Should e-bikes go faster in the UK? This petitioner thinks so

A top speed of 20mph would feel more natural and might stave off illegal tampering, says enthusiast Paulina Stopa

A woman on an e-bike by the coast with an embedded screenshot of a uk government petition
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A cyclist has started an online petition to increase the maximum assisted speed of electric bikes in the UK. 

E-bike enthusiast Paulina Stopa has called on the UK government to raise the limit from 15.5mph (25km/h) to 20mph (30km/h), in line with other countries such as the USA, Canada and Brazil. 

The UK currently follows EU regulations, which limit e-bikes to a maximum power output of 250 watts, and outlaw assistance beyond 15.5mph. 

“It always makes me really annoyed that the cut-off speed is just 15.5mph, which feels really unnatural,” Stopa told Cycling Weekly. “You can never get to the full potential of the bike, and if you compare it to non-electric bikes, they usually go faster.” 

Some people have resorted to tampering with their e-bikes and de-restricting them, or buying illegal conversion kits to get more power. The UK government has enforced bans on certain uncertified batteries, which have been linked to causing fires

Stopa believes that increasing an e-bike's assisted speed to 20mph will dissuade people from taking illegal measures. 

“If you can get a nice bike from the shop which rides like it is supposed to, you don’t need to manipulate it,” she said. “There’s a huge market [for uncertified batteries], especially with delivery guys, who cruise around the city, pretending they’re on a bike, but without any insurance or anything like that. 

“In my humble opinion, that’s something that’s really dangerous.” 

Stopa's petition has received over 200 signatures in the week since she launched it. She needs 10,000 to get a government response. 

“I don’t know where this movement will go,” she said. “I just want to open a discussion. 

“It’s a step by step approach. I started with small forums and Facebook groups to see if there’s any interest. Maybe if we get a few thousand people signing, we can start contacting bigger brands to ask for their take on the topic. 

“I believe they will be really interested in increasing the speed. That should increase the market for all these bikes that are currently limited too heavily.” 

There are concerns that making e-bikes faster could also make them more dangerous. 

In a statement shared with Cycling Weekly, Cycling UK policy manager Jim Densham said e-bike top speeds should remain at 15.5mph. "This is the speed that the average human reaches on a standard bicycle," he said. 

"E-bikes should assist people when they cycle rather than enabling them to ride significantly faster, which can present a danger to others."

Still, according to Oliver Montague, CEO of legal electric conversion kit brand Swytch, faster does not necessarily mean more dangerous.

“Pedal assist bikes only transmit power once you’re already pedalling, and therefore this is a very safe way of adding electric assistance,” he said. “It’s just like you’re pedalling harder than normal, so it’s not inherently unsafe.” 

He added, however, that although it would be “incredibly easy” to adjust the technology to higher speeds, there is a danger that the assistance could go beyond some riders’ comfort zones. "This could be considered unsafe," he said. 

Details of Stopa’s petition can be found on the UK parliament website.

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