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Mole Hill Bikes: Comprehensive Guide to 2024 Virginia Electric Bike Laws

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INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Mole Hill Bikes! We are your go-to experts for eBikes and we’re here to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information on the electric bike laws in Virginia, effective as of January 1, 2024. This comprehensive guide is designed to help both seasoned riders and newcomers understand the laws and regulations to ensure a seamless and enjoyable eBiking experience.

Electric Bike Definition

In Virginia, an Electric Power-Assisted Bicycle (eBike) is defined as a vehicle that:

  • Travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.
  • Is equipped with pedals for human power propulsion.
  • Has a seat for the rider.
  • Features an electric motor with an input of no more than 750 watts.

Not an Ebike

A vehicle is not considered an Electric Power-Assisted Bicycle (eBike) in Virginia if it:

  • cannot be pedaled
  • does not have a seat (scooter)
  • has a motor with a peak torque over 750 Watts
  • the bike does more than 20 mph with a throttle installed
  • the bike does more than 28 mph without a throttle installed

For more details about electric bikes that do not meet the Virginia Electric Power-Assisted Bicycle (eBike) criteria please refer to the section on "Uncategorized Ebikes" at the towards the bottom of the page.

Ebike classifications

In Virginia, eBikes are segregated into three classes, and each class has specific laws and regulations. If your eBike does not conform to these specifications, it is classified and regulated as a moped, off-road motorcycle, or motorcycle.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)


Class 1 E-bikes

Class 1 eBikes

Definition:

A Class 1 eBike is equipped with a motor that assists only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to assist when the speed reaches 20 miles per hour, with a maximum 750-watt motor.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)

Laws and Regulations:

Class 1 eBikes are considered non-motorized vehicles and are permissible where bicycles are allowed, including streets, highways, roads, shoulders, bicycle lanes, and bicycle or shared-use paths, with some exceptions.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-904.1)

 

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Class 2 E-bikes

Class 2 eBikes

Definition:

Class 2 eBikes are equipped with a motor that has a throttle and may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, ceasing to assist when the speed reaches 20 mph, with a maximum 750-watt motor.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)

Laws and Regulations:

Similar to Class 1, Class 2 eBikes are categorized as non-motorized vehicles and are allowed in places where bicycles are permitted, including streets, highways, roads, shoulders, bicycle lanes, and bicycle or shared-use paths, with some exceptions. (Source: Virginia Code 46.2-904.1)

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Class 3 E-bikes

Class 3 eBikes

Definition:

Class 3 eBikes are equipped with a motor that assists only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to assist when the speed reaches 28 miles per hour, with a maximum 750-watt motor.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)

Laws and Regulations:

Class 3 eBikes are categorized as non-motorized vehicles on Virginia Roadways, bike lanes, and some greenways.  They are not legal on all greenways and bike paths, so checking the specific trail before you ride is essential. All class-3 operators and passengers must wear a helmet that meets CPSC Standards. 
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-904.1)


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unclassified E-bikes

e-motorcycles / unclassified ebikes 

Any eBike that does not meet the definitions of Class 1, 2, or 3 is legally considered a motorized vehicle and can be regulated as either an off-road motorcycle, a moped, or a motorcycle. This includes all eBikes with a motor exceeding 750 watts of peak torque, capable of speeds over 20 mph with a throttle installed, and/or speeds over 28 mph without a throttle installed.  
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)

If you are traveling through Virginia, or are a temporary Virginia resident, you must still meet the above requirements, even if they are not required in your home state.

Moped Laws for Unclassified eBikes

Definition:

Unclassified Ebikes are regulated as mopeds if the motor is between 750 and 1500 watts and operated below 35 mph

Laws and Regulations

  • Registration: Mopeds must be registered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Age Requirement: Drivers must be at least 16 years old.
  • Identification: A government-issued photo ID is required.
  • Safety Gear: Riders must wear a helmet and face shield, safety glasses, or goggles that are approved by the Virginia State Police. This requirement is waived if the Moped is equipped with a windshield.
  • Private Property Exception: These regulations do not apply to Mopeds that are exclusively operated on private property. 

(Source: Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles)
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)

Off-road e-MOTORCYCLE

Definition:

eBikes that are designed for off-road use and do not meet the specifications for Class 1, 2, or 3 eBikes.

