Posted by E-bike Lovers on June 1, 2021 - Latest revision April 7, 2023  Reading time: minutes remaining

Do You Need a Driver License in DC to Operate an E-bike?

Recently, NBC published an infographic about e-bike regulations in the DMV-area.

It is a great infographic, but something caught our attention at E-bike Lovers. As e-bike regulations and laws are so confusing, does NBC have it wrong? Are e-bike regulations so confusing that even a reputable organization such as NBC is confused?

Do we need a drivers' license in DC to operate an e-bike?

OK, be ready for the small print: In DC, a driver license is required for "motor-driven" cycles according to the DC Non-Traditional Motor Vehicle Chart. Motor-driven cycles are defined as:

Non-Traditional Motor Vehicle Chart

Motor-driven cycle is a motor vehicle that has: (a) A seat or saddle for the use of the operator and has: (b) Two (2) or three (3) wheels in contact with the ground; (c) A gas, electric, or hybrid motor with a maximum piston or rotor displacement of fifty cubic centimeters (50 cc), or its equivalent, which will propel the device unassisted at a maximum speed no greater than thirty miles per hour (30 mph).

NOTE: A motor-driven cycle shall be a motorcycle when operated at speeds in excess of thirty miles per hour (30 mph) and the operator shall be required to have on his or her possession a valid motorcycle endorsement ...

What is a class 3 e-bike in DC?

A motor-driven cycle would be the equivalent of a class 3 e-bike. Class 3 e-bikes have an assist up to 28 mph.

To operate a class 3 e-bike at lower 30 mph or slower, you need a drivers' license in DC. 

If you go faster than 30 mph, for example, downhill, you need a motorcycle license to operate a class 3 e-bike, in addition to a driver license.

Ironically, DC requires a drivers' license to operate a class 3 e-bike while e-bikes are an alternative to commuting with a car in urban areas. 

The good news: According to NBC, no driver license is required to operate a class 3 e-bike in Maryland and Virginia.

Ironically, DC requires a driver license to operate a class 3 e-bike while e-bikes are an alternative to commuting with a car in urban areas

e-bike lovers

Class 1 and 2 E-bikes in DC. Do you need a driver license?

Reading the DC Non-Traditional Motor Vehicle Chart, we believe that class 1-2 e-bikes (with an assist up to 20 mph) do not require a driver license in DC. NBC says that we need a driver license for e-bikes in DC. We will reach out to NBC to see how they come to this conclusion.

In the new Bill in DC (23-359), also known as the "Shared Fleet Devices Amendment Act of 2020", no reference is made to the classes of e-bikes and license requirements.


The e-bike regulatory situation in DC is rather confusing. We will reach out to NBC and update our article accordingly. Hopefully the NBC lawyers can check the regulations and come to the conclusion that a driver license is not required to operate a class 1-2 e-bike in DC.

Meanwhile, be careful. Check out the label on your e-bike if there is any, and check the trails' requirements as we always do before heading out. 

Our next step: Ensure that DC allows class 3 e-bikers to operate their bikes without a driver license.

Dr. Gregory F. Maassen

Gregory discovered e-biking after 20 years of overseas work as project manager for the World Bank and USAID. He writes about e-mobility and e-biking in the DMV area, and loves the outdoors (white water kayaking, hiking and biking). He lives with his wife, Janet and Queenie the cat, in Washington DC. He recently e-biked 4,685+ miles across America and raised $180,000 for a charity.

Favorite e-bike: Riese & Muller Super Charger Class 3 touring e-bike.

Dr. Gregory F. Maassen


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