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E-bikes 'being widely used over their speed limits'

Users are not keeping to the 15.5mph law - but is it safe?

E-bikes are being widely used above their legal speed limit above the UK - and purchasers are not being told of the processes needed to ride them at their maximum speeds.

The helmet cam rider CycleGaz posted a video seven months ago of being overtaken by a cyclist who wasn’t even pedalling, and claims the other rider was going at 28mph.

The Sunday Times investigated, and found staff selling bikes capable of these speeds telling customers it was a legal ‘grey area’ whether they needed to be insured and licensed.

In fact, according to the government, in Great Britain, if you’re 14 or over you don’t need a licence to ride electric bikes that meet certain requirements, and they don’t need to be registered, taxed or insured.

But those requirements are as follows:

  •     the bike must have pedals that can be used to propel it
  •     the electric motor shouldn’t be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph
  •     the motor shouldn’t have a maximum power output of more than 250 watts

Many e-biked currently on sale can hit speeds of 30mph, and those with speed limiters are easily hacked by their owners.

Ebikes with bigger motors and capable of faster speeds are classified as mopeds and must be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), taxed and insured.

The Sunday times found the retailer 50Cycles selling a range of German Kalkhoff “speed ebikes” with 350-watt motors capable of speeds of up to 28mph.

A journalist posing as a shopper however was told that it was a “grey area” and that he was only aware of two customers who had registered their ebikes with the DVLA.

Company management have since said the staff will be retrained.

James FitzGerald, the owner of Justebikes, which has stores in London, Leicester and Leiston, Suffolk, told the paper that bikes modified to go faster than 15.5mph had not been safety tested at those speeds.

 

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22 comments

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mike the bike | 7 years ago
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There seems to be a misconception here, e-bikes are not restricted to a speed of 15 mph in this country.  In fact they are not speed-restricted at all, although that could change if a test case ever reaches a higher court.

What is the subject of legal limit is the speed at which the motor must stop powering the bike, the oft quoted 15 mph, but there is nothing to stop the rider from pedalling at any speed he can reach.  And, as the machines are getting lighter, that could be a considerable speed.

This info comes direct from our village bobby, and despite looking about fourteen, he is rarely wrong.

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pete666 | 7 years ago
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If riders are not registering more powerful ebikes themselves, then surely these bikes should not be allowed out of the bike shop without the buyer filling in their details in a registration certificate, have proof of insurance, driving licence, etc just like with buying a car. Or am I being silly?

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jmaccelari | 7 years ago
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I have never seen an ebike that wasn't able to do an assisted 25mph on my commute. I chatted to the one bloke and he said in order to get around the restrictions he just ordered his from Germany. He then was decent enough to give me a decent tow while pootling along at close on 30mph!

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J90 replied to jmaccelari | 7 years ago
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jmaccelari wrote:

I have never seen an ebike that wasn't able to do an assisted 25mph on my commute. I chatted to the one bloke and he said in order to get around the restrictions he just ordered his from Germany. He then was decent enough to give me a decent tow while pootling along at close on 30mph!

You've just highlighted a potential use for e-bikes - motorpacing! Just like a Derny on the track....which are mostly now all electric, which is shite btw.

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mattsccm | 7 years ago
1 like

I assume that the point is that anything above that speed is not regarded as a bike legally. Thus the riders who exceed the speed are breaking the law. The dangers include relatively high speeds where not expected and no noise as an alert. Also those doing this are also likely to be those who show little respect for others and for example may be rding where motor vehciles are not allowed.

All little things that don't do anyone any favours.  Just another rod to beat the back of cycling in general.

 

That in its self is enough for complete condemnation. One doesn't break laws. More to the point if this carries on there will be tighter legislation, as there was with mopeds in the 70's. It will make it harder to access these bikes, which although to most cyclists they are silly, do give greater access to a few.

I would love an electric motor cycle with a decent range and speed but to me, these just seem pointless but they may well bring others into cycling which apparently is good.

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HarrogateSpa | 7 years ago
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E-bikes are being widely used above their legal speed limit above the UK

Flying e-bikes now! That is dangerous.

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DamonC | 7 years ago
1 like

I don't think it's a real problem. People can cycle far faster than the restrictions and in the US E bikes are allowed to be more powerful. I'd much rather people use e bikes than drive and the government should be supporting this be making it easier to buy one. Perhaps there needs to be a special class for higher powered E bikes/ E mopeds up to 30mph and 1000 Watts or something like that with light touch regulation E.g. need a CBT and possibly license plates. Currently it's quite difficult and expensive to register a electric vehicle more powerful than an ebike but less than a high powered moped. If that were made easier I reckon it would persuade a lot of people with short commutes away from their cars. Also allow more powerful e cargo bikes making carrying heavy loads up hill easier. 250W is pretty wimpy for a cargo trike.

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Jimnm replied to DamonC | 7 years ago
2 likes
DamonC wrote:

I don't think it's a real problem. People can cycle far faster than the restrictions and in the US E bikes are allowed to be more powerful. I'd much rather people use e bikes than drive and the government should be supporting this be making it easier to buy one. Perhaps there needs to be a special class for higher powered E bikes/ E mopeds up to 30mph and 1000 Watts or something like that with light touch regulation E.g. need a CBT and possibly license plates. Currently it's quite difficult and expensive to register a electric vehicle more powerful than an ebike but less than a high powered moped. If that were made easier I reckon it would persuade a lot of people with short commutes away from their cars. Also allow more powerful e cargo bikes making carrying heavy loads up hill easier. 250W is pretty wimpy for a cargo trike.

With regards to getting people away from their cars, it'll never happen because the vast majority of drivers are very lazy people. IMO Plus they might get wet lol  3 

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tritecommentbot | 7 years ago
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No worries. Pull up at the lights and let slip a 'strong legs mate'.

 

 

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Cantab replied to tritecommentbot | 7 years ago
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unconstituted wrote:

No worries. Pull up at the lights and let slip a 'strong legs mate'.

 

Quite. I've had a Jeremy Hunt blast past me on his motorised fatbike when I was doing 25mph on the flat. Clearly thought he was the dog's danglies but not really that impressive when his watts are coming from a battery.

Take pride that you're under your own steam and laugh when the puny muppets do themselves a mischief at speeds they're not equipped for.

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STiG911 replied to Cantab | 7 years ago
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Cantab wrote:
unconstituted wrote:

No worries. Pull up at the lights and let slip a 'strong legs mate'.

 

Quite. I've had a Jeremy Hunt blast past me on his motorised fatbike when I was doing 25mph on the flat. Clearly thought he was the dog's danglies but not really that impressive when his watts are coming from a battery.

Take pride that you're under your own steam and laugh when the puny muppets do themselves a mischief at speeds they're not equipped for.

Another point is how much these things weigh, particularly when it comes to stopping it. It's one thing to potentialy get hit by a cycle regardless of whose fault it is, but being hit by an e-bike? That's a lot of kinetic energy to disperse...

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Paul J replied to STiG911 | 7 years ago
2 likes
STiG911 wrote:

Another point is how much these things weigh, particularly when it comes to stopping it. It's one thing to potentialy get hit by a cycle regardless of whose fault it is, but being hit by an e-bike? That's a lot of kinetic energy to disperse...

Plus, I dare say there'd be more that just the e-bike that is carrying extra weight.  3

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Mungecrundle | 7 years ago
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28 mph in a 30? Am I failing to see the problem here?

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JeevesBath replied to Mungecrundle | 7 years ago
1 like
Mungecrundle wrote:

28 mph in a 30? Am I failing to see the problem here?

Well, when one of them wipes out a pedestrian and the resultant outrage is directed at all cyclists - I'd say 'yes' ....

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Stef Marazzi | 7 years ago
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Bizarrely in the UK, lots of cars are restricted to 155mph, when the maximum speed limit is 70 miles per hour! Outrageous. The papers should write about it. The public needs to know!

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joules1975 replied to Stef Marazzi | 7 years ago
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cyclesteffer wrote:

Bizarrely in the UK, lots of cars are restricted to 155mph, when the maximum speed limit is 70 miles per hour! Outrageous. The papers should write about it. The public needs to know!

Even more bizarely, that restiction is actually due to a German regulation (you'll find that it's only cars from BMZ, Merc, and other german brands that have the restiction, and that 155mph is equivilent to a slightly more rounded 250 kph), and that it has something to do with the Greens over in Germany complaining about cars being too fast and so the law was introduced to limit the top speed. How 155 mph isn't too fast I've no idea.

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WDG replied to joules1975 | 7 years ago
2 likes
joules1975 wrote:
cyclesteffer wrote:

Bizarrely in the UK, lots of cars are restricted to 155mph, when the maximum speed limit is 70 miles per hour! Outrageous. The papers should write about it. The public needs to know!

Even more bizarely, that restiction is actually due to a German regulation (you'll find that it's only cars from BMZ, Merc, and other german brands that have the restiction, and that 155mph is equivilent to a slightly more rounded 250 kph), and that it has something to do with the Greens over in Germany complaining about cars being too fast and so the law was introduced to limit the top speed. How 155 mph isn't too fast I've no idea.

It's not a law or regulation, it was a gentleman's agreement to limit speed.  Porsche never joined this, which is why their cars have always been unrestricted.  But as with gentleman's agreements, there's always ways round it.  Some manufacturers put them on top gear but the max could be hit in a lower gear, others had 'soft' limiters i.e. they weren't there.  Now you can easily get the limiters removed either by the manufacturers or aftermarket.  Same could be done on any machinery.

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J90 replied to joules1975 | 7 years ago
0 likes
joules1975 wrote:
cyclesteffer wrote:

Bizarrely in the UK, lots of cars are restricted to 155mph, when the maximum speed limit is 70 miles per hour! Outrageous. The papers should write about it. The public needs to know!

Even more bizarely, that restiction is actually due to a German regulation (you'll find that it's only cars from BMZ, Merc, and other german brands that have the restiction, and that 155mph is equivilent to a slightly more rounded 250 kph), and that it has something to do with the Greens over in Germany complaining about cars being too fast and so the law was introduced to limit the top speed. How 155 mph isn't too fast I've no idea.

155mph is too slow for the Autobahn!

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Leviathan | 7 years ago
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Was Gaz pedalling furiously and dangerously to keep up?

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Yorkshire wallet replied to Leviathan | 7 years ago
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Leviathan wrote:

Was Gaz pedalling furiously and dangerously to keep up?

Well exactly. It's a rare day I'll hit 30 on the flat but it can be done, the thing is I'll pedalling like a loon and probably in less actual control of the bike than if was cruising at 18 or so. 

The main problem I have with these things is I think they appeal to the sort of people that ride unregistered pitbikes and minimotos around housing estates and are therefore probably likely to be ridden in a twatish manner. 

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Housecathst | 7 years ago
2 likes

I guess it's not much differents from have a speed limit of 70mph for motor vehicles but all cars can go well in excess of that limit. 

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Ciarán Carroll | 7 years ago
0 likes

That's not an E-Bike it's a bike with a two stroke motor. You can get it done for €100 in Dublin.

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