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Are kids e-bikes legal in the UK?
Recently there's been an exciting development in kids bikes - the arrival of children's e-bikes into the UK. Scott, Haibike, Bergamont, Moustache and Cube have all released 24" and 26" wheel kids electric mountain bikes, aimed at making off road riding easier for junior riders. We've had a number of Cycle Sprog readers get in touch and ask us "Is it legal for a child to ride an e-bike in the UK?" so we thought we'd do a bit of digging.
We are discussing children's pedal bicycles, fitted with an electric motor by the manufacturer, as defined by the The Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles – EAPC – (Amendment) Regulations 2015. These bikes are restricted to no more than 15.5mph /250 watts and must be pedalled for the battery to be in operation.
This article does not apply to electric motorbikes, dirt bikes, electric scooters, quad bikes or pedal bicycles fitted with batteries, engines or motors after purchase.
Because kids e-bikes are new the rules around them have not been widely documented. We've done our best to write a clear and correct article, based on the answers to questions we submitted to the Department for Transport, DEFRA and Forestry Scotland. We are not lawyers, so please take legal advice if you need it before purchasing or using a child's e-bike.
Cycle Sprog take no responsibility for any death, injury, damage or criminal conviction resulting from anyone riding an e-bike.
Electric kids mountain bikes are not cheap - coming in at between £1,800 and £2,100 - so it's worth knowing the law if you're thinking of buying one of these bikes. These laws will also apply to children pedalling an e-assist cargo bike or an adult sized e-bike, both of which are becoming increasingly common.
Here's what we've found out so far:
Is it legal for a child to ride an e-bike in the UK?
The answer depends on how old the child is, and where they are riding.
For children aged over 14 years and not in Northern Ireland, the answer is "yes", with the caveat that they must not be ridden on pavements.
In Northern Ireland, you currently need a moped licence to ride any electric bike. The bike must also be registered, taxed and insured. However, it is likely that this law will be repealed at some point to bring it in line with the rest of the UK.
For younger children, the answer is slightly more complicated and depends on where the e-bike is being ridden.
All subsequent questions apply to children under the legal age limit:
Is it legal for a child to ride an e-bike on the road?
No. It is illegal for a child to ride an e-bike on the road in the UK until they are over the age of 14 years.
The Department for Transport has confirmed to Cycle Sprog the following:
"E-bikes can be ridden on the road (but not the pavement) provided they meet the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycle Regulations 1983 (as amended) and the rider is over 14 years of age."
This means that if your child is riding an electric bike below the age limit and any part of the route goes on roads, they are technically breaking the law.
We assume that where a pavement is a shared use cycle path then the use of an e-bike is allowed, but we are yet to have this clarified by the Department of Transport.
Is it legal for a child to ride an e-bike on the road if the battery is switched off?
This would seem to be the perfect solution, but I asked the Department for Transport the following question:
"Is it against the law to ride a bike with a battery fitted that's not been turned on?" and their response was "Yes it is".
So, if a battery is fitted to the bike your child is riding they should not be on the road, even if the battery is switched off.
Is it legal for a child to ride an electric bike on a bridleway?
Yes. If you're buying an e-bike for your child, then one place that they can ride is on bridleways.
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who are responsible for policy in respect to bridleways confirmed "Whilst there are no specific laws for e-bikes on bridleways, we hope that people will comply with the Road Traffic Act."
Hope is a wonderful thing. Here at Cycle Sprog we hope every council will build safe, segregated cycle routes for all families to be able to ride safely. We also hope to win the lottery. I guess you need to buy a ticket for a chance of that though!
Are children allowed to ride electric bikes on Forestry Commission land?
Scottish Forestry and Forestry and Land Scotland are responsible for Scotland's national forests, including the 7 Stanes mountain bike trail centres. They have confirmed that "Under 14s will not be able to ride ebikes on Scotland’s national forests. Our forest trails/roads have to comply with the Road Traffic Act and therefore same rules apply."
Forestry England have not responded to our emails, so we can only assume the same applies in England and Wales. This means all the trail centres located within the national forests are out of bounds for kids on e-bikes.
An interesting situation arises where a bridleway passes through national forest land!
Is it legal for a child to ride an electric mountain bike at a privately owned trail centre?
Private land is not subject to the Road Traffic Act, so it is at the discretion of the land owner as to whether your child is allowed to ride an electric bike.
What is the penalty for a child caught riding an e-bike on the road?
Thankfully, your child is not going to get locked up if they get caught riding an e-bike.
The Department of Transport told us that the penalty is a fine under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. We haven't heard of anyone being fined for this yet, although kids e-bikes are relatively new.
It's worth noting that a teenager has been fined and given 6 points against any future driving licence for riding an electric scooter dangerously at high speeds (although e-bikes are restricted to 15 mph and electric scooters aren't, with some capable of speeds of up to 40mph).
Is it legal for children to ride e-bikes in Europe?
For those families heading off to Europe on holiday to ride their amazing cycle paths, trails and bike parks, the good news is that in the rest of the EU there are no age restrictions on the use of electric bikes.
This is presumably why these bikes are being built, with a move by many countries to make mountain biking more accessible for all ages and abilities. Plus many of the manufacturers of kids e-MTB's are based in the Alpine countries.
It's worth noting that Denmark has approved the speed pedelec, a type of super electric bike that can reach speeds of up to 45 km/hour, for riding on cycle paths. Riders need to have turned 15 years of age and wear a helmet.
Is it legal for children to ride e-bikes elsewhere in the world?
Every country has different rules, which sometimes vary between states/provinces so you need to check before you travel. For example, in the USA the laws vary, with some states having an age limit of 16 years and other states having no age limit at all.
Why is there an age limit on electric bikes in the UK?
The Department for Transport told Cycle Sprog "Driving a powered or power-assisted vehicle, on or off road, demands a certain level of responsibility, increasing with the power and weight of the vehicle. 16 is the minimum age to ride a moped. This was reduced to 14 years for EAPC taking into account the lower level of power compared to a moped. It is worth noting that statistically, the youngest riders of powered 2-wheel vehicles are at most risk. We would not recommend the use of power-assisted bikes off-road by riders under 14."
We are waiting for more details of the research proving younger riders are more at risk. The battery restriction of 15.5mph on e-bikes is significantly lower than the speeds we know many Cycle Sprogs frequently ride at, without a battery.
It's interesting there is no law restricting the weight of kids bikes - something we'd welcome, especially on those kids bikes that are half the body weight of a child.
Summary: Where are children allowed to ride e-bikes in the UK?
Children aged over 14 years are allowed to ride e-bikes anywhere normal pedal bicycles are allowed (i.e. roads, bridleways, national forests and trail centres). They must not be ridden on pavements.
In Northern Ireland they need a moped licence and the bike must be registered, taxed and insured.
Children below this age limit are allowed to ride e-bikes on bridleways and on private land with the land owners permission. They are not allowed to ride them on the road, on pavements or in the national forests (including trail centres).
Because kids e-bikes are a new phenomenon the rules surrounding them are, at the moment, in a relatively undocumented state. We've done our best to write a clear and correct article, based on the answers to questions we submitted to the Department for Transport, DEFRA and Forestry Scotland. We are not lawyers, so please take legal advice if you need it.
Cycle Sprog take no responsibility for any death, injury, damage or criminal conviction resulting from your child riding an e-bike.
Affiliate Disclosure: Like the majority of websites, Cycle Sprog uses affiliate schemes to give us an income. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on some of the links on this page we may receive a small commission. This doesn't affect what you pay, but helps to keep us going. Thanks for your support.
Other articles you should read whilst you're here:
- E-bikes and child bike seats - all your questions answered
- Best kids 20" wheel MTB's for 5 and 6 year olds
- The best kids 24" wheel mountain bikes
- The best kids 26" wheel mountain bikes
- How we became a mountain biking family in just one year
- Review of Cube Kid 240 SL kids mountain bike (aka Reaction TM)
- Review of the Cube Stereo 140 Youth full suspension mountain bike
- The best full suspension kids mountain bikes
- The Swale Trail, Yorkshire Dales – a family mountain bike trail of two halves
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