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Thread: Are E-bikes legal in DC, VA, MD?

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    Question Are E-bikes legal in DC, VA, MD?

    Hi, we are going to visit DC area in near future and would like to know if we can ride our e-bikes (pedal assist) on the paved bike paths and roads with bike lanes ?
    Thanks for any information. We live in Tennessee where e-bikes are legal on streets and also multi-use trails if max speed is 20mph.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Caroline C View Post
    Hi, we are going to visit DC area in near future and would like to know if we can ride our e-bikes (pedal assist) on the paved bike paths and roads with bike lanes ?
    Thanks for any information. We live in Tennessee where e-bikes are legal on streets and also multi-use trails if max speed is 20mph.
    Others can provide more details, but my understanding is that in DC and in Virginia, they are legal on in-street bike lanes, but not legal on trails. But they are used on trails anyway, and as long as you use them in a very reasonable way (which I am sure people here will discuss, but its about speed, and also polite, safe passing) few will have a problem with it.


    Let's all keep it civil, folks

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    dasgeh is offline Queen of Family Biking & All Things Kidical
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    They are definitely legal on streets and on-street bike facilities. It's debatable whether they are legal on trails, but no one cares. Just be a PAL, and you'll be fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Caroline C View Post
    Hi, we are going to visit DC area in near future and would like to know if we can ride our e-bikes (pedal assist) on the paved bike paths and roads with bike lanes ?
    Thanks for any information. We live in Tennessee where e-bikes are legal on streets and also multi-use trails if max speed is 20mph.
    Like the others said, no one cares where you ride them. In fact, if you are a courteous rider we'd love to have you ride here!

    Be sure to let us know where you want to ride if you want route advice.

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    DC Regulation 18-1201.18 provides: "Except as otherwise permitted for a motor vehicle, no person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk or any off-street bikepath or bicycle route within the District. This prohibition shall apply even though the motorized bicycle is being operated solely by human power." So, if cars are prohibited in a particular place, motor-assisted bikes are also prohibited.

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    Generally being a courteous safe rider is what matters around here though you will see all sorts of shenanigans by cyclists, peds, and drivers. It's DC so lots of self important people, tourists, and nice folks. Welcome to the area; it is actually a really nice place to ride.

    Please be aware that there are lots of bike thieves in DC and surrounding areas and they are pretty darn bold and crafty. Biking is very popular here so a big market for bikes on Craigslist and the like. Be sure to bring u-locks with you at minimum and keep your bikes in your hotel room at night.

    For short trips to get from A to B you may wish to check out Capital Bikeshare. They won't be nearly as comfortable your own bikes but are a very good option if you plan on checking out the museums along the Mall and don't want to leave your e-bikes locked up for long periods of time. That said, people on the forum can tell you some safe places to lock up around DC and along the Mall. Your best bet is to lock up at federal agency racks that are located right at their front door or where security guards are visible. That's my philosophy anyway.

    Oh, being from TN you probably already know this but it gets really, really hot and muggy in July and August. Shoulder seasons are best for visiting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crickey7 View Post
    DC Regulation 18-1201.18 provides: "Except as otherwise permitted for a motor vehicle, no person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk or any off-street bikepath or bicycle route within the District. This prohibition shall apply even though the motorized bicycle is being operated solely by human power." So, if cars are prohibited in a particular place, motor-assisted bikes are also prohibited.
    What's murky is whether ebikes that meet the federal definition for exemptions qualify as "motorized bicycle" in DC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crickey7 View Post
    DC Regulation 18-1201.18 provides: "Except as otherwise permitted for a motor vehicle, no person shall operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk or any off-street bikepath or bicycle route within the District. This prohibition shall apply even though the motorized bicycle is being operated solely by human power." So, if cars are prohibited in a particular place, motor-assisted bikes are also prohibited.
    How does that apply to ON-street bike lanes though? Are you reading off-street as modifying only bikepath, and not modifying "bicycle route"?

    Note, passing is more challenging, in some protected bike lanes (like 15th Street) than in most conventional bike lanes. I would suggest that people riding fast on ebikes (like other fast riders) might use discretion and avoid PBLs like 15th Street on crowded days and times. I would be less concerned on a conventional bike lane, where said rider could merge into the general travel lane relatively easily.

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    I'd prefer the law just be changed to clearly indicate one way or the other, rather than litigate the definition of a well-understood noun ("motorized").

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    I found this:

    In DC, the city council passed the Motorized Bicycle Amendment of 2012 specifically to remove any uncertainty about the status of e-bikes. The effect of this legislation was that in DC there are three types of motorized two- or three-wheeled vehicles: (1) motorcycles, (2) motor-driven cycles, and (3) motorized bicycles. The key distinction between the three is speed. If the motor can propel the vehicle no faster than 20 mph and has pedals, itís a motorized bicycle. If the motor is less than 50cc and cannot propel the vehicle faster than 30 mph, itís a motor-driven cycle. If the vehicle can go faster than 30 mph by motor alone, then itís a motorcycle. 18 DCMR ß 9901. From these definitions, most e-bikes would be merely motorized bicycles in Washington, DC.

    So that answers one question. I can't seem to find anything yet on whether a motorized bicycle can use an on-street bike lane.

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