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The Swiss laws that electric bike owners need to know

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
The Swiss laws that electric bike owners need to know
Parked Bike in the Park During Night Time

Whether you’d like to commute to work without breaking a sweat, evade traffic or save time on finding suitable parking: owning an electric bike in Switzerland comes with many perks, but also certain cycling rules you need to obey.


The Swiss government divides e-bikes into two categories: “slow (assisted pedalling up to 25km/h) and fast (assisted pedalling up to 45km/h).”

The rules for slow e-bikes are largely similar to those for regular bikes, although there are some differences, whereas there are special rules for faster e-bikes.

How do I know if I have a fast or a slow e-bike?

The Swiss Automobile Association lays out the specifics of different types of electric bikes so that you can discern which is which.

Slow e-bikes are defined as “** Electric light motorised bicycle with a power output of up to max. 500 watts, pedal assistance up to max. 25 km/h, design-related maximum speed of up to max. 20 km/h: from the age of 14 category M, from the age of 16 no ID required .

Fast e-bikes are defined as “** Electric motorised bicycles (with moped number) with a maximum output of 1000 watts, pedal assistance up to a maximum of 45 km/h, design-related top speed of up to a maximum of 30 km/h: Category M required from the age of 14.”

Register your (fast) e-bike

Fast e-bicycles, or two-wheelers with a motor power of more than 1000 watts, are considered to be mopeds in Switzerland and hence fall into the motorcycle category.

If you decide to purchase a fast e-bike in Switzerland, you will therefore need to register it with your cantonal road traffic office. In order to successfully do that, you will need to present the office with your e-bike’s number plate and vignette which you will receive from the bike shop when purchasing your vehicle.


You may need a vignette and licence plate

The bicycle vignette (and thus the compulsory insurance) was abolished in 2012, so if you own a slow e-bike, which are electric bicycles with a pedal assistance up to 25 km/h, you no longer have to purchase a vignette.

However, remember that any damage caused by cyclists must be covered by your personal liability insurance which luckily most insurers automatically include. Alternatively, you will have to pay for the damages yourself.

So, if you own a slow e-bike, make sure to check your insurance status before hopping on your e-bike.

The rules here differ for fast e-bikes. If you purchase a fast e-bike you will be obliged to obtain a vignette and renew it annually. You can purchase a vignette – which is valid until May 31st - directly from a specialist bike store or by getting in touch with your cantonal road traffic office.

But careful: if you forget to renew your vignette, you will not be allowed to ride your e-bike from May 31st.

The same goes for licence plates, which are required for fast e-bikes but not their slow counterparts. The shop will provide you with a yellow licence plate and registration documents upon purchasing your e-bike.


You may need a driving licence

But while you may finally have saved up enough cash to buy yourself a shiny new e-bike, remember that in some cases, you will need to secure a driving licence before taking your e-bike for a spin.

Young owners of slow e-bikes only need to be in possession of a category M driving licence from the age of 14. From the age of 16, however, a driving licence is no longer required for slow e-bikes.

This is not the case for fast e-bikes. Everyone - including adults - riding a fast e-bike in Switzerland needs a driving licence (at least category M).

Careful when importing e-bikes

When importing a fast e-bike with a powerful motor, make sure that your vehicle is permitted on Swiss roads before paying for the vehicle.

If you are eager to buy a fast(er) e-bike abroad and ship it to Switzerland privately, you will need to have it checked by a traffic expert from your canton’s road traffic office before your vehicle can be registered.


Keep your lights switched on

From April 1st 2022, all e-bikes in Switzerland must be driven with their front lights switched on during the day in all public traffic areas to increase visibility and ensure the safety of riders. This means that having your lights on is also mandatory on country lanes and bike trails.

Though it is sufficient to have your e-bike’s front lights on during the day, the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) recommends that both front and rear lights be switched on at all times when riding your e-bike in Switzerland.

Today, most e-bikes have at least one stationary – permanently attached - light, though fast e-bikes must have their lights type-approved prior to hitting the road.

If you own an e-bike without built-in lights, however, please note that clip-on lights are also considered ‘permanently attached’ in Switzerland.

If you still insist on riding your e-bike without a (switched on) light, you could be fined 20 francs.

Speedometer to become compulsory for fast e-bikes

From April 1st 2024, fast e-bikes, which is any e-bike with a pedal assistance of up to 45 km/h, will only be allowed on Swiss roads if they’re equipped with a speedometer.

Fast e-bikes that are already in use must be retrofitted with a speedometer by April 1st 2027 to ensure that maximum speed limits, particularly in Switzerland’s 20 and 30km/h zones, are observed.

Anyone caught riding without a speedometer could be fined 20 francs, while those riding faster than the 20 and 30 km/h speed limit could be hit with a 30-franc fine.

Wear a helmet on (fast) e-bikes

If you’re the proud owner of a fast e-bike then you have to wear a helmet when out and about on your electric bicycle.

This rule does not apply to owners of slow e-bikes, which are electric bicycles with a with pedal assistance up to 25 km/h, or those sticking to regular bicycles. Still, wearing a helmet even on slow bicycles of any type is strongly recommended by Touring Club Suisse (TCS), the Swiss association representing the interests of drivers in Switzerland.

Stick to cycle lanes in any case

Not surprisingly, rules also slightly differ when it comes to where you can ride your e-bike. Owners of slow e-bikes may ride on paths where bicycles are permitted but mopeds are prohibited. They may also ride across pedestrian areas which are marked ‘bicycles permitted’.

Owners of fast e-bikes may also use cycle paths where mopeds are forbidden but must turn their engine off. The same applies to pedestrian areas marked with ‘bicycles permitted’ in which case your fast e-bike's motor also has to be turned off.


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