Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have a motor that helps riders navigate hills and other obstacles. Even if you are unable to ride a conventional bicycle, an e-bike may be an effective transportation option. Despite their popularity, e-bikes had limited widespread adoption in Ohio until 2018, when the law changed to regulate e-bikes similar to non-electric bicycles rather than motor vehicles. 

The law change cleared up any confusion for e-bike owners and local authorities alike. It continues to encourage expanded e-bike use. However, if you are new to riding an electric bike, you may still have some confusion about where you can ride it safely and legally. 

What sets an e-bike apart from motorcycles and similar vehicles?

E-bikes aren’t as powerful as motorcycles than motorcycles. An electric bike’s motor must generate no more than 750 watts. Also, a motorcycle usually has a gas-powered engine. 

What are the different classes of e-bikes?

Ohio’s new law recognizes three classes of e-bikes based on the top speed of each and the type of electrical assistance it offers. If the motor can function when you are not pedaling, you have a throttle assist bike, but if the motor requires you to pedal, you have a pedal-assist bike. 

A Class 3 e-bike is a pedal-assist model with a top speed up to 28 miles per hour. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes only have a top speed of 20 miles per hour. A Class 1 e-bike has pedal assist while a Class 2 e-bike features throttle assist. 

Where can you ride an e-bike?

You can ride Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on most shared use or bicycle-only paths. However, you can only ride a Class 3 e-bike on such a trail that is either adjacent to or within a roadway. State law prohibits e-bikes of any class on equestrian, hiking or mountain biking trails with a natural surface. Local governments have the authority to restrict e-bikes on trails within their jurisdiction further. 

The law prohibits you from riding an e-bike on a freeway. However, it allows you to operate your e-bike on any other road regardless of its class.