News May 01, 2024

By Forensic Access

In our recent Collision Investigation webinar, Collision Reconstruction – Finding Order in the Chaos, our expert Chris Goddard discussed the future of collision investigations, which included e-bikes and e-scooters. Chris Goddard - Forensic Collision Consultant, has over 25 years of experience as a Forensic Collision Consultant working on hundreds of cases, including major crime, predominantly dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention.

E-bikes: A New Challenge for Forensic Classification in Criminal Investigations

In this article, we spoke to Chris who shares his thoughts on e-bikes as a new type of evidence in his collision investigation cases.

“The number of e-bikes and e-scooter crashes that we are experiencing where the bike is not a ‘true’ e-bike or e-scooter but should be classed as a motor vehicle is becoming very common. It's becoming increasingly important that we differentiate between these two classifications.”

Therefore, it is important for police forces and legal professionals to understand that these types of cases present numerous challenges. The most important of which is the classification between ‘true’ e-bikes and e-scooters and then those that are motor vehicles.

What is an e-bike or e-scooter?

An e-bike, short for electric bicycle, is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that can assist with pedalling. It combines the traditional components of a bicycle (like pedals and wheels) with an electric motor, battery, and often a controller that allows the rider to adjust the level of assistance.

The number of e-bikes used in the UK is increasing year-on-year as riders can travel further and with less effort than traditional bicycles, making them a popular choice for commuting, leisure rides, and even as an alternative to cars for short-distance travel. In fact, Transport for London (TfL) are investing in e-bikes, increasing the number of available e-bikes in London City Centre from 600 to 2,000 e-bikes.

Figure 1: Spatial distribution of expected e-scooter crash frequency across Greater London wards



E-bikes and e-scooters can offer an eco-friendly alternative to motor vehicles, contributing to reduced traffic congestion and pollution especially in City Centres. This explains why government and councils across the UK are rolling our schemes to encourage e-bikes, such as the beryl bikes located on the South Coast, West Midlands and other towns and cities across England.

Despite the popularity for commuters and benefits to the environment, the number of crashes involving e-bikes and e-Scooters is increasing too.

Chris tells us that “there are limits on e-bikes and e-scooters in relation to the power and the speeds that they can travel. If you are on a government or council provided scheme they will comply. However privately purchased e-bikes and e-scooters can travel over 75 miles per hour, which would be frightening”.

Classification of e-bikes

There are different types of e-bikes, depending on their top speed and the level of assistance they provide the rider:

  • Pedal-assist: The motor only provides assistance when the rider is pedalling, making the ride easier, especially uphill or over long distances. The assistance typically cuts off at a certain speed (e.g., 25 km/h or 15.5 mph in many jurisdictions).
  • Throttle-assist: The bike can propel itself without pedalling, similar to a motorbike or scooter, using a throttle on the handlebars. Regulations for throttle-assist e-bikes can be stricter, and in some places, they may require a license, registration, or insurance.

To be placed in the same classification as a normal bicycle, an e-bike must have a maximum power output of 250 watts and should not be able to propel the bike when it’s travelling more than 15.5mph. These electric bikes are known as ‘electrically assisted pedal cycles’ (EAPCs). Some EAPC’s provide starting assistance without the need to pedal. As long as it cuts off at 6 km/h (3.7 mph), you do not need a licence to ride one and it does not need to be registered, taxed or insured.

Any electric bike that does not meet the EAPC rules is classed as a motorcycle or moped and needs to be registered and taxed. You’ll need a driving licence to ride one and you must wear a crash helmet.

These classifications help determine where e-bikes can be ridden (e.g., on roads, bike paths) and whether a helmet or other requirements are necessary. If a vehicle does not comply with either of these requirements, then it should be classified as an electrically Propelled Vehicle or Motor Vehicle.

There are many aftermarket kits to convert a normal bicycle to an e-bike, they can look very similar. The only way to establish if the e-bike is an EAPC is to inspect it.

Figure 2: A 750w e-bike on the left and an unpowered bicycle on the right


Figure 2: A 750w e-bike on the left and an unpowered bicycle on the right 

Electrically Propelled Vehicles or Motor Vehicles

Our Collision Investigation expert Chris Goddard has seen an increased number of cases involving ‘e-bikes’ which upon reflection, should be classified as a motor vehicle: “In all the cases with vehicles that have been presented as an e-bike or an e-scooter, they are not. This is because they are running at three or four times the legal power.”

For instance, in a recent case Forensic Access was instructed by a Specialist Law Firm for a case where an e-bike had been involved in a serious injury collision where the rider has sustained two broken legs and serious internal injuries. The question that needed to be answered in our forensic expert’s report was on the legality of the e-bike that a defendant was riding.  

The questions that you need to ask during a defence case: 

  • What type of vehicle are you dealing with? Is it a ‘true’ e-bike (EAPC) or e-Scooter, or does it qualify as a motor vehicle?
  • What is the wattage output of this bike? Based on this, would the bike be road legal under the Road Traffic Act 1988?
  • Can the expert attend the bike in the compound to examine it? 

The evidential report on the classification and legality of this vehicle can have a huge impact on the type of collision. For instance, if this e-bike is deemed as legal and qualifies as a mechanically propelled vehicle then it must also be roadworthy under the Road Traffic Act 1988. Additionally, under the Road Traffic Act 1988 bloods were taken from the rider in case the vehicle qualifies as a motor vehicle. 

Contact Forensic Access

If you require an expert report involving any aspect of collision investigations, or any other forensic discipline please contact our Casework Management Team by email: or call: 01235 774870.