Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle – Bicycles In Motion

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle

Bicycle licenses are so rare they only exist in a few places on earth, but they were once more common. The difference between a bicycle and a motorized bike is a fine line, and the exact laws vary based on where you live.

However, they usually only apply to bikes that go faster than twenty mph without pedal assistance. Do you need a license to ride a bicycle?

In the US, bicyclists are not required to have a driver’s license; however, that only applies human-powered bikes. Motorized or ebikes over a 50Cc engine do require a motorcycle license in most places because they are no longer considered bicycles.

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What Is A Bicycle License

A bicycle ‘license,’ in the few places you find them, is typically comprised of a form you fill out with your name, address, and sometimes your bicycle serial number or a nominal fee, and a sticker that goes on your bike.

A more proper term would be bicycle registration. Unlike car licenses, you don’t need to take any tests.

There are no photos or unique ID cards either. It is simply a way to register the rider and their bike for easy identification in case of an accident, theft, or another traffic incident.

Where To Get A Bicycle License

Most places do not have bicycle licenses. Suppose you ride a motorized bicycle or ebike with ‘too much’ power.

In that case, it is no longer a bicycle and may be called a moped, scooter, motorcycle, or simply a motorized bike and subject to the same licensing laws as other motorcycles.

The only notable exception is in Ohio, where several cities register riders and bicycles.

In most of Ohio, you should inquire at the DMV, where you will fill out a form and pay a nominal fee, usually less than $5, for the right to ride on the streets.

However, in Stow, you have to register your bicycle’s serial number with the local police to ride legally. It is free to register and get your bike sticker in Stow. You can find the necessary form here.

What States Do You Need A Bicycle License

In most places, the idea of a bicycling license is ridiculous. However, a handful of states come up in Google searches when you look to see if cycling licenses are required.

I only know of 4 states that get this unusual attention, and of those, only one has actual bicycling licenses.

  • Ohio – Ohio is the only state in the US that I could find where any part of the state actively licenses cyclists. In some Ohio cities such as Stow, Lorian, and Cleveland Heights, you need a license to ride. In these cases, you must inquire at the local DMV to obtain the correct and current information on licensing requirements.
  • Michigan – Michigan is often put on a shortlist with Ohio and California when sensationalist stories insist that ‘several’ states license bicycle riders. However, Michigan does not require cyclists to carry a license.
  • Georgia – In 2013 a bill was put forth in Georgia to require bicycles to be licensed. However, the bill did not pass. The excessive law would have forced every cyclist to re-register once per year and pay fifteen dollars per bicycle they intended to ride.
  • California – California allows cities to license bicyclists, but they don’t have licenses. Los Angeles used to require a permit, but as the LA Times explains, “In June 2009, just as L.A.’s bicycling resurgence was beginning, the city of Los Angeles repealed its law requiring cyclists get licenses.”

Do You Need A License To Ride An Electric Bicycle

You may need a license to ride an electric bicycle. In states where riders need a license, it is usually only for bikes over a predetermined power level.

Typically, any bike that can go over 20 miles per hour unassisted on flat ground is powerful enough to be considered a moped or motorcycle in areas with mandatory ebike licenses.

Unfortunately, these laws constantly fluctuate as more people turn to this outstanding alternative to gas-powered vehicles.

The rise in popularity has created a need for legislation that didn’t exist ten or twenty years ago.

Fortunately, People For Bikes keeps a current list of ebike laws, which you can find here.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle On The Road

When it comes to licensing bicycles on the road, it is something that isn’t done. Even in Ohio, where they have ‘licenses,’ it’s only a form and a sticker, nothing like having a driver’s license.

After all, children can get them. Plus, there’s no competency exam or test to show you know anything about bicycles or traffic laws.

At its most extreme, bicycle licensing is merely a registration. Doubtless, it’s much harder to steal and resell a bike in Stow, Ohio, if its serial number is logged with local police.

Below I have shared the laws in several places rumored to require bike licenses and any information I could dig up on why people think a permit is required.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In California

California allows municipalities to determine their own bicycle licensing requirements. Until the early 2000s, Los Angeles had a licensing requirement for bikes on the roads, but times change.

There are currently no cities in California that require a bicyclist to have a license.

Type 3 bicycles, with supported speeds up to 28 mph, require helmets and cannot be ridden by those under 16 per California Vehicle Code §21207.5.

