
  • May be parked on sidewalks without blocking pedestrian traffic
  • Riding on sidewalk up to each municipality
  • No license, insurance, or registration required
  • Must follow all laws applicable to bicycles
  • Helmet use is required for those under age 17

What does this mean for New Jersey?

An electric Citibike, seen in New York City. These pedal-assist e-bikes will be available in Jersey City this fall.

An electric Citibike, seen in New York City. These pedal-assist e-bikes will be available in Jersey City this fall.

The new law will make it easy for New Jerseyans to purchase e-bikes and e-scooters for personal use, without having to worry about making a trip to the MVC. This will make it easier to conduct trips in areas with hills, keep up with urban traffic, and arrive at destinations without sweating. Additionally, the new vehicle types will open up possibilities for people with disabilities who could not make walking or bicycle trips.

The most visible change may come in the form of rental scooters and bicycles. Around the country, companies like Jump, Bird, Lime (and many others) have allowed people to rent e-bikes and e-scooters to make one-way trips within urban areas. Hoboken will be the first municipality to welcome a dockless e-scooter provider, with many more likely to follow. Lime and P3GM are set to launch 300 e-scooters in Hoboken before Memorial Day. Jersey City plans to incorporate e-bikes into their Citibike program this fall.