Thinking about buying an E-Bike? Great. But will you need insurance?

E-Bikes are quite popular these days. Some might say, they’re all the rage. They’re all over the local bikes shops and I even saw one in a Best Buy. The appeal is undeniable, particularly in Pittsburgh, where a steep climb is just a river away. 

It would be great to have a little electric-powered assist to help on those climbs or river-crossings. And, unlike the pros, you don’t even have to hide your electric motor! But, if you’ve decided to put a little kick in your ride, by going with a spiffy new E-bike, are you going to be required to register and purchase motorcycle insurance? After all, that thing has an engine in it and is no longer just a “human-powered” vehicle. Has the E-biked crossed over into the realm of being a “motor vehicle?” This article will try to address some of those questions. 
In 2014, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law, known as Act 154, permitting “pedacycles with electric assist” to be operated upon Pennsylvania roadways. These “E-bikes” are defined under the motor vehicle code as pedacycles so long as they:

  1. do not weigh more than 100 pounds;
  2. have two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter;
  3. have a motor rated at no more than 750 watts;
  4. are equipped with operable pedals; 
  5. and cannot go over 20 mph on a level surface when powered by the motor, only.

Got all that? Good. If not, just take this list with you next time you go bike shopping. 

If your new e-bike qualifies as a pedacycle, then the “Rules of the Road” apply and you can ride as you would any normal human-powered bicycle. In other words, all the old rules apply. But note that you must be 16 years old to operate an E-bike in Pennsylvania. See here.    
But do you need insurance? For now, the answer appears to be no. See here. Vehicle insurance is only required for those vehicles that must be registered. And, for now (at least), E-bikes do not appear to require registration. I say that they don’t appear to require registration because the law requires certain types of vehicles to be registered (thereby triggering the need for insurance) and the law exempts certain types of vehicles from being registered. See here

The law does not specifically require E-bikes (i.e., pedacycles with electric assist) to be registered in PA. But the law does not specifically exempt E-bikes from registration, either. For example, “any vehicle moved solely by human or animal power” does not require registration. But, a motorcycle does need to be registered. Its odd that the legislature would specifically exempt solely human-powered vehicles from registration but not “pedacycles with electric assist.”   
I think the absence of E-bikes from the list of exemptions was intentional. By leaving E-bikes off the list, for now, our lawmakers can wait-and-see how things play out. If they want to add E-bikes to the list later, they can. But, once they’re on the list, it is more difficult to take them off. 
So, for now, it appears that you do not need insurance for your E-bike. But you may want to get it, anyway. A few companies have started writing insurance policies for bicycles and E-bikes because, under many circumstances, your homeowners or auto insurance policy will not cover certain types of damages. Click here to see some types of insurance available to cyclists, along with a helpful video. A discussion of the circumstances where your homeowners or auto insurance will or will not apply is beyond the scope of this article.  

Be safe out there and thanks for reading!

Matthew F. Dolfi, Esquire
Dolfi Law PC

1100 Washington Avenue
Suite 206
Carnegie, Pennsylvania 15106


Important notice:
The information provided in this blog article is not legal advice.  The information and opinions provided herein are solely for the general interest of the visitors to this website.  The information contained herein is only applicable to general principles of law in Pennsylvania and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in various other jurisdictions.  Therefore, the information and opinions contained in this blog should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice.  No aspect of this blog article should be interpreted as establishing an attorney-client relationship between the reader and its author.  Anyone reviewing this article should not act upon any information contained herein without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.  Search terms: Bicycle accident cases and lawsuits, E-Bikes, Electric Assist Bikes, Bicycle collisions, Bicycle safety, Bike accident lawsuits, Bike accidents, Bike collisions, Risks for bicycle riders, accident attorney, accident lawyer, bicycle, bicycle accident laws, bicycle accident, bicycle accident attorney, bicycle risks, bicycle safety, bike accident, cycling, defective road conditions, dangerous roads, dangerous streets, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Matthew F. Dolfi, Matt Dolfi, Pittsburgh Bike Lawyer, Pittsburgh Bike Accident, lawyer-cyclist, The Lawyer Cyclist, dolfilaw, Dolfi Law PC

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