Dean asked: Is an e bike with the following specs legal in the state of Florida:
500 w motor, fully operational pedals – bike can be manually operated, no pedal assist, Class 2 throttle, top speed 20 mph. The bike in question is the PRODECOTECH PHANTOM X2 V5 36V 500W 8-SPEED FOLDING ELECTRIC BIKE W/ CLASS 2 TWIST THROTTLE
If it meets the definition of “bicycle” in the statutes, it can be operated on the roads like any other bicycle without a driver’s license or registration.
s. 316.003 – Definitions
(3) Bicycle – Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. A person under the age of 16 may not operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle.
In your opinion does it meet the definition of a bicycle under the statute?
The statutory definition that Geo provided is often misunderstood, and many people claim that the type of “e-bike” you mentioned with a throttle may not be legally operated on roadways in Florida. If I remember correctly, that is the position the Florida Bicycle Association takes. However, the bicycle industry has determined otherwise—and they have a lot of money at stake.
If you read the statute carefully you will notice that in order to meet the definition of “motorized bicycle”, the device needs to be able to be propelled by human power, and is also able to be propelled by an “electric helper motor” that is not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 20 mph.
Some people claim that the electric motor may only provide propulsion if the operator is also providing some propulsion (“pedal-assist”), but the statute does not require that.
The specifications for the Prodectotech you mentioned states that the top speed is 20 mph, which means it meets the statutory speed restriction, and it can be propelled by human power, so it meets that requirement as well.
Please note that a motorized bicycle and a human propelled one are not synonymous—these three differences come to mind:
1) “A person under the age of 16 may not operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle.” – § 316.003 (3)
2) “… a person may not drive any vehicle other than by human power upon a bicycle path, sidewalk, or sidewalk area…” § 316.1995 (1). You may ride a motorized bicycle upon a sidewalk or bicycle path as long as you are propelling it by human power only—the motor must be turned off. Note that bicycle path would include bicycle facilities such as shared-use paths and rail-trails, but not bicycle lanes.
3) “Notwithstanding other provisions of this chapter, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle…” § 316.130 (15) This section provides pedestrians and people propelling human-powered bicycles with special legal protections, but it does not appear to extend those same protections to the operators of motorized bicycles while the motor is providing propulsion.
Other statutes provide due care protections to motorized bicycle operators.
s. 316.183 – Unlawful Speed
(1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance or object on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.
s. 316.185 – Special Hazards
The fact that the speed of a vehicle is lower than the prescribed limits shall not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed …. as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the street in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.
S. 316.003 states: “The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position”
What? I read this several times and could not understand it.
I agree it is confusing. It means that if the seat height is 25 inches or less it cannot be considered to be a bicycle for the purpose of traffic law. I believe this was written to preclude toy vehicles and before recumbents became popular. The FBA has this as an item on its legislative agenda.
Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, such as case law, we must assume the legislature meant what it wrote. In this case, I submit the statute is abundantly clear: if the seat height is not adjustable, the 25 inch minimum height restriction does not apply. I don’t understand why this is confusing.
What is the exact language of the change FBA has submitted to the legislature, and when was it submitted?