One of the many developments in Michigan bicycle laws in 2018 includes legislation covering electric bikes. On January 28, 2018, amendments to the Michigan Vehicle Code relating to e-bikes took effect. This is what you need to know about the new electric bike law in Michigan.
Electric Bike Defined
The new laws define electric bikes, or e-bikes as:
“A device upon which an individual may ride that satisfies and is equipped with all of the following:
(i) A seat or saddle for use by the rider.
(ii) Fully operable pedals for human propulsion.
(iii) An electric motor of no greater than 750 watts
and, falls into one of the following three categories:
(1) Class 1 electric bicycle – equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the e-bike reaches a speed of 20mph.
(2) Class 2 electric bicycle – equipped with an electric motor that propels the bicycle to a speed of no more than 20mph, whether the rider is pedaling or not, and that disengages or ceases to function when the brakes are applied.
(3) Class 3 electric bicycle – equipped with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that disengages or ceases to function when the e-bike reaches a speed of 28mph.
Use of Electric Bikes – Where to Ride
The new electric bike law allows a person to operate a Class 1 e-bike on a linear trail (a multi-use trail that runs from point to point) that has an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail. However, the law provides for regulation or prohibiting the operation of Class 1 bikes by local agencies with jurisdiction over the trail. Therefore, check with your local ordinances to see if Class 1 e-bikes are permissible on these types of trails nearby.
A person can legally ride a Class 2 or Class 3 e-bike on a linear trail that has an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail only if authorized by the local authority or agency having jurisdiction over the trail. In other words, there is a presumption that it is illegal to ride a Class 2 or Class 3 e-bike on a trail unless expressly allowed by the local authority or entity with jurisdiction over the trail. Again, check with local officials before you ride.
Riding on Bike Trails, Hiking Trails, and Roadways
It’s worth noting that the electric bike law is very different for mountain bike trails and hiking trails. These types of trails are known as “nonmotorized trails.” Nonmotorized trails are defined as having “a natural surface tread that is made by clearing and grading the native soil with no added surfacing materials.” The electric bike law specifically prohibits the operation of all e-bikes on nonmotorized trails. However, a local authority or agency that has jurisdiction over a nonmotorized trail may allow the operation of an e-bike on that trail.
Also worth noting, the electric bike law does not apply to a Congressionally authorized public trail system. In Michigan, this is important to know, since we’re home to many miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail.
When riding an electric bike on a roadway, the rider “has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle under this chapter, except for special regulations in this article and except for the provisions of this chapter that by their nature do not apply.” Further, the law states that an individual riding an electric bicycle is “subject to the same requirements under this act as an individual riding a bicycle.” Simply put, when riding an e-bike on the road, treat it like a bicycle.
Not a Motor Vehicle
The law specifically excludes e-bikes from the definition of “motor vehicles,” which is the same for mopeds and motorcycles. This means purchasing auto insurance for an electric bike isn’t required. However, it is recommended that e-bike owners consult with their insurance agent to see if it is covered under their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. If not, we suggest purchasing a rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. There is also bicycle-specific insurance.
There were other developments in Michigan bicycle laws this year, including license plate obstruction amendment, 3-foot passing requirement, and mandating 1 hour of bike safety in driver’s training.