However, the law does not require a license for these bikes. You can find information on Californias’ current bicycle laws here.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In Canada

Canada does not license cyclists. Though a bicycle is legally a vehicle in Canada, it falls into a unique category that does not require a special permit.

Each territory has its variations on traffic laws, which you can find here.

Surprisingly, ebikes do not have license requirements in Canada. “Owning an Electric Bike in Canada is easy.

These vehicles are also known as power-assisted bicycles, electric scooters, e-bikes, and e-scooters, and the laws for them are very similar to a traditional bicycle.

They require no license, plates, or insurance to own or operate.” According to Epic Cycles.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In Texas

Texas vehicle operation laws Sec. 551.104 says you have to use a standard ‘regular’ seat that is permanently attached to your bike, but they don’t require a license.

Like most places, Texas requires cyclists to obey all traffic laws. This state considers bikes vehicles, but you don’t need special permits to ride.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In the UK

The rules governing how cyclists should behave in the UK are a part of the highway code. Although there is a voluntary ‘Bikability’ road test you can take, it’s not required, and neither is a license.

Look here for further information on the United Kingdom’s highway code for cyclists.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In Japan

Japan has a national registration system which could be mistaken for licensing. Much like in Ohio, riders get a sticker for their bike.

Oddly, this practice is compulsory in some areas, but refusing carries no penalties. The registration process is called jitensha bouhan touroku.

Typically, you do this when you purchase the bike at the shop where you got it.

The process involves filling out a few papers, and then the shop forwards your paperwork and bicycle information to the police.

It costs around 500 yen, which is about $4.19 at the current exchange rate.

You can find more information about jitensha bouhan touroku here.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In NJ

In New Jersey, any cyclist under 17 is required to wear a helmet. New Jersey is also one of the only states to allow bikes and motorized bikes to be parked on the sidewalk.

Though there are some unique and sensible bicycle accommodations in this state, there is nothing in the NJ law about registering or licensing bikes.

Motorized bikes or mopeds have to have a bill of sale, but there’s otherwise nothing I could find that even relates.

The Legislative statutes that relate to bicycle operation are under 39:1 and 39:4 on New Jersey General and Permanent Statutes, which are available to the public here.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In Michigan

Michigan doesn’t have bicycle licensing requirements. However, this state considers a bike a vehicle, subject to any traffic laws.

If you are in an accident, the police can detain you long enough to ascertain your part in the incident and your identity, and obviously, they can ticket or arrest you if you break the law.

Michigan’s traffic laws are listed under MCL 257. You can access these laws here.

Do You Need A License To Ride A Bicycle In NY

New York requires a certified safety helmet for any rider under fourteen, but it doesn’t ask cyclists to get a license or registration.

In 2011 a law was proposed that would require bike licenses and license plates, but it never passed.

You can find all New York’s consolidated laws on Justia, but this page has the traffic laws in 2006 New York Code – Vehicle and Traffic.

What States Is It Illegal To Ride A Bike On The Sidewalk

State-by-State Sidewalk Biking Legality

StateCan You Ride On The Sidewalk
AlaskaYes, with exceptions
ArkansasYes, per state law, but no per most cities
GeorgiaYes, if under 12yr
HawaiiYes, under 10mph
MassachusettsYes, with limitations
MissouriYes, with limitations
New HampshireNo
New JerseyNo
New MexicoNo
New YorkYes, per state law, but no per most cities
North CarolinaNo
North DakotaNo
OregonYes, with restrictions
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaNo
South DakotaYes
UtahYes, with restrictions
VirginiaYes, with restrictions
West VirginiaNo
District Of ColumbiaYes, with restrictions

Final Thoughts

Only one US state requires bicycle licenses, though parts of California also had licenses into the 2000s.

Most places consider bicycles o be vehicles while simultaneously considering bicycle licensing unnecessary.

In the places where licenses exist, it’s a single form and a sticker for the back of your bike. Additionally, many areas also allow bicycle riders to use the sidewalks and the roadways.

The only exception to this is sufficiently high-powered motorized or ebikes capable of going more than twenty miles per hour unassisted.

These bikes are no longer treated as bicycles, and in most places, you need a motorcycle operator’s license to drive this style of power-assisted bike in some states.

Brian Smith

Brian is the founder of Bicycles In Motion and an avid cyclist for 17 years. On the weekends, he enjoys exploring new bike trails and countryside roads to enjoy the outdoors.

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