E-bikes are a transportation option that has been exploding in popularity across the country.
They provide effective, reliable transportation within a 5-10 mile radius of a person’s home, which is the range of more than 75% of car trips in Maine. Cargo e-bicycles permit groceries, goods, and children to be easily transported, and commuter specific models provide a great workforce option.
What are E-bikes?
E-bikes are low-speed bicycles, equipped with a battery and small electric motor (750 watts or less) that provide “pedal assist,” or in some models, throttle-controlled power to the drive train. They are a fun, clean, quiet, and healthy transportation and recreation option.
Available in styles that include road, mountain, commuter and cargo bikes, e-bikes expand the functional range of a bicycle, provide a viable alternative to a car for many short trips, and enable people with physical limitations to continue to be active. E-bikes with cargo capacity are increasingly being used as replacements for vehicles for running errands, dropping off kids, or making deliveries.
E-bike classes and what they mean:
As is the case with the majority of states in the US, Maine law regulates e-bikes according to three classes or types:
|Type||Power actuation||Assist cut-off||Power Limit|
|Class 1 E-bike||Pedal-assist only||20 MPH||750 watts|
|Class 2 E-bike||Throttle (usually with pedal assist)|
|Class 3 E-bike||Pedal-assist only||28 MPH|
Class 1 E-bikes are “pedal assist only” bicycles, meaning the motor only boosts the rider when the pedals are turning. The motor assist is limited to a top speed of 20mph, and the motor size may not exceed 750 watts. These e-bikes are usable in most places a traditional bicycle can be used, except for mountain bike trails unless the trail manager permits them. The BCM supports the use of Class 1 pedal assist e-bikes anywhere an unpowered bike may be used, including paved and unpaved roads, multi-use paths, and mountain bike trails.
Class 2 E-bikes are pedal assist but also come equipped with a throttle on the handlebars that permits the motor to be used without the pedals turning. The motor assist is limited to a top speed of 20mph, and the motor size may not exceed 750 watts. These e-bikes are usable in most places a traditional bicycle can be used, except for mountain bike trails unless the trail manager permits them. Children under age 16 may not operate a Class 2 e-bike in Maine. The BCM supports the use of Class 2 e-bikes in most places an unpowered bicycle may be used. BCM does NOT support the use of Class 2 e-bikes on mountain bike trails, as there is some evidence that throttle-actuated bikes are worse for trails and user relations than pedal assist bikes.
Class 3 E-bikes are “pedal assist only” bicycles, meaning the motor only boosts the rider when the pedals are turning. The motor assist is limited to a top speed of 28mph, and the motor size may not exceed 750 watts. These e-bikes are only legal for use in roadway rights of way or on paths where the managing authority has authorized their use. Children under age 16 may not operate a Class 3 E-bike in Maine. The BCM supports the use of Class 3 pedal assist e-bikes as defined in Maine state law, which restricts them to paved and unpaved roads, and only on mountain bike or off-road trails for which authorization has been explicitly provided.
The BCM does not support the use of devices that have motors larger than 750 watts or that can exceed 28mph. Such devices are outside of the Three Class regulatory framework established in 2019. Maine adopted the “3 Class” system for regulating e-bikes in 2019, and defines e-bikes and how they are to be operated very precisely in state law.
Request E-bike Demo Here
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine, in partnership with the MaineDOT, is pleased to announce the Maine E-bike Demo Ride Program, which can provide Class I electric-assist bicycles for demo rides at select events. Are you a city or town official, member of a government agency, or community group and are interested in how e-bikes might be an effective form of transportation for your organization or municipality? Request an E-bike demonstration!