Electric bikes and scooters – Chicago and Illinois Rules of the Road

Types of E-Bikes

When it comes to e-bikes, there are two primary types: pedal-assist e-bikes and throttle-operated e-bikes. Pedal-assist e-bikes can be pedaled just like a regular bicycle, and you can then activate the electric motor when needed. The motor’s power level is determined by the force exerted on the pedals, providing an extra push that complements your pedaling effort. Pedal-assist e-bikes promote a more natural and interactive riding experience. On the other hand, throttle-operated e-bikes utilize a handlebar-mounted throttle to control the motor’s power independently of pedaling. These bikes offer a “twist-and-go” feature, where you can rely solely on the motor’s assistance without needing to pedal continuously.

Classification of E-Bikes in Chicago

In Chicago, e-bikes are classified under the Illinois state law, which recognizes different classes of e-bikes. These classes determine the speed capabilities, operational features and e-bike rules. The three primary classes are:

Class 1: These e-bikes are equipped with a motor that provides assistance when the rider is pedaling, and the motor stops assisting once the bike reaches 20 mph.
Class 2: Throttle-operated e-bikes fall under this category, providing assistance up to 20 mph without the need for pedaling.
Class 3: Similar to Class 1, these e-bikes offer pedal-assist capabilities but are faster and can reach speeds of up to 28 mph. Class 3 e-bikes are limited to road use and are not allowed on any bike trails or bike lanes in Illinois.

Understanding the classes of e-bikes is crucial as it determines where and how you can ride your e-bike in Chicago.

Chicago’s E-Bike Rules and Regulations

Chicago has taken progressive steps to accommodate e-bikes within its transportation framework while ensuring the safety of all road users. Here are some important e-bike rules and regulations in Chicago:

Bike Lanes and Trails: E-bikes are generally allowed in bike lanes and off-street bike trails throughout the city. This means you can ride alongside traditional bicycles and enjoy dedicated cycling lanes.

Prohibited Areas: It’s important to note that e-bikes are typically prohibited on sidewalks like regular bicycles. Be sure to stick to designated bike paths and streets to ensure a smooth and safe riding experience.
Speed Limits: While e-bikes offer increased speeds, it’s crucial to respect the speed limits set for e-bikes. Even though Class 3 e-bikes can go up to 28 mph, the limit in Chicago for all e-bikes is 20 mph.

Safety Guidelines: As with any mode of transportation, safety should be a top priority. Wear a helmet, signal when appropriate and obey traffic laws. Read about how the Chicago Department of Transportation is expanding Chicago’s bike network to create a larger and safer biking infrastructure throughout the city.