A new European product safety standard EN 15194 will be published in 2009. EN 15194 contains several new requirements for ebikes to be sold in European Union and European Economic Area, including weight and voltage limitations. EN 15194 also defines a specific name for EU approved electrically-assisted cycles, EPAC - "Electrically Pedal Assisted Cycle".
Bicycles are popular targets for theft, due to their value and ease of resale. The number of bicycles stolen annually is difficult to quantify as a large number of crimes are not reported. Around 50% of the participants in the Montreal International Journal of Sustainable Transportation survey were subjected to a bicycle theft in their lifetime as active cyclists. Most bicycles have serial numbers that can be recorded to verify identity in case of theft.
Ontario is one of the last provinces in Canada to move toward legalizing power-assisted bicycles (PABs) for use on roads, even though they have been federally defined and legal in Canada since early 2001. In November 2005, "Bill 169" received royal assent allowing the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to place any vehicle on road. On October 4, 2006, the Minister of Transportation for Ontario Donna Cansfield announced the Pilot Project allowing PABs which meet the federal standards definition for operation on road. PAB riders must follow the rules and regulations of a regular bicycles, wear an approved bicycle helmet and be at least 16 years or older. There are still a number of legal considerations for operating any bicycle in Ontario.
Even with cheaper or heavier bikes, once you accept that you are really meant to pedal gently and let the motor do the work, non-speed freaks will get into it. E-bikes are great for commuting and for places that aren't pancake flat. They'll pull you away from the lights quickly, iron out hills and stop you getting sweaty, so you can bin the Lycra and ride in jeans, a suit, or a winter coat.
The oldest patent for an electric bike I've been able to find at the US Patent and Trademark Office is this one, by Ogden Bolton, Jr. of Canton Ohio, which was filed in September 1895 and granted three months later. You can see from these original diagrams that it bears an amazingly close resemblance to modern electric bikes. In the general picture on the left, you can see there's a hub motor on the rear wheel (blue), a battery suspended from the frame (red), and a simple handlebar control to make the thing stop and go. In the more detailed cutaway of the hub motor on the right, you can see there's a six-pole magnet in the center (orange) bolted to the frame and an armature (made from coiled wire, yellow) that rotates around it when the current is switched on. It's quite a hefty motor even by modern standards; Ogdon mentions "a heavy current at low voltage—for instance, to carry one hundred amperes at ten volts." So that's 1000 watts, which is about twice the power of a typical modern bike hub motor.
Electric trikes have also been produced that conform to the e-bike legislation. These have the benefit of additional low speed stability and are often favored by people with disabilities. Cargo carrying tricycles are also gaining acceptance, with a small but growing number of couriers using them for package deliveries in city centres. Latest designs of these trikes resemble a cross-between a pedal cycle and a small van.
The Footloose has no chain, however -- it's entirely electrically driven. It takes very little effort to get to your destination, meaning you arrive at work without having broken a sweat. The downside is that when you run out of power, you're not going anywhere. And pedalling from a standstill, waiting for the motor to kick in, is an odd sensation that takes some getting used to.
"Medical Exemptions" are also a standard right in the State of Texas for motorcycles & even bicyclists. Through Texas's motorcycle helmet law (bicycle helmet laws from city ordinances), it is only required for those 21 years old or younger to wear a helmet. However, a medical exemption,  written by a certified licensed medical physician or licensed chiropractor, which exempts one from wearing a helmet, can be used for bicyclists if helmets are required.
E-bikes are typically offered in 24V, 36V and 48V configurations. Higher voltage generally means higher top speed – but that may not always be the case. Since the efficiency of a motor and drive system can have an effect on power and speed, a 24V setup could have the same top speed as a 36V setup. Generally you can expect 15-18 mph on a 24v setup, 16-20 mph on a 36V setup and 24-28 mph on a 48V setup. Although it far exceeds Federal laws, some conversion kits can even be run at 72V for speeds of 35+ mph! However, this puts significant stress on bicycle components. Consider that even the fastest athletes only travel 17-18 mph on a conventional bicycle, so 20 mph feels very fast to most riders. Anything over this speed can be unsafe and exceeds law regulations.
Another style is the recumbent bicycle. These are inherently more aerodynamic than upright versions, as the rider may lean back onto a support and operate pedals that are on about the same level as the seat. The world's fastest bicycle is a recumbent bicycle but this type was banned from competition in 1934 by the Union Cycliste Internationale.
Electric bikes (also known as e bikes) are perfect for long-distance riding, or when you just don’t feel like giving your full effort. What differentiates them from electric motorcycles is the ability for the rider to pedal the bike at any time, so if you’re riding along and your battery dies, you’re not going to stranded. These are often very valuable bikes, but some models can be more affordable than you might expect, especially when you treat them as a form of transportation as opposed to thinking of the price in terms of regular bicycles.
Great question… a real world situation from someone doing their best to follow the law but also be realistic about time/distance. What follows is my opinion on the matter based on lots of electric bike riding experience, this is not legal advice. You can probably ride with electric assist across the dirt way with no issues and avoid any negative response that might arise as long as you’re polite to other cyclists and pedestrians and pedal along without going too fast. If someone called you out about it you could easily hop off, walk your bike and explain that you use the assist to help make your commute possible or possibly, like me, you have a knee injury and it’s difficult to pedal through softer terrain like gravel. Another different approach might be to shut the bike off completely before entering the gravel section, you could even take the battery off and put it in a backpack or as mentioned earlier… just walk the bike. Imagine if you had a motorized dirt bike and were just pushing it along a sidewalk… this kind of vehicle definitely is not allowed on sidewalks or most gravel paths like the one you’re describing but if you were escorting it carefully, you’d be honoring the spirit of the law and if an officer or pedestrian jumped out and started questioning you about your “motorized vehicle” it is my feeling that a genuine explanation and apology or request for guidance would go very well. I personally have never had issues riding electric bikes in part because I am thoughtful about how I use them. I do occasionally switch them off and sometimes I get off and walk. I have asked police in many cities across the US what they thought about ebikes and in every case I have received positive interest and support with guidance to ride safe with a helmet and follow traffic laws in the street. I hope this helps and I wish you well, it’s nice that you care enough to ask and I hope you’re treated well by others out on the road. The flip side of this response is that I have been harassed, yelled at and even swerved at by automobiles when riding bicycles and electric bikes. This usually happens in the evening after work lets out when traffic is heavy and I’m riding on the shoulder or in the street (where marked to do so) and I believe it has to do with territory, testosterone and socio-economic standing more so than laws or anything like that.
Firstly there's a magnetically-fired locking pin in the rear wheel, triggered by kicking a button on the hub. This is fairly secure in itself and almost impossible to remove without destroying the bike. In London, we'd pair it with a more traditional bike lock so there's a more obvious visual deterrent, though a LED matrix screen on the frame does issue a warning to would-be tea-leafs.