In the United States electric bikes have seen slow but steady growth since the late 90’s and as a result, in 2001 congress was lobbied and passed the first and only bill to define ebikes in federal law. This law, 107-319, exempts electrified bicycles with operating pedals using motors under 750 watts limited to 20 mph from the legal definition of a motor vehicle.2.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
Some prohibitions also apply, such as on: carrying cargo that prevents keeping at least one hand on the handlebars or prevents proper use of brakes, riding no more than two abreast on a roadway or shoulder, and attaching the bicycle to another vehicle. Minn. Stat. § 169.222, subds. 3-5. The vehicles may be operated on a sidewalk except in a business district or when prohibited by a local unit of government, and must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk. Minn. Stat. § 169.223, subd. 3. By default, electric-assisted bicycles are allowed on road shoulders as well as on bicycle trails, bicycle paths, and bicycle lanes.
The dwarf ordinary addressed some of these faults by reducing the front wheel diameter and setting the seat further back. This, in turn, required gearing—effected in a variety of ways—to efficiently use pedal power. Having to both pedal and steer via the front wheel remained a problem. Englishman J.K. Starley (nephew of James Starley), J.H. Lawson, and Shergold solved this problem by introducing the chain drive (originated by the unsuccessful "bicyclette" of Englishman Henry Lawson), connecting the frame-mounted cranks to the rear wheel. These models were known as safety bicycles, dwarf safeties, or upright bicycles for their lower seat height and better weight distribution, although without pneumatic tires the ride of the smaller-wheeled bicycle would be much rougher than that of the larger-wheeled variety. Starley's 1885 Rover, manufactured in Coventry is usually described as the first recognizably modern bicycle. Soon the seat tube was added, creating the modern bike's double-triangle diamond frame.
In general, electric bicycles are considered "bicycles", rather than motor vehicles, for purposes of the code. This implies that all bicycle regulations apply to electric bicycles including operation in bike lanes. Exceptions to this include a restriction of operation on sidewalks and that a license or permit is required if the rider is younger than 17 years of age.
The federal Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "low speed electric bicycle" as a two or three wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h) and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp). The Act authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect people who ride low-speed electric vehicles by issuing necessary safety regulations. The rules for e-bikes on public roads, sidewalks, and pathways are under state jurisdiction, and vary.