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New E-Bike Law Effective in Illinois

The Illinois DUI law provides, in part: “(a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while [under the influence].” The driving while license suspended or revoked (DWLSR) statute includes the following language:  “(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (a-5), any person who drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on any highway of this State at a time when such person’s driver’s license [is suspended or revoked… shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor].” Senate Bill 0396, which was passed in both chambers and was signed into law over the summer, amended the Illinois Vehicle Code (“IVC”) to change the definition of “low-speed electric bicycle.”ice

The IVC defines a “vehicle” as follows:  “Every device, in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway or requiring a certificate of title under Section 3-101(d) of this Code, except devices moved by human power, devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks and snowmobiles as defined in the Snowmobile Registration and Safety Act.”

The IVC defines a “motor vehicle” as:  “Every vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not operated upon rails, except for vehicles moved solely by human power, motorized wheelchairs, low-speed electric bicycles, and low-speed gas bicycles.”

The IVC further divides motor vehicles into two divisions:  “First Division: Those motor vehicles which are designed for the carrying of not more than 10 persons. Second Division: Those motor vehicles which are designed for carrying more than 10 persons, those motor vehicles designed or used for living quarters, those motor vehicles which are designed for pulling or carrying freight, cargo or implements of husbandry, and those motor vehicles of the First Division remodelled1 for use and used as motor vehicles of the Second Division.”

An interesting question arises from the fact that Illinois’ DUI statute refers to a “vehicle,” while its DWLSR statute uses the term “motor vehicle.”  Furthermore, the IVC has separate definitions for each term.

This issue has been partially addressed in a new Illinois law that became effective on the first day of 2018. Senate Bill 0396 amended the IVC to change the definition of “low-speed electric bicycle.” Low-speed electric bikes are bicycles with a low-powered motor. They allow riders to speed without much effort, potentially creating danger. Bicycle manufacturers have been working with lawmakers around the country to clarify what an electric bike is and where they may be used. California, Utah, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Colorado have all approved the e-bike classification system. Other states are on the horizon with active e-bike bills in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin legislatures.

In Illinois, the new law defines a low-speed electric bike as “a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.” The federal Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) defines a “low speed electric bicycle” as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor under 20 mph (32 km/h), and an electric motor that produces less than 750 W (1.01 hp).

The new Illinois law provides that each low-speed electric bicycle operating in the state shall comply with equipment and manufacturing requirements adopted by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSA states that electric bicycles meeting the definition of low-speed electric bicycles are considered consumer products. The CPSC has regulatory authority to assure that the public will be protected from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of electric bikes through guidelines and standards.

Under the new Illinois law, the class into which a particular e-bike falls affects the equipment sold with the bike and who may ride it. A Class 1 electric bike is one “that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 20 mph.” A Class 2 electric bike is one that does not necessarily require the rider to pedal to activate the motor. A Class 3 electric bike, like a Class 1 bike, provides assistance only when the rider pedals and ceases once it hits 28 mph. The statute states that, “A ‘low-speed electric bicycle’ is not a moped or a motor driven cycle.”

California has a similar system in place based on legislation that became effective in January 2016. That law defines an electric bike as a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, separated into three classes. A Class 1 electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and it ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph. A Class 2 electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and it is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph. A Class 3 electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and it ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 mph, and it is equipped with a speedometer.

The Illinois law makes clear that the same rules that apply to other bicycles in Illinois also apply to electric bikes. The law also permits a person to operate an electric bike “upon any bicycle path unless the municipality, county, or local authority with jurisdiction prohibits” them on that path. Municipalities in Illinois have the power to create their own separate rules regarding access to streets and highways under their jurisdiction. The IVC expressly grants local authorities the right to regulate the “use of highways” and “operation of bicycles.”

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois based on riding an electric bicycle, you should consult an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides superior representation to residents throughout Illinois. We have significant experience defending individuals charged with all types of DUI offenses. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.

More Blog Posts:

Georgia Supreme Court Rules Officer Cannot Compel Breath Tests on DUI Suspects, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, January 3, 2018.

Washington Supreme Court Holds Random Urine Testing of DUI Probationer is Constitutionally Sound, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, November 2, 2017.

State Appeals Court Upholds Polo Mogul’s DUI Manslaughter Conviction, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, October 2, 2017.

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