Why Not Gas Assist Motors?


Jon asked: Wondering why, according to statute definition, a human pedaled bike with an electric assist motor is still a bike but a bike that is human pedaled with a gas assist motor is no longer a bike but a moped that requires registration. What was the reason/justification behind author of that statute. More logical would be to retain any bike with any type of assist, be it gas, electric, wind, other, as bikes; all should be classified as bikes as long as less than 20mph (or 30mph or whatever max speed limitation deemed appropriate). Just doesn’t make sense…..bike with electric motor assist is bike, but a bike with gas motor assist is not a bike?


We don’t have the precise legislative intent about the gas/electric assist motor issue, but there is a discussion including our best guess at the rationale and a legislative committee decision against changing the present law to include gas motors in the statute in this post:


See this link in the post for the latest information on the issue.


11 Comments on “Why Not Gas Assist Motors?

  1. There is a fellow here in Pinellas County who has an electric bike that goes 45 mph and he rides it on the sidewalk. So far I have been unable to get law enforcement to do anything about it even with video!

  2. Because they regulated the moped first. Then the electric bike.
    And to me it makes sense.
    FYI It irks me how many people get away with illegal bicycles here in the US. Poor education I guess.

  3. Maybe Phil will learn, like I did, that the local LEO claims that § 316.1995(1) Fla. Stat. “Driving upon sidewalk or bicycle path.— Except as provided in s. 316.008 or s. 316.212(8), a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk…” does not forbid motorized bicycles which meet the statutory definition of “bicycle” (§ 316.003(2)) from being driven on sidewalks even if their motors are providing power.

    Likewise, a state agency has informed me that FDOT has advised it that § 316.1995(1) does not forbid motorized bicycles from being driven on shared-use paths (“multi-use trails”) either. It claims that a motorized bicycle, even when its motor is providing power, may be ridden anywhere a human powered bicycle is permitted to go.

  4. I see guys riding bikes with gas power now and then on and off the sidewalks and have never seen one stopped by the police. The problem is that no one really knows what the laws are, most police don’t and they don’t have time to stop people on bikes. I have even seen mopeds riding in the bike lanes as if they a bike. And you also have to remember that those who make the laws have no idea either about what they are doing and don’t know anything about bikes.

  5. HarryB,

    I can’t understand how “ …a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk …. “ can possibly be interpreted to mean that a person may operate a vehicle under motor power on a sidewalk.

    Sidewalks and bike paths are defined in the statutes, but there is no statute that defines a shared-use/multi-use trail or path. This is the MUTCD definition:

    Shared-Use Path—A bikeway outside the traveled way and physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier and either within the highway right-of-way or within an independent alignment. Shared-use paths are also used by pedestrians (including skaters, users of manual and motorized wheelchairs, and joggers) and other authorized motorized and non- motorized users.

    The FDOT Greenbook defines it as:

    SHARED USE PATH – Paved facilities physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier. May be within the highway right of way or an independent right of way, with minimal cross flow by motor vehicles. Users are non-motorized and may include: pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, people with disabilities, and others.

    I would be cautious using information attributed to an unidentified person at FDOT.

  6. Any official FDOT position on some question would be expressed in a public FDOT policy, planning or other document and be posted on the FDOT website. Absent supporting information of some kind that can be referenced, an opinion expressed by someone who works at an FDOT office may be…just that.

    Under Florida law, use of a bike lane by a moped rider is not prohibited. Use of a sidewalk by a moped rider is prohibited, under s. 316.1995(1), because “moped” is defined as a “vehicle” (s. 316.003(77)), and to date no exception for use of sidewalks has been carved out for mopeds (as has been done, e.g., for golf carts, under certain conditions).

    In the 1970s, when the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law was adopted, Florida’s definition of “Bicycle” did include mopeds with a rating not exceeding 1 1/2 brake horsepower; electric-assist bicycles didn’t exist and weren’t mentioned.

    Sometime in the mid-1980s , a separate definition of “Moped” was introduced and mopeds were excluded from the definition of “Bicycle”. This was done to be consistent with the (national model) Uniform Vehicle Code of the day, and because the characteristics of mopeds (which, consistent with the UVC, were defined to have motors capable of propelling them not faster than 30 mph on level ground) were thought to differ too much from those of exclusively human-powered bicycles.

