Information about Ebikes

A person preparing to ride an e-bike

The use of electric-assist bicycles ("ebikes") has grown rapidly over the last few years. Modern ebikes often look indistinguishable from a regular bike but have robust batteries and technology capable of providing a boost when a rider needs a helping hand over a hill, into a headwind, or pushing off from a stop. While ebikes have existed for years, recent advances in technology have allowed batteries to become smaller, lighter, cheaper, and longer range, enhancing the usefulness, appeal, and affordability of these machines. Ebikes are particularly appealing to those who use them as a tool to overcome challenges such as distance, topography, or limited physical fitness; for people running everyday errands who want to carry heavier loads; and for parents/caregivers transporting children. 

Because they make travel easier, ebikes are becoming increasingly popular around the world. For anyone riding on our roads and paths, we remind people to be careful and respectful while traveling.

  • Always keep your eyes and ears open; be mindful of others on the road.
  • Stay at a speed that is considerate of other users. Although ebikes in Massachusetts may go up to 20 mph (by law, no faster), lower speeds are appropriate for crowded conditions or when on a shared use path.
  • Make sure to handle batteries properly; proper charging and storage are essential for the safety of all. See the Ebike Battery Safety section below and this E-device Lithium Battery Safety Sheet (PDF) from the Cambridge Fire Department for more details.

Massachusetts Ebike Laws FAQ

How does Massachusetts define "ebike"?

Massachusetts state laws include definitions and regulations for ebikes. The regulations for ebikes are nearly identical to those for regular/pedal bikes; a notable exception is that ebikes are not permitted to be ridden on sidewalk.

  • CLASS 1: Bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the ebike reaches 20 mph, with an electric motor of 750 watts or less.
  • CLASS 2: Bicycle equipped with a throttle-actuated motor that ceases to provide assistance when the ebike reaches 20 mph, with an electric motor of 750 watts or less.

Where may I ride an ebike in Massachusetts?

Almost anywhere you currently ride a traditional bicycle!

  • Allowed on roadways and in bike lanes
  • Allowed on bike paths & paved trails, except where prohibited by local jurisdictions (check for signage!)
  • Not allowed on sidewalks
  • Not allowed on natural surface trails, except where specifically allowed by local jurisdictions (check for signage!)

May I ride an ebike on sidewalks?

No, ebikes are not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks in Massachusetts.

May I ride an ebike on my local bike path?

Under Massachusetts law, ebikes are allowed on bikeways and bike paths. In Cambridge, ebikes are allowed on all bike paths. However, a local jurisdiction may regulate their use on bikeways/bike paths, but only after a public notice and public hearing. So, make sure to check for signage before you ride in case ebikes are prohibited where you wish to ride.

May I ride an ebike on local natural surface trails (mountain bike trails)?

In Massachusetts, ebikes are not allowed on natural surface trails, unless they are specifically permitted by the local jurisdiction/land owner. Check the regulations on the trail you wish to ride before you go!

Can ebikes be safely operated on bike paths?

Yes. Researchers who have compared riders of ebikes and regular bikes at the University of Tennessee observed that ebikes riders exhibit similar safety behavior as riders of traditional bicycles. Perhaps most importantly, ebike riders traveled at similar speeds to riders of human powered bicycles. They rode slightly faster when riding on the road (about 1.8 mph faster), but actually slower than regular bikes riders when on bicycle paths (about 1 mph slower).

Do I need a license to ride an ebike in Massachusetts?

No, you don't need a license to ride an ebike in Massachusetts! Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles are not considered to be "motorized bicycles" as further defined in MA law, as such no license is required to ride them.

Thanks to MassBike for providing resource information; please see more here:

Illustration of a charging battery

E-bike Battery Safety

Most e-bikes (and e-scooters) are powered by lithium-ion (non-alkaline) batteries. This is the same type of battery that powers many of today's electric vehicles, cell phones, laptops, and power tools. When lithium-ion batteries are damaged, they can overheat, catch on fire, and even lead to explosions. When fires occur, they also tend to burn very hot and can be difficult for firefighters to extinguish.

There are a few ways to reduce the risk of fires involving e-bikes and e-scooters. First, if you are looking to buy one of these devices, only purchase ones that are listed by a nationally recognized testing lab and labeled accordingly (look for the "UL" mark on the battery and/or the packing). If you already own or use a device, don't continue to charge the battery once it's full, never use charging equipment that didn't come with your device, and stop using your device if the battery shows signs of damage, such as an unusual odor or change in color. If your device needs repairs, have them performed by a qualified professional.

Safety Tips

  • Purchase and use devices certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory UL (Underwriters Laboratory) and the most common laboratories.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and storage.
  • Use the correct battery, cord, and power adapter.
  • Plug directly into a wall electrical outlet for charging.
  • Keep batteries and devices at room temperature.
  • Store and/or charge batteries away from anything flammable.
  • Keep away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
  • Bring unwanted batteries to a Battery Recycling Center. Cambridge Department of Public Works accepts these batteries at the Recycling Center.


  • Never use aftermarket or generic batteries or chargers
  • Never plug into a power strip or overload an outlet.
  • Never overcharge or leave battery charging overnight.
  • Never charge a battery or device under your pillow, on your bed, or near a couch.
  • Never leave e-bikes or e-scooters unattended while charging.
  • Do not keep charging the device or device battery after it is fully charged.
  • Never block your primary way in or out of a room/space.
  • Do not place batteries in Trash or Recycling bins.
  • Only charge one device or device battery at a time to prevent overloading the circuit.
  • Keep batteries at room temperature when possible. Do not charge them at temperatures below 32°F (0°C) or above 105°F (40°C).
  • Do not store batteries in direct sunlight or inside hot vehicles.
  • Only have device repairs performed by a qualified professional.

Signs of a Problem

Stop using the e-bike or e-scooter if you notice any of these problems with the battery: unusual odor, change in color, too much heat, change in shape, leaking, smoking, or not keeping a charge.

See also this flyer on e-device lithium battery safety from the Cambridge Fire Department (PDF).