Police roadside test to uncover illegal e-bikes

illegal e-bikes

Dutch police have unveiled a new roadside device for testing whether e-bikes comply with the law.

The mobile rolling road test benches can assess whether e-bikes, speed pedelecs and electric fat bikes comply with the law. Riders of illegal e-bikes risk a €290 fine (almost £250).

The tech is being rolled out to address an increasing number of crashes involving bicycles in the Netherlands – figures that correspond with a soaring number of e-bikes and other electrically powered two-wheelers.

Is my e-bike legal?

There are so many different types of e-bike on the market, it can be tricky to know which are road legal – especially with some importers claiming that speed limiters are all you need to conform with British law.

E-bike legislation varies by country so buying second-hand, or online from abroad, can lead to confusion. Here in the UK, e-bikes used anywhere other than private land must not provide powered assistance beyond 15.5 mph (25 km/h) and maximum continuous rated power up to 250W.

If your cycle has pedals and an electric motor of no more than 250 watts that cuts out once you’re travelling more than 15.5mph (25 km/h), then in the eyes of UK law it’s an EAPC (electrically assisted pedal cycle) sometimes referred to as an e-bike, or pedelec. It’s important to remember that the 250W figure refers to the power of the motor and not the battery. If you’re unsure about the power output of the motor (it’s not always visibly marked), then make certain that motorised assistance cuts out at 15.5mph.

If the e-bike conforms to these requirements, you can ride it on the road or any cycle paths – anywhere a conventional bicycle can be used. It also means you won’t find it any trouble to insure. For example, here at the ETA, we charge no extra for insuring an electric bicycle and include £2m third party cover and protection against battery theft as standard. Oh, and if you break down we’ll arrange for you and your electric bike to be taken to a repair shop, railway station or home (within a 25-mile radius).


charger speed pedelec

Speed limiters

Beware e-bikes that sold with speed limiters you can alter yourself. The fact you can restrict your e-bike to 15.5mph does not make it legal for use on British roads if the motor is rated at about 250W. Apart from anything else, you will not be able to insure this type of bike as a bicycle.

Who is allowed to ride an electric bike in the UK?

You don’t need a licence, vehicle tax or insurance to ride an electric bicycle, but must be over 14 years old.

Speed Pedelecs

If your electric bicycle is equipped with a motor that’s more powerful than 250W, or if it assists you when you’re riding more than 15.5 mph – in the eyes of the law it’s a motorcycle and as such needs to be registered, insured and taxed. You’ll also need the appropriate driving licence and helmet approved for motorbike use. These so-called speed pedelecs have been given their own type approval in Europe so that they can be ridden like bicycles subject to certain conditions but no such provision exists here in the UK.

These other kind of bikes (also called speed pedelecs) cannot be ridden on cycle paths and must be approved by the DVLA. So while it’s easy to de-restrict an e-bike to get the motor assisting you with higher speeds, it is not very wise to do so, both for regulatory and safety reasons.

My electric bicycle has a throttle – is it legal?

Since January 1 2016, the only throttles legal on new bikes are those that provide starting assistance ie. assist the rider without pedalling up to a maximum speed of 3.7 mph. At that speed, the throttle cuts off.  If the cyclist pedals at the same time, the throttle can still assist up to the 15.5mph limit.

Bikes sold before January 1 2016 may have a full-speed throttle (you don’t need to pedal at all to reach the 15.5mph limit) but are considered legal due to having been sold before the law changed.

The ETA has been providing specialist cycle cover for over 30 years and we’re proud to be rated as Britain’s most ethical provider by The Good Shopping Guide.

We cover all road-legal electric bicycles as standard. If the output of your electric bicycle does not exceed 250 W/15.5 mph, we’ll cover it under our cycle insurance at no additional cost.

We also include Cycle Rescue as standard. If your e-bike develops a mechanical fault, you can call on our breakdown team 24/7.

Every cycle insurance policy of ours includes the following as standard:

• Theft, accidental damage & vandalism
• E-bike battery theft cover
• Cycle Rescue (breakdown cover for your electric bicycle and you)
• No devaluation of your bike over time
• £2m third party PLUS £20,000 personal accident cover
• Shed and garage storage
• Low standard excess of 5% (£50 minimum)

Read a full list of everything we include as standard.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.


  1. Rat West


    Shame these EAPC regulations are not enforced. I have ridden the excellent cycleway system in Milton Keynes, called Redways, for over fifty years, and over the last few years often get overtaken by speed pedelecs doing 30 mph or more. The same goes for bought electric scooters – again no enforcement whatsoever – any one journey I might see four or five of these, often ridden with no regard for other’s safety, it by kids !
    Just one of the areas of this shit show of a government’s cheapest possible policing – do nothing !!!!!!!

  2. Wayne


    The laws need updating now, ebike for large people, are not fit for purposes, either make it possible to register, tax and insure a higher powered one upto 1000w with speed restrictions

  3. Robert hobbs


    Inter subject, I see the police in Netherlands are using a platform that can test if an illegal e-bike is being used on public roads. It’s high time that these bikes need to be removed from our roads & pedestrian walkways. How much would it cost to purchase one of these test platforms. If it within my price bracket , I will gladly purchase one for Essex police to clamp down on these uninsured riders.

  4. Robert Hobbs


    It’s high time these illegal e-bike riders are prosecuted & have their bike confiscated. I see the police in the Netherlands have equipment to test & confiscate these high power bikes that have no insurance or reg plates . At what price would it cost to purchase one of these test platforms. I not to expensive I would buy one for Essex poli. Let’s get tog and remove these bikes from our roads

  5. Leonard


    You are joking arnt you what an absolute waste of money and resources

    This is nothing more than a money making scheme by the money hungry powers that be

  6. Alan Clarke


    If you ride amongst e-MTBs and have an idea of what power is needed to climb at what speed you’ll have realised all these “250” W high torque electric mountain bikes are actually a lot more powerful – eg this is what specialized say “All full power motors provide 250w of nominal output. “Nominal” means the power output that the motor can maintain over a defined period of time in a standardized test. Depending on the specific motor type, a full power turbo bike will provide the rider with 400 to 560 watts of peak power”

    No doubt some lawyers have ensured this is compliant somehow but how does your average bobby deal with this? Do they know what the “standardised test” is or just see power over 250W?

    TBH I think car replacement cargo bikes could use more than 250 W just to maintain 25 km/h but in my mind are still e-bikes – it’s going above normal cyling speeds that causes problems

    • The ETA


      The peak power rating will not be evident as, on a legally compliant bike, it will not allow a maximum motor-assisted speed of over 15.5mph.

  7. Bob


    If they had these in Norwich the authorities would make an absolute killing in fines!

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