    Electric-assist bicycles began to gain notice in the 1990s, and by 1993 Florida’s definition of “Bicycle” recognized, as a “motorized bicycle”, an e-bike with a “motor rated at not more than 200 watts and capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 10 miles per hour on level ground…” Later the definition was amended again to delete the power limit and increase the level-ground speed capability to 20 mph.

    At the time, there seemed to be little market interest in a moped with a level-ground speed capability no greater than 20 mph; moped riders wanted their little gas-powered cycles to go faster.

    The Dutch do make a legal distinction between light mopeds, which are limited to a maximum speed of 25 km/h, and heavy mopeds, with a maximum speed of 45 km/h. The experience there has been that many moped riders disable the speed limiters, as reported by various bloggers (see, e.g., http://bicycleperth.blogspot.com/2014/05/snorfiets.html ).

  7. Thank you for this last part.
    Also the Dutch declare any bicycle propelled by an electric motor exceeding 250 watt and faster than 25 km Is not a bicycle, but an electric moped or.. Depending on its final speed of 45 km a heavy scooter. A different color plate is issued for the different units. Also a helmet is required if you fall in the heavy moped category.

  8. Thanks Dwight,

    I know I can always count on you for a comprehensive answer to the questions. We do appreciate your input.

  9. Geo,

    It is not my intention to hijack this thread—however, I felt it necessary to advise Phil that this issue is not as black and white as this site has stated (and with which I am in full agreement).

    I have been discussing this issue with various officials for a number of years and have spent an inordinate amount of time researching the looming problem of motorized bicycles. Permit me to quote a couple of the relevant parts of the responses I have received regarding this issue and will then send you a new message in case you or anyone else wishes to address the specifics of what I’ve been discussing with various officials.

    Here is part of the responses I have received from the manager of the Withlacoochee State Trail (WST) when I criticized the DEP’s decision to permit motorized bicycles to be ridden on that (formerly) non-motorized trail: “After forwarding your email to our District Bureau Chief, it is my understanding that this was less a “new rule” than clarification to staff provided by the Division’s Management Team (Field and Tallahassee Bureau Chiefs) in response to a visitor’s question, and making sure this is applied consistently throughout the Florida Park Service. This isn’t a new rule, but merely ensuring we are aligned with the Florida Statute’s definition of a bicycle. Staff consulted with The Florida Department of Transportation and the Office of Greenways and Trails and confirmed this also aligns with the Federal rules for Transportation Enhancement grants. The definitions provided in F.S. 316 is what law enforcement officers utilize for determining the appropriateness of any type of vehicle use in different locations. Rules for the Division of Recreation and Parks can be found in Florida Administrative Code 62D-2.”

    FAC 62D-2.014 does not address motorized bicycles at all, but of greater interest is the reference to “Federal rules for Transportation Enhancement grants”. The DEP believes there is a pot of gold waiting for them at the end of the Transportation Alternatives (TA) funds rainbow and I suspect their decision to permit “e-bikes” to be operated on the WST is directly tied in with their efforts to get some $9 million for the repaving of this trail (which they have neglected for decades). I have discussed the legal questions in more detail with the District Bureau Chief, and his response was as confusing as this one.

    Here is part of a response I received from a Captain in the local Sheriff’s Department when I claimed that the statutes forbid motorized bicycles (“e-bikes”) from being operated on sidewalks or shared-use paths when their motor is providing any power: “Since the E-Bike by Florida definition as well as the Federal Definition is classified as a bicycle it would then hold or be allowed to travel in the same pathways as a “bicycle”. The elements of the law dealing with under human power was actually written to deal with mopeds on bike paths or sidewalks, and shouldn’t be used by proxy to e-bikes. (Since the e-bike definition is new and under-human power aspect hasn’t been updated)”

  10. 1. A “motorized bicycle” (e-bike) has been classified as a bicycle for purposes of Florida traffic law since 1993, although the qualifying specifications were adjusted in the mid-1990s.

    2. S. 316.1995 has been updated twice since e-bikes were included in the state’s definition of ‘Bicycle”. It was updated in 1999 and again in 2010. The changes in 2010 clarified that the section does not apply to motorized wheelchairs and allowed exceptions for golf carts under certain conditions.

    3. The federal definition of “low-speed electric bicycle” was introduced in a law amending the Consumer Product Safety Act in 2002. It pertains only to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s regulation of safety standards applicable in the manufacture and first sale of bicycles. The federal definition doesn’t modify or supersede state traffic laws. Wikipedia has a summary of the federal regulations at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#Federal_Laws_and_Regulations_Pertaining_to_the_Sale_of_Electric_Bicycles .

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