Tagging for US ebikes of 750 Watts and above

Don’t know whether I need to start here or in a national, state, or municipal community, but figured this was really a general question to start with.

The problem arises on how to tag access to motorized vehicles on what are purported to be non-motorized paths.

In the US ebikes 750 watts and above are categorized as motor vehicles under federal
law banning them from anywhere closed to
motor vehicles (but open to bicycles). But some locales are authorizing ebikes of 750 watts and more on paths ostensibly closed to “motor vehicles”

I initially thought that one way to encourage discussion was to tag such paths as motor vehicle=yes but it was suggested to me that that might really necessitate lots of other tagging in order to narrow down exactly what manner of motor vehicle was allowed (de facto or de jure).

Another suggestion was to make use of a tag like speed_pedelec=yes with motor vehicle=no to try and provide a single tag that best describes the situation. Unfortunately I am afraid such tags would be of little use in the US because such tags are newer.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that NGIs are mining OSM data to rank communities on bicycle amenities, while government agencies may be tagging and mining OSM data to manipulate funding.

As apparently noone else feels like doing so, I’ld like to give my personal opinion on this matter: Some stuff is just not worthy of mapping, to be quite honest. You can sure try inventing a tag, though, as you’ve already mentioned, that may not find any use and may end up being one of the thousands of tags invented, yet only used in a single place. Still, go for it! If not, just let it be, really.

Hope I could help just a tiny bit? idk

Hi, ebike regulations are tricky for cities, let alone the map. I’d like to see speed_pedelec start to come into use - by tagging with it you can make it more popular. I would definitely NOT put motor_vehicle=yes on those ways - OSMs and data consumers’ understanding of that tag is not the same as a US legal technicality.

In practice, people treat these like bicycles, and they go where bicycles go. No one would recommend driving an 800W ebike on an interstate, or driving a truck on a bike path, even if they are “technically” motor vehicles. I think the best solution is to tag the cycleways as what they are, and start using the pedelec tags to clarify access restrictions. As ebikes become more common I’m sure more data consumers and routers will start to want to use these tags to provide better routing guidance, it will just take time.

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We have to differentiate between “pedelec” and “s-pedelec”, at least here in Germany:

  • “pedelec” is limited to 250W and support up to max. 25 km/h - legally treated as “bicycle”

  • “s-pedelec” 250W and more and support up to 40 km/h - legally treated as “mofa” and require an insurance plate, helmet, horn, turn signals, … not allowed on cycle ways. Not allowed on motorways (min-speed: 60 km/h)

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Germany probably has the most robust current regulations for ebikes in the world right now. I think as long as the tagging is capturing roughly what type of ebike is allowed on the path, then local data consumers can interpret that against their local laws. For instance, in some places the categories are defined by power, or maximum speed, or other features (like having a throttle or not).

Right now we appear to have electric_bicycle and speed_pedelec in common use, which roughly correspond to a “not so fast ebike” and a “fast ebike”. I’m not sure if I have the stamina to try to sort out rapidly changing global regulations, but bringing these two tags into more common use, along with using maxspeed for more cycleways would get us a lot further than we are now.

EDIT: Re-read my reply and I’m not being very clear. What I’m proposing is that we just use the two tags currently available, and let local areas define what they mean by a “not so fast” and “fast” ebike, rather than trying to encode that in the tag definition itself. Similar to HGVs, which might have different regional definitions, but can be referred to in the same way.

Good idea and the most flexible aproach.

I wouldn’t worry too much about this, too close to tagging for the renderer/router.

If they’re ranking based on misunderstood tagging then that is their problem, organisational mis-tagging is the DWG’s problem.

There only other wrinkle here is that we don’t normally map local legislation. If these exceptions are by signage then the suggested speed_pedelec=yes tag seems right. If it’s for all tags within a city boundary then probably best to leave to a table in the wiki as for ‘default’ maxspeeds.

As I mention, though, OSM data is being mined by other than “lay” consumers and the “expectation” is that ebikes don’t exceed 30k/h, and that’s not the case in US :frowning: so I think we need some way to note something like “cyclebahn” as I am now seeing dual Bafang ebikes (1500 watts) and 34” wide 1500 watt recumbent trikes are not far behind.

If the intent is to characterize the user experience on the path, then we should make it clear that a pedestrian is potentially in as much danger there as on a city street.

I would have argued something like nongasoline motorized vehicle, but I am now seeing bicycles with chain saw motors… are they “legal”? Maybe not, but since no one is going to do anything about it…

And here we now have peak 1000 watt ebikes being rented with the blessings of the Assembly to be used on a bike trail just nominated for a Rail-to-Trail nation hall of fame…. No one expects 30 mph electric motorcycles to be permitted there, so I had my concerns about speed_pedelec, which @ToniE has now underscored

This seems like a good tags to start with. Not knowing their exact definitions yet, i would only comment that we should be focusing on the wattage and features that are important to local regulation. That way we can avoid having to creat new tag based on regionally derived legal classes for otherwise similar vehicles. Allow local mappers to include the correct restrictions on a pathes or roadway. As regulation evolve, wattage and feature types can be added to the list.


I’m not sure the intent is to characterize the user experience, it is to indicate how a path can be used legally. If you have problems with ebikes I doubt they’ll be solved through OSM.

Where I am (Queensland, Australia) the government has just introduced new (mainly speed) laws for e-scooters, that are different to e-bikes, & also change depending on the speed limit of the road you’re riding on! :thinking: :crazy_face:

I’ve wondered how that would go in OSM & the answer I’ve come up with so far is Too Hard! :disappointed_relieved:

Maybe it‘d make sense to add this to @mueschel‘s proposal for access tags for electric vehicles:


What @net-buoy describes in the first post comes very close to the definition of a speed_pedelec we have right now. The only discrepancy is that e.g. in Germany speed_pedelec are limited to 750W and everything above would be classified as moped or motor_cycle.

Unfortunately there was no comment about the situation in the US when this tag was proposed and accepted. I’m not an expert, but it seems that many states use a three class system for electrical bicycles. Class 1 clearly maps to electric_bicycle and Class 3 should be close to a speed_pedelec. I’m not aware of an equivalent of Class 2 (rather slow, but with a throttle instead of pedal-assist) in Germany, which would likely need to be registered as a mofa.

I agree. There might be special cases which need more care, but I guess we are fine for tagging the vast majority already now.

Germany is not doing anything else than mapping ebikes to already existing categories, as are lots of other countries are doing with some wrinkles here and there. The main difference to the states is that continental European countries have already had established categories for low power / low displacement motor cycles since the at least mid-20th century, so the concepts are not new, just the technical implementation is different.

Just using Germany as an example

electrically assisted bicycle up to 25 km/h → bicycles
electrically assisted bicycle up to 45 km/h → small displacement/low power motor-cycle (see Moped - Wikipedia)
electric only vehicle up to 25 km/h → mofa (see Mofa – Wikipedia)
electric only vehicle up to 45 km/h → small displacement/low power motor-cycle

Note that mofa and moped are colloquially often used interchangeably.

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The states all use the same set of wattage values in their e-bike regulations. Most states even share a similar set of rules governing electric cycles less powered fully than a motorcycle. The rest don’t have much to say at all.