Riding a power-assisted bicycle

A power assisted bicycle or pedal cycle, is a pedal cycle with an electric motor attached to assist the rider. The attached electric motor may provide assistance but the pedals must be the main means of propulsion.

In South Australia, there are two categories of power assisted bicycles that may be used legally on our roads:

  • power assisted bicycles with an electric motor with a power output of up to 200 Watts and the power is controlled by either a throttle or an accelerator
  • power assisted bicycles with an electric motor with a power output of not more than 250 Watts of continuous power, which meets the definition of a pedelec (the power is controlled by the rider using the pedals).

New regulations regarding power assisted bicycles

As from the 15 December 2016 internal combustion engines that are fitted to bicycles are not permitted to be used on South Australian roads or road-related areas.

What is a pedelec?

To be a pedelec, legal for use on our roads, the power assisted bicycle must comply with the European Committee for Standardization EN 15194:2009 or EN 15194:2009+A1:2011 Cycles - Electrically power assisted cycles - EPAC Bicycle ('EN 15194') and this includes the following:

  • It must be certified by the manufacturer and labelled as complying with EN 15194. The label is often found on the bicycle's frame immediately adjacent to the crank.
    The label must have:
    • the manufacturer's name
    • the motor's cut off speed in km/h
    • its electric motor motor maximum continuous rated power in watts.
  • The motor must be electric.
  • The maximum continuous power output of the motor cannot exceed 250 watts.
  • The rider must pedal to access the power the motor may operate without pedalling up to a speed of 6 km/h.
  • The power must cut out when the pedelec reaches 25 km/h or sooner if the operator stops pedalling.

Road rules for power assisted bicycles

Riders do not require a driver's licence, motor vehicle registration or compulsory third party insurance. Riders are bound by the same rules as for other bicycles, including the need for:

  • the rider to wear a helmet
  • effective brakes
  • a bell, or other audible warning device
  • a rear-facing red reflector at night
  • a white light to the front and a red light to the rear at night (both may flash) clearly visible from at least 200 metres.

Differences between a power assisted bicycle and a motorcycle

A power assisted bicycle is a bicycle with an electric motor attached to assist the rider. At first glance some motorbikes with pedals look very similar to power assisted bicycle. The main differences are speed, pedal crank spacing, weight, seat position, seat shape and gearing.

A good rule of thumb for deciding if the pedals are the main power source is:

  • if the distance between the inner faces of the cranks is less than 180 mm
  • whether it can easily be ridden without power assistance (you should be able to ride it home if the assistance motor fails).

If these apply and the motor output is either 200 Watts (or less) or 250 Watts (and meets the definition of a pedelec), then it is a power assisted bicycle.

If the main source of power is the motor then it is a motor vehicle and operating it requires a driver's licence, registration and compulsory third party insurance. However, few, if any, of these vehicles are able to be registered because they are not capable of meeting registration requirements, such as compliance with the Australian Design Rules. Such vehicles cannot be legally operated on our roads.

Power assisted bicycle This is a power assisted bicycle. It has an adjustable seat and multiple gears to make it easier to pedal, as well as a battery pack and a electric motor to assist the rider.
Electric bike looks more like a motorcycle not permitted in South Australia
This is not a power assisted bicycle because the seat is too low for pedalling and the pedals are so widely spaced that they are of little use. They are low enough to dig in when cornering. It is obvious that the pedals are not the main means of propulsion.
Bike looks like a power assisted bike but has a petrol engine
This is not a power assisted bicycle because it is fitted with a internal combustion motor.

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Page last updated 5 May 2017

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