eBikes: Safety, Guidelines and Resources

Ladera Ranch has seen an impact and increase in cycling and eBikes in the community. As the popularity of eBikes will continue to grow, LARMAC, LARCS and the Civic Council are partnering together to gathering helpful information from local agencies, industry groups and cycling experts to provide information.  Please take the time to review the information below to educate yourself, your children and community on the types of bikes, safety while operating a bike, and courtesy while using our local trails, sidewalks, parks and shared use spaces.

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eBikes: Types, Speeds and Perspective 
by Bill Sellin, Infrastructure Review Committee  

Communities like Ladera Ranch have seen a huge impact in increase in cycling and the impact of eBikes are becoming more common. eBikes are categorized as bicycles and are allowed on sidewalks in California unless a local jurisdiction dictate that bicycles are not permitted. 

Many eBikers do not understand that although California law gives cyclists the rights to ride, it also holds riders to the vehicle code. Basic rules of the road should be followed and obeyed, and safe practices for cycling in and near traffic must be followed.

It takes a long time for a cyclist to get strong enough and comfortable to pedal at 20 mph. An eBiker can roll out of a store and be able to operate at those speeds and faster without any experience. Shared use facilities like sidewalks, side paths, shared use paths all require cyclists to yield to pedestrians, but that assumes a relative civility, and as more and more people are out walking, biking and eBiking the conflicts are becoming more common.

3 types of eBikes that qualify as “bicycles”

  1. Type 1 - Pedal assist only (up to 20 mph) Still need to pedal but with assist you feel much stronger/younger but still have great health benefits. Helmets are required if under the age of 18.
  2. Type 2 - Throttle (up to 20 mph) These are illegal in Europe and many owners rarely pedal – usually just throttle along like driving a low power motorcycle. No health benefits and easy to just run it full throttle at 20 mph regardless of the situation.
  3. Type 3 - Pedal assist (up to 28 mph) More boost and top seed are available, but still requires pedaling. You must be 16 to operate one and must wear a helmet – even if you’re an adult. Orange County has prohibited the use of eBikes on unpaved trails that allow pedal bicycles.

Type 3 of eBikes are prohibited from using shared use paths or Class 1 bikeways unless adjacent to a roadway. In any case, all bicycles are subject to the basic speed law and required to maintain a safe speed, and to yield to pedestrians.

Many people are adding a kit to modify their bike to electric power. The cheaper kits just add a throttle as it is more technically challenging to add assist. If they are able to exceed 20 mph, they are no longer bicycles.

Many vendors are selling electric powered devices or vehicles that exceed the 20 or 28 mph limit or run over 750-watt motors. Some are basically electric motorcycles/minibikes that are being marketed and sold as “eBikes.” These are not street legal eBikes – they are at least “Motorized Bicycles” (a “Moped”) and require registration, a driver’s license to operate, and are not allowed on sidewalks or paths. Operators and passenger are required to wear a motorcycle helmet.

When they get over 2000 Watts and up to 10,000 Watts and exceed 30 mph they are “Motor Driven Cycles” – essentially a scooter even if they have functional pedals. Require license plate, M1 driver’s license, motorcycle helmet, and not allowed where bicycles are allowed or in a bike lane.

When they get above 149cc (or electrical equivalent) they are “motorcycles,” require a license to operate, and are obviously not allowed on sidewalks or paths or bike lanes. This also confuses pedestrians who don’t know if they were buzzed past by a legal but uncourteous eBike rider or an illegal vehicle.

Anyone who is new to cycling should be educated on the rules of the road, especially if they are young and have never driven in traffic. There are great programs available to teach cycling. Visit, CyclingSavvy for online and in-person courses.