What to know about e-bikes in Boston, MA

Here’s some wheely good news for Boston bikers.

An e-bike parked outside the Massachusetts State House

Did you know that ~260,000 e-bikes are sold in the US each year?

Photo by @deltacyclecorp

Table of Contents

This year, Massachusetts’ e-bikes legislation didn’t fall flat. The popularity of the modern electric bikes has grown rapidly over the last five years, so it was time to put the pedal to the metal and update the previous rules for this method of transportation.

What is an e-bike?

Electric-assist bicycles look very similar to an average bicycle, but feature a battery + some have added technology to sense when a hill is approaching or when the rider needs a little boost from a stop.

As of August 2022, the state’s new e-bike language was signed into law as amendments to the Transportation Bond Bill. This law will go into effect 90 days from signing, which is coming up on Nov. 8.

That means that a short ride from now, riders can cruise on an electric bicycle with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling + that ceases to provide assistance when the it reaches 20 mph. Ten other states share this classification.

What are the rules of the road?

E-bike riders have to follow regulations just like standard bicycle riders + motor vehicle drivers. E-bikes share all the rights and privileges applied to bicycle riders, so they can be ridden on public bikeways and bike paths.

They are not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks and should not be ridden on natural surface trails (aka mountain bike paths).

What’s ahead on the road for e-bikes?

The Transportation Bond Bill included a provision for $1 million from the Department of Energy Resources to establish a state rebate program to help supplement the cost of e-bikes with $500 rebates, and up to $750 rebates for qualified low-income consumers. Typically, an e-bike costs ~$1,500. The state’s financial team is expected to begin working on this new program in 2023.