Where Can I Ride My E-Bike in San Diego?

woman riding an electric bicycle

What You Should Know About California Electric Bike Laws

In San Diego, there are several places where you can ride your e-bike. San Diego offers something for every type of bike rider, whether you prefer coastal cruises or scenic park trails. Before heading out, ensure you know the local regulations including where electric bikes are permitted. Read on to learn about California electric bike laws and where you can ride.


What is an Electric Bicycle?

An electric bicycle, commonly known as an e-bike, is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that assists the rider’s pedal power. E-bikes offer a convenient and eco-friendly mode of transportation, suitable for commuting and recreational riding.

Unlike traditional bikes, which are human-powered, these conventional bicycles offer different levels of pedal assistance. Therefore, riders can pedal easier and travel longer distances with less effort.

Key components of an electric bicycle include the following:

  • Electric motor
  • Battery
  • Controller that regulates the flow of electric power from the battery to the motor
  • Pedal-assist system


3 Classes of Electric Bicycles

motorized bicycles on a recreational trail

Electric bicycles are categorized into three classes based on their design, speed capabilities, and mode of operation. Understanding the distinctions between these classes can help riders choose the e-bike that best suits their needs.

Class 1 E-Bikes

  • Class 1 e-bikes are equipped with a pedal-assistance system.
  • They do not have a throttle.
  • Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on bike paths and streets where traditional bicycles are permitted.

Class 2 E-Bikes

  • Class 2 e-bikes have a pedal-assistance and throttle-only mode which allows riders to use the motor without pedaling.
  • Like Class 1 e-bikes, they are permitted on bike paths and streets.

Class 3 E-Bikes

  • Class 3 e-bikes are equipped with a pedal-assistance system that assists only when the rider is pedaling, similar to Class 1 e-bikes.
  • Class 3 e-bikes may not be allowed in certain bike lanes, depending on local laws.


How Fast Do Electric Bikes Go?

  • Class 1 e-bikes are limited to a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
  • Class 2 e-bikes also have a maximum assisted speed of 20 mph.
  • Class 3 e-bikes have a higher maximum assisted speed of 28 mph.


California Electric Bike Laws

bicycle path

E-bike riders must obey all traffic laws and regulations applicable to bicycles, including yielding to pedestrians, obeying traffic signals and speed limits, and riding in the same direction as traffic flow.

Do You Have to Wear a Helmet on an E-Bike?

In California, the requirement to wear a helmet while riding an electric bicycle varies depending on the rider’s age and the type of electric bicycle being operated.

However, wearing a helmet is strongly recommended to reduce the risk of head injuries in the event of a crash or fall. Wearing a helmet can decrease the risk of head and brain injury by 65% to 88%.

  • E-bike users under 18 years old are required by law to wear a properly fitted helmet while riding an electric bicycle, regardless of the bike’s class or speed capabilities.
  • All Class 3 electric bicycle riders must wear helmets.

Do You Need a License to Operate an Electric Bike in California?

In California, electric bike riders do not require a driver’s license to operate their e-bikes legally.

While there are no age restrictions for riding Class 1 or Class 2 electric bicycles in California, riders must be at least 16 years old to operate a Class 3 e-bike. Additionally, individuals under 16 years old must wear a helmet while riding any type of electric bicycle.

However, if the new California e-bike bill (AB 2234) gets passed, anyone over 12 would require a valid driver’s license or a state-issued ID card and proof of passing a California Highway Patrol (CHP) e-bike safety course. This bill would prohibit anyone under 12 from operating an electric bicycle of any class.

What Are the Restrictions on Motor Power or Throttle?

California law limits the maximum motor power of electric bicycles to 750 watts (1 horsepower). An e-bike that exceeds this power limit may be classified as a motorized bicycle (moped) or motorcycle and is subject to additional regulations.

Both mopeds and motorcycles must be registered with the DMV and riders need a motorcycle license to operate them.

Who Can Carry Passengers on an E-Bike?

Electric riders are allowed to carry passengers on e-bikes that are specifically designed to carry passengers or additional cargo. Passengers and riders under the age of 18 need to wear helmets. Regarding Class 3 electric bicycles, both the operator and passenger must wear a helmet.


Can You Ride E-Bikes on the Sidewalk in California?

In California, there aren’t statewide laws that ban or allow cyclists on the sidewalk. However, riding electric bicycles on sidewalks can pose safety risks to pedestrians, especially in crowded urban areas. E-bike users should exercise caution and yield to pedestrians when sharing the sidewalk.

Class 1 and 2 electric bikes are permitted where traditional bikes are allowed unless a sign specifically prohibits electric bicycles. San Diego has an extensive network of bike paths that are perfect for electric bike riders. The Mission Bay Bike Path, Silver Strand Bikeway, and Bayshore Bikeway are popular options with beautiful waterfront views.

In areas where sidewalk-riding is restricted, e-bike users can use bike lanes or designated cycling routes on streets. Many parks in San Diego have designated bike trails or multi-use paths where e-bikes are permitted. Balboa Park, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, and Mission Trails Regional Park are just a few examples.

However, Class 3 electric bicycles are not permitted on any bike path, bikeway, or hiking or recreational trail, unless allowed by local authorities.


Safety Tips for E-Bike Riders in California

woman holding an electric bike battery mounted on frame

An average of 833 bicycle riders are killed in traffic crashes each year. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (PSCS), injuries associated with all micromobility devices, including e-bikes, increased by almost 21% in 2022 from 2021. Safety is crucial when riding an electric bicycle in California, whether for commuting, recreation, or leisure. Here are some tips to stay safe:

Wear a Helmet: Always wear a properly fitted helmet when riding an electric bicycle, regardless of age or experience level. Helmets help protect against head injuries in the event of a crash or fall.

Obey Traffic Laws: Electric bike riders must adhere to all California electric bike laws, including obeying traffic signals, yielding to pedestrians, and riding in the same direction as traffic flow.

Ensure You Are Visible: Equip your e-bike with front and rear lights, as well as reflective gear or clothing, to increase visibility to motor vehicles and pedestrians, especially when riding at night or in low-light conditions.

Stay Alert: Remain vigilant and attentive while riding, scanning your surroundings for potential hazards, road obstacles, and other road users. Avoid distractions such as headphones or mobile devices that can impair your awareness.

Ride Defensively: Anticipate the actions of motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists, and always assume that others may not see you. Maintain a safe distance from vehicles, avoid riding in blind spots, and signal your intentions clearly.

Inspect Your E-Bike: Regularly check your e-bike for signs of wear and tear, including tire pressure, brakes, battery, and other components. Keep your e-bike well-maintained to ensure optimal performance and safety.


Common Injuries Sustained in E-Bike Accidents

  • Head injuries
  • Skull fractures
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Road rash
  • Concussion
  • Facial injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries


Award-Winning Personal Injury Lawyers in San Diego

If you were injured in an e-bike accident caused by another person’s negligence, it’s essential to consult an experienced bicycle accident lawyer who can protect your rights and pursue compensation on your behalf. A San Diego electric bike accident attorney can help you gather evidence including police reports and witness statements and will build a compelling personal injury claim on your behalf.

At Harbor Accident Lawyers we are dedicated to helping injured victims obtain justice. Our personal injury lawyers maintain a 99% success rate and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.