BA statements and briefings: e-bike road and fire safety
July 10, 2023
The Bicycle Association has noted with concern recent tragic incidents reported as involving “e-bikes” (actually unregistered electric motorbikes) and also concerning incidences of lithium battery fires involving e-bikes.
For ease of reference please find below BA statements and related briefings on each of these issues:
The Bicycle Association (BA) is the trade association representing the UK cycle industry.
The Bicycle Association was saddened to read about recent tragic incidents involving vehicles described as “e-bikes”. We extend our sympathy to the family and friends of all involved.
It has been reported that the vehicles involved in these incidents were “Sur Ron” (or similar) electric motorbikes.
However these vehicles have, misleadingly in our opinion, been widely reported as “electric bikes” or “e-bikes”.
In the UK, the gently motor-assisted cycles known commonly as “electric bikes” or “e-bikes” are limited in speed to 15.5 mph and have at most 250 W (1/3 horsepower) assist motors. They must also have functional pedals.
Only e-bikes which meet these strict criteria, legally referred to as “Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles” (EAPCs), are exempted from full motorcycle regulations if used on road or in public places. The rider must also be pedalling for the motor assistance to operate (with some very limited exceptions).
Vehicles such as the “Sur Ron” exceed these limits for both speed and power, and operate without pedalling. So in the UK, such vehicles are classed as electric motorbikes, requiring full type approval, registration, tax, licence, insurance and a motorbike helmet to be worn. Riding such a vehicle on road without all of these aspects in place is illegal and risks incurring fines, points on any driving licence held, and any insurance is also likely to be invalidated.
So the BA, on behalf of the UK cycling industry, would stress that what are usually referred to as e-bikes for sale in reputable UK cycle shops have almost nothing in common in technical or safety terms with the electric motorbikes which were reportedly being ridden in these recent incidents.
We would also urge media reporting such incidents to clarify that these vehicles are illegal unregistered e-motorcycles and not e-bikes.
Suppliers of illegal e-motorcycles are not part of the reputable cycle industry and the BA regularly reports such sellers to the responsible authority.
UK road legal e-bikes (EAPCs) have an excellent safety record and the assistance power is of the same order of magnitude that riders can apply by pedalling. The motor assist speed limit (15.5 mph) is a lower speed than can often be achieved by a fit unassisted rider.
All reputable e-bikes on sale today should meet the EAPC rules, and anyone looking to buy an e-bike should ensure that the maximum assisted speed is no more than 15.5 mph (or 25 km/h), and the nominal motor power is no more than 250 W.
People in the UK will find e-bikes safe, fun, healthy and a wonderfully practical means of transport, with the potential to significantly contribute to reducing carbon emissions from transport, reducing noise and congestion and improving air quality in cities.
We recommend that the first step for anyone interested in trying a safe, UK-specification e-bike is to visit a reputable local cycle retailer for professional advice and support.
Also, for safety, please do always read the instructions, seek cycle training if you feel you need it, and keep your e-bike well maintained. We also recommend that you obtain only genuine spare parts (especially batteries) and again only from reputable UK suppliers.
This BA Guide outlines the current UK regulations for the sale and use of road-legal e-bikes (Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles)
This BA briefing note covers the law surrounding the illegal use of unregistered electric motorbikes, often mis-reported as "e-bikes":
You can read the BA's response to a report published (in July 2023) by Electrical Safety First, here.
- You can read the BA's publicly available batteries guidance online - it contains notes about safe use, transport, sourcing and more.
- The BA is also trialling a UK-wide waste battery collection scheme, as you can read here.
- The BA was instrumental in convening a cross-Governmental roundtable on this issue in February 2023, as reported here.
Products are available which claim to convert conventional pedal cycles into e-bikes, and this document explores some of the cautions and considerations involved. It includes notes around fire safety and a note that users should be careful to purchase only kits which meet the UK's road legal e-bike (EAPC) regulations. Buying and fitting a kit which does not comply with these regulations will create an unregistered motorbike.