Laws and Regulations:

  • Off-Road eMotorcycles are subject to specific regulations and are typically not allowed on public roads, highways, or bicycle paths. They are designed for use in off-road environments like private property and ATV trails. (Source: Virginia Code 46.2-100)
  • Cannot be operated on any public highway or other public property (46.2-915.1)
  • Must Wear DOT approved helmet (46.2-915.1)
  • Other Off-Road Motorcycle Laws  (46.2-915.1)

MOtorcycle LAWS

Definition:

eBikes that are capable of speeds above 35 mph and/or have a motor over 1500 watts.

Laws and Regulations: 


Specific Area Regulations

Navigating through Virginia's various terrains and localities may require a deeper understanding of area-specific regulations. Here's a detailed breakdown:

Ebikes on The Creeper Trail 

  • Current Status: As of January 1, 2023, eBikes are not permitted on the Creeper Trail in Damascus, Virginia.
  • Clarification: We've received numerous inquiries about the legality of riding eBikes on the Creeper Trail. To provide the most accurate information, we've conducted thorough research and consulted with a board member who oversees the trail's regulations. The verdict is clear: eBikes are currently NOT ALLOWED on the Creeper Trail.
  • Future Considerations: The board is actively exploring the possibility of changing this rule. However, the situation is complex due to the National Forest Service owning a portion of the trail. Before any changes can be made, Geological studies must be conducted to assess the potential for increased erosion. Once these studies are complete, the local jurisdictions of Damascus and Abingdon will align their eBike policies with the Forest Service's decision.

EBIKES ON THE MASSANUTTEN WESTERN SLOPES

  • Regulations: Only Class 1 eBikes are allowed on the Massanutten Western Slopes. All other classes of eBikes and eMotorcycles are prohibited. 
  • Reference: (Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition)

Ebikes in Virginia Wildlife Management Areas

  • Regulations: Class 1 & 2 eBikes are allowed in Virginia Wildlife Management Areas. However, they are not allowed in areas specifically designated as "Wilderness Areas" within the WMAs.
  • Reference: (WMA Rules)

Ebikes in Virginia State Parks

  • Current Guidelines: Virginia State Parks permit the use of Class 1 and Class 2 eBikes on any designated bicycle path or trail. This includes well-known trails like the New River Trail and High Bridge Trail, as well as mountain biking trails at locations such as Douthat State Park.
  • Reference: (Virginia DCR)

EBIKES IN THE NATIONAL FORESTS

  • Current Status: On March 31st, 2022, the USDA Forest Service clarified its stance on eBikes in National Forests. All eBikes, regardless of their classification, are considered motorized vehicles and are prohibited from non-motorized trails.
  • Common Misconception: There's a widespread but incorrect belief that eBikes under 750 watts are allowed on trails in National Forests. This is not the case; eBikes of all types are restricted to motorized trails only.
  • Where You Can Ride: At present, eBikes are only permitted on Forest Service roads where other motor vehicles are allowed. While local jurisdictions have the authority to make exceptions, as it stands, eBikes are restricted to trails designated for motorized vehicles.
  • Reference: (USDA Forest Service)

Ebikes in our NATIONAL PARKS

  • Current Guidelines: Effective from January 1, 2021, Class 1-3 eBikes are classified as non-motorized vehicles in National Parks. This means they are generally allowed wherever traditional bicycles are permitted.
  • Exceptions: While eBikes are broadly allowed, individual Park Superintendents have the authority to impose restrictions if they believe it serves the public interest. Therefore, it's crucial to check the specific regulations for the National Park you plan to visit.
  • Reference: (National Park Service: Electric Bikes, NPS.gov)

Ebike Labels and Modification/Tampering

Labeling

According to Virginia Law, eBikes manufactured after January 1, 2021, are required to have a clearly visible label. This label must include the eBike's classification number, its top assisted speed, and the motor wattage.

Modification

According to the Virginia Motor Vehicle Laws, if you decide to modify the motor speed or engagement of your eBike, the original label must be replaced to reflect these changes accurately. 

(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-904.1)


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section provides answers to common questions about eBike laws and regulations. For specific situations, always consult local rules.

Q: Can you get a DUI while riding an eBike?

A: Yes, In Virginia, individuals riding an eBike are subject to the same laws and regulations as drivers of other vehicles. This means that you can indeed get a DUI while riding an eBike, as you are required to follow all the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-800)

Q: Can local jurisdictions restrict eBike usage?
A: Yes, in Virginia, local or state agencies can restrict where eBikes are allowed. After a public hearing, they can ban Class 1 or Class 2 eBikes on certain paths for safety reasons. Class 3 eBikes can also be banned. Always check local rules for specific restrictions.
(Source: Virginia Code 46.2-904.1)

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