By: Jennifer E. Levy, Esq.

Photo by Tony Hisgett, per Creative Commons License. No changes were made.

Recently, there has been a massive increase in the sale of e-bikes. By some estimates, sales of e-bikes have ranged from a 92% to a 287% increase in sales globally compared to before the pandemic. E-bikes are considered cheaper to purchase than automobiles, more affordable to run than gas-powered vehicles, and more environmentally friendly than cars.   So it is not surprising to see them on your local streets more often.  

Governor Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature recently changed the law to include a definition of an e-bike. It defines “low-speed electric bicycles” as having pedals, two wheels, and an electric motor that runs up to 750 watts. E-bikes must also run up to 20 miles an hour or less. These e-bikes do not require registration, proof of license, or insurance. The bill further states that all laws that apply to traditional non-electric bikes apply to these e-bikes. Hence, if you are operating an e-bike and get into a Motor Vehicle accident, your car insurance generally pays your medical bills under the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. This means if you are driving and get hurt in a car accident, your medical bills are generally covered by your insurance regardless of who is at fault, even if you are hit while being a pedestrian. By passing this new law, New Jersey is including those involved in accidents with e-bikes by requiring insurance companies to extend PIP coverage. 

Suppose you are in a crash involving an e-bike and do not have car insurance because you do not own or operate a vehicle and no one in your household owns or operates a car. In that case, you can apply for NJPLIGA to cover your medical bills, which is the state fund to provide coverage – mostly for pedestrians – for those who have no other place to go to get coverage for an auto accident.  However, they have not been granting coverage to anyone on an e-bike.  In fact, they have specifically been asking for photographs of the bike to ensure it is only a bicycle and not an e-bike.  

The big catch is that if the bike is an electric or gas-powered bike that can travel above 19 mph and less than 25 mph, it is most likely defined as a motorized bike. According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Agency, “A motorized bicycle (moped) is defined by law as a pedal bicycle with a helper motor, electric or gas-powered, capable of a maximum speed of no more than 25 miles per hour on a flat surface…”  The NJ Revised Statutes explain it can also be “a pedal bicycle having an electric motor that is capable of propelling the bicycle in excess of 20 miles per hour with a maximum motor-powered speed of no more than 28 miles per hour on a flat surface…”  Many bikes sold as e-bikes are legally considered motorized bicycles, not e-bikes.  

Motorized bicycles require a license, registration, and insurance. Yet, many people who own and operate motorized bicycles do not know this and do not own insurance. This creates a massive issue for those involved in accidents with these drivers. These riders become uninsured motorists. If you own a motorized bike, you should get a motor vehicle insurance policy to protect yourself. If you are driving a motorized bicycle without motor vehicle insurance and are hit by another vehicle in a crash, NJPLIGA will not cover you.

Low-Speed Electric Bikes (e-bikes)Motorized Bicycles/MopedMotorcycles
Maximum Speed19 mph20-25 mph
Where can it be parked?sidewalksParking spotsParking spots
License, registration,and insurance required?None requiredRequiredRequired
Laws followed?Up to municipality
Helmet required?RequiredRequiredRequired
Will PLIGA apply if you have no insurance?No, they are currently denying claims for all bikes that use electricity to operate in any way.NoNo

If you or a family member sustained injuries from an e-bike crash caused by another motor vehicle, feel free to reach out to Raff & Raff.  Safe riding!