Permitted Electric Bicycle (E-Bike) Use

Have you recently seen someone riding their bike up a hill without using much effort? Maybe their bike looked hefty or had extra attachments on the frame? If so, you were most likely looking at an electric bike. 

Electric bikes sometimes referred to as an "e-bike", are a growing trend in transportation. Pedaling is made easier with the help of a battery-operated mechanism. They are also cleaner and cheaper to operate than other modes of transportation.

Since e-bikes are a newer mode of transportation, regulations are still being developed. This article offers basic information about e-bikes and their current regulation. We encourage you to review the resources provided here for more information. We also recommend talking to your local bike shop if you are looking for information about "do-it-yourself" conversion kits.

Here are a few things you should know if you plan to use an e-bike.

What is an e-bike?

Electric bicycles (or e-bikes) look like classic bicycles but are equipped with an electric motor that assists the rider. Pedal-assist bikes simply give the rider a boost while pedaling. Other bikes have throttles that allow riders to choose between pedal power or electric motor power. While there are several types of e-bikes, none of them use gasoline or emit exhaust. They are also relatively quiet during operation.

The State of New Hampshire has established the following classes for bikes that have electric motors less than 750 watts:

Class 1 - bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 2 - bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph.

Class 3 - bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph.

What are NH’s e-bike regulations?

NH Bike Laws Opens in new windowIn June of 2019, New Hampshire passed House Bill 148 relative to electric bicycles (see HB148). The new regulations took effect in August of 2019. For a good summary of NH’s e-bike law, please review the People for Bikes poster.

The City of Lebanon has not yet established its own local rules, though municipalities have the right to do so. Currently, all state laws apply when riding in Lebanon. Please be aware of the following:

  • the term “bicycle” includes e-bikes.
  • The state of New Hampshire defines electric bikes as any motor-driven cycle whose speed attainable in one mile is less than 20mph. The cycle must have functional pedals and a motor that has less than 750W.
  • Mopeds do not include e-bikes.
  • Most importantly: “Except as otherwise provided… electric bicycles and operators of electric bicycles shall be afforded all the rights and privileges, and shall be subject to all the duties, of a bicycle or the operator of a bicycle. An electric bicycle is a vehicle to the same extent as a bicycle.” In turn, the State of New Hampshire considers all bicycles, including e-bikes, as vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers when using our roadways.
  • E-bikes do not require licensing any more than traditional bikes do.
  • Riders must remain as far right as practical, except when making a left-hand turn.
  • Class 1 and Class 2 bikes are allowed on bicycle paths unless specifically posted otherwise.
  • Class 3 bikes are not permitted on multi-use paths.
  • Helmets are required for all riders under 16 years of age.
  • Electric bike riders must be at least 14 years of age.

Where can I ride an e-bike in Lebanon?

Currently, e-bikes can use on-road facilities such as bike lanes and can ride anywhere regular bicycles are allowed with some exceptions. The following information explains where e-bikes are allowed as well as any restrictions.

Class 1 and 2 e-bikes

Currently, Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are allowed to use on-road facilities (e.g. bike lanes) as well as bicycle paths or multi-use paths in Lebanon. Please remember, only pedestrians and children on bikes under the age of 12 are permitted to use sidewalks, including those through City areas like the Mall and Colburn Park.

It is also important to remember that Lebanon and other municipalities have jurisdiction to pass local rules about where e-bikes are permitted. The City of Lebanon has not yet passed any of its own rules but is closely monitoring how e-bike riders and other modes interact on its multi-use paths before determining a course of action. In the meantime, we encourage all bicyclists to respect the rules of the road. If issues are experienced, per NH RSA, the City has the capacity to prohibit class 1 or 2 e-bikes on bicycle paths or multi-use paths where traditional bicycles are permitted.

What about City trails that are already designated as non-motorized?

First, always adhere to trail signage about restrictions or call the City if you have questions. If the trail has a natural surface (not paved or graveled) the City can regulate the use of e-bikes on the trail. This could apply to the City’s conservation land trails. Please use your discretion and avoid using e-bikes in any manner that would impact natural surfaces more intensely than normal, such as on local mountain bike trails. Trails often have limited visibility so please maintain safe speeds to avoid conflict with other users.

Class 3 e-bikes

At this time, Class 3 e-bikes are allowed to use on-road facilities (e.g., bike lanes) but are not allowed on any state or local bike path or multi-use path except where it is explicitly stated by the applicable city, town, or state agency that operation of class 3 e-bikes is allowed on that path. In addition, Class 3 e-bikes are not allowed on natural surface paths/trails. 

In addition to not being allowed on multi-use paths like those on Mt. Support Road, Class 3 e-bikes are prohibited on the Mascoma River Greenway and Northern Rail Trail. 

Hand-converted e-bikes

We currently do not have guidance available for hand converted e-bikes. Please consider which class (1, 2, or 3) the converted equipment is most comparable to in order to assess applicable road rules. We will update the status of permitted usage as we can.  

Why is it important to allow e-bikes in our community? 

E-bikes can:

  • Increase mobility and accessibility for those who cannot use traditional bicycles or have increasing difficulty traveling far on them due to health, age, challenging terrain, etc.
  • Enable non-riders to engage in a new type of light, regular exercise to improve health.
  • Help riders travel farther than they normally do, allowing them to commute, run errands, and get to destinations they could not normally reach with a regular bike
  • Reduce transportation impacts by decreasing local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This benefits public health and the environment while reducing traffic congestion and parking demand. We especially encourage riders to charge e-bikes at facilities powered by renewable energy. E-bikes offer regions a new opportunity to diminish their transportation carbon footprint.
  • Save money if they allow people to forego having a car or to use one less often.
  • Support heavier loads, such as groceries, making them ideal for errands.
  • Contribute to local economies. Many cities offer bikeshare programs that include electric bikes. Some of our local bike shops already rent e-bikes, making them an increasingly popular recreation and tourism option.

What is safe, responsible biking? 

From the Rail-to-Trails Conservancy guide on e-bike etiquette:

Observing proper trail behavior—especially safe speeds—is not just the right thing to do, it is absolutely critical to maintaining a high standard of safety for all trail users.

The top electric motor speed of Class I and Class II e-bikes is 20 mph, and the top speed of a Class III e-bike is 28 mph. By comparison, Google Maps uses an average speed of 10 mph for their bicycle directions, and a person of average health typically cycles at about 13 mph. The average speed of a Tour de France bicycle racer is 25 mph.

In order to maintain a safe experience for everyone, cyclists—whether using an e-bike or a regular bike—must respect the experiences of pedestrians, other cyclists, and trail users by using safe speeds and signaling when passing. In short, it is user behavior, not the technology of an e-bike, that determines the trail experience.

The following applies to cycling in general, including e-bikes, and is not an all-inclusive summary.

  • Slow down and move over (usually to the right) when approaching oncoming foot and bike traffic
  • Please be considerate and pass with caution; it also helps to ring a bell or call out when passing others on the route
  • All trail and path users are encouraged to limit or avoid the use of earbuds and other equipment that reduces awareness of one’s surroundings.

Additional